"I have done 119 fun runs now."

Single mum Olive King has left years of emotional eating behind her to lose 25kg and become a marathon runner.

Olive's weight loss story

Name: Olive King
Weight loss: 25kg
Was: 100.1kg
Height: 165cm
Age: 56
How long it took: 7 years on and off
How she did it: Group Coaching with Deborah McGrath in Sunnybank, Qld

Then & Now

Olive King

Marathon runner

Olive King used to wear a silver ring. Engraved on it was one word: believe. When she was training for her first marathon she’d often glance down at it. “Believe in yourself,” she’d whisper.

Olive’s daughter, Deanna, 29, wears the ring now as she prepares for her first marathon. “I’ve told her when she’s done with it she’s to give it to someone else who needs it,” says Olive.

I left a bad marriage

Self-belief is a trait Olive had to develop after leaving a bad marriage in New Zealand to arrive in Australia 20 years ago with her two young children. “We arrived with nothing but I told them, ‘We’re going to love it here’ because I couldn’t let myself think, ‘This isn’t going to work.’ I had to stay positive and that experience has really shaped me.”

Emotional eating

Olive’s marriage issues – and the resulting emotional eating – were a major cause of her weight gain, but in 2009 a series of small nudges propelled her through the doors of Weight Watchers.

First, she was given a shirt as a thank-you present. “I loved the colour and style and really wanted to wear it. However, it was a size 14 and I was a size 22.”

Then she bought a step stool. “The instructions said you couldn’t use it if you were over 100kg. Another incentive was when my kids were doing the Bridge to Brisbane Fun Run and I really wanted to run it with them.”

Running addict

Within the first year of joining Weight Watchers, Olive had lost 28kg. She’d also become a running addict.

“I started walking, jogging between lampposts, and then Deanna suggested a fun run. Once you start you don’t realise how many there are – I’ve done 119 now! “There was a Mother’s Day run where I accidentally registered for the 8km and panicked because I’d never run that far before. When I crossed the finish line I cried.

Deanna said, ‘Mum! What’s wrong?’ and I said, ‘I’ve just run the whole way.’ Achievements like that have been awesome.”

Keep Active Brisbane Facebook page

Another way Olive has helped herself – and others – is organising walking groups, including two midweek walks of 5km each with her WW group and a Sunday walk through her Keep Active Brisbane Facebook page. “Because I arrange them, I feel responsible for others being active and that makes me want to do it even more.”

Olive King

Tough times

Olive’s determination to stick to her goals was tested in 2015.

“I got Achilles tendonitis in both tendons and couldn’t walk. I had knee surgery and ended up in a brace for months. I put on 10kg and my surgeon started talking about a knee replacement.

“I said, ‘No thank you. I’ve still got unfinished business.’ I had made the decision to run one marathon and that was my incentive to get off the couch.”

She put her ‘Believe’ ring on, took anti-inflammatory supplements, sought a physiotherapist’s advice on improving her running style and returned to training. She completed the Honolulu Marathon last December, crossing the line with a Weight Watchers friend.

“We were wearing Australian singlets and everyone was yelling, ‘Here come the girls from Down Under!’ We had fun and that’s what it’s all about. You bet I cried at the end of that – 42.2km is a long way!”

Having lost 11kg in 2016, Olive no longer requires knee surgery and is now planning to walk the Milford Track in New Zealand with her son, Kyran, 28.

Cooking up a storm

Olive says she didn’t expect the amazing food when she joined Weight Watchers. “I’ve bought every WW cookbook. I can’t get enough of them,” she says. “I’ve gone from not being able to cook to turning out restaurant-quality meals. My favourite is the Chicken, roasted pumpkin, spinach & feta filo parcels. That always impresses everyone.” She also has the WW freshbox  delivered with produce and recipe cards, so she only goes to the supermarket occasionally. And when she does she has the upper hand there too – she always uses her Weight Watchers app to check the SmartPoints, sugar content and nutritional values of products. “I couldn’t live without that app,” Olive says. “I track points on it, look up recipes and I even use the Eat Out guide to see how many points dishes are in restaurants.”

Olive King

Olive on…

My body. “Service your body the same way you have to service your car. Injured? See a physiotherapist. Tight muscles? Get a massage. Run down? Rest or see your doctor. Don’t end up on the couch.”

♦ My portion sizes. Olive bought smaller dinner plates and often eats off a side plate. “I now eat to fuel my body, not because I’m emotional.”

♦ My plans. Entering fun runs gives Olive a goal and motivation to train. All her meals are planned ahead. She often gets up at 4.30am, trains and then eats breakfast at the real estate agency where she works. “I make an egg, tomato and mashed pumpkin omelette in the microwave using a special container. I also pack my lunch. Before, I’d just make last-minute decisions about what I would eat.”

♦ My accountability. Olive reckons it’s essential to go to WW meetings every week. “Even if I’ve put on weight, I get on the scales then start again. Tomorrow is a new day. I don’t have to carry on gaining weight.”