“After my husband passed away, I turned the focus onto my health.”

From couch-bound needing a walking stick, to a daily power walker, Helen Tate, 66, is proof that losing weight can be the difference between surviving and thriving.

Helen's weight loss story

Name: Helen Tate
Weight loss: 34.1kg
Was: 98.5kg
Now: 64.4kg
Height: 157cm
Age: 66
How long it took: 20 months
How she did it: Group Coaching at Beaudesert, Qld, with Tanya Teese.

Before & Now

"I’m enjoying life and really happy – I’ve found “me” again!"

You look incredible Helen! What inspired your weight loss?

My daughter’s wedding was my kick-butt moment. Trying to find something nice to wear was terrible, then I saw myself in the photos and thought, ‘I don’t have to be like this anymore – I can change.’

"My parents had been through periods of rationing and always told me food was precious and I had to eat everything on the plate – I think that gets embedded in your brain."

What led to your weight gain?

My parents had been through periods of rationing and always told me food was precious and I had to eat everything on the plate – I think that gets embedded in your brain. My husband Robert was diagnosed with early onset dementia when he was 50 and I cared for him for seven years until he passed away six years ago. As his carer, I was so busy that I’d just eat quick, processed meals. Plus I had bad knees so couldn’t stand for long periods in the kitchen to cook. Two years after I lost him I had to have knee replacement surgery on one leg because I could hardly walk. I needed a walking stick or I had to rest every few metres. I felt old and was missing out on so much.

So you decided to join Weight Watchers?

Yes, it was the first thing that sprung to my mind when I decided it was time to change. I’d never been on a diet before but I knew I didn’t want a quick fix– it had to be a change for the rest of my life. I’ve made wonderful friends through WW. We have coffee together after our Thursday meetings and meet at the local pool on Tuesdays to walk in the water for an hour – we walk up and down the pool chatting, which is excellent exercise without putting pressure on the joints.

What was your first WW meeting like?

I was shaking when I turned up! I was always a very quiet person so for the first few months I kept to myself and didn’t really join in. But as my weight went down, my confidence started to rise. I found I was smiling a lot more and opening up in the discussions – and it was spilling over into my outside life as well.

How did you adapt to life without the convenience meals you were used to?

I was pleasantly surprised that I could eat all the foods I love – I didn’t have to change my taste, I just had to swap the processed food and start eating clean, fresh fruit and vegies and lean protein. Our family catch-ups always revolve around food, but if I adjusted my portions I didn’t have to miss out on anything – even the cake!  

Were there any major challenges along the way?

Portion sizes were my major sticking point. I might have had a nutritious salad but I’d pile it higher on the plate than it should have been. I realised I had to use my scales to weigh ingredients and I ended up buying smaller plates and bowls because you don’t realise how much you can fit onto a dinner plate. Exercise was also tough because my body wasn’t used to it. I started with baby steps – walking slowly up and down my two-acre yard before I built the confidence to go out on the street. Now I walk about 4km every morning – I plug my earphones in and listen to my favourite music from the ’60s and ’70s. I thought I’d need another knee reconstruction on my left knee but now it’s almost perfect. I just wish I’d joined WW before I had surgery on my first knee!

"If Robert could see me now, he’d be proud. I’ve turned back into the person he first met."

How do your family and friends feel about the changes you’ve made?

My grown-up kids Lucy, Shannon and Corey think it’s wonderful. They were full of encouragement as I slowly shrunk and now they have started their own WW journeys, too. I think it’s a case of, ‘If old mum can do it, maybe we can, too!’ I’m enjoying life and really happy – I’ve found “me” again! If Robert could see me now, he’d be proud. I’ve turned back into the person he first met.

Making it stick

It’s one thing to make the changes, it’s another thing to stick to them. After two years following the WW lifestyle, Helen has nailed the secrets to long-lasting change.

1. Track so you don’t forget
“Whether you use the WW app, a pencil and paper or a serviette in a restaurant – record every single mouthful you eat and sip you take. It makes you notice all the little things that slip in without you realising. Doing this made the world of difference to my results.”
2. March to the beat of your own drum
“When I first started going to meetings, I was only losing a few hundred grams and when I heard other members talk about losing a kilo, I would scold myself. My coach helped me realise I was on my own journey and that I needed to talk to myself like I would speak to a friend.”
3. Celebrate little wins
“When my doctor said I had to lose 34kg, I thought ‘Yeah, right – I’ll never lose that.’ So I just decided to focus on 5kg goals and rewarded myself along the way with Pandora charms to add to my bracelet, which is an ongoing reminder of what I’ve achieved. I also put $5 in an envelope every time I had a loss – no matter how small – and 16 months later I had a nice little packet of money to spend on new clothes!”