Losing weight is never easy, but pair it with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), insulin resistance, depression and anxiety, and the struggle gets next-level real. Here’s exactly how this mom finally turned decades of bad eating habits and failed diets into a life she’s proud to call her own.
Occupation: Project manager
City: Cape Town
Weight before: 78
Weight after: 47
Time required to reach current weight: 8 months
Secret weapon to her weight loss: Trusting the process
Like many moms, Siobion Cameron-Dirks gained a few kilos – 10 to be exact – while pregnant. She then gained an additional 1o kilos after the birth of her daughter due to a hormone imbalance. To make it worse, Siobion was also dealing with post-partum depression. “I was so disconnected that I hardly looked in the mirror,” she says.
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She wasn’t a big eater, but she made some critical mistakes. “I didn’t really eat a lot during the day. Most days I’d just skip breakfast and have five cups of sugar-filled coffee.” For lunch, she’d have a pie and Coke, and in the evening she and her husband would enjoy their nightly ritual of chips and chocolate in front of the TV.
Siobion also wasn’t a big exerciser. “I’ve been yo-yo dieting for the last decade. I’ve probably gone on a diet 20 times in the last 10 years. These diets lasted about a maximum of three weeks – and I’d only exercise during those weight-loss attempts,” she explains.
In March 2016, Siobion was hit with the harsh reality that being overweight not only affected the way she saw herself, but how others saw her too. “I went for an interview and the CEO of the company blatantly told me he’s not keen on employing a fat person. I still got the job because they couldn’t deny my ability and skill,” she explains.
While ordinarily the comment wouldn’t have hurt her so badly, she was in the midst of yet another failed weight-loss attempt. “I’d been following an eating plan from a dietician (who also confirmed my insulin resistance) and working out five days a week for three months with absolutely zero result. I already felt like a complete failure,” she says.
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Given that this time she really was trying her best to lose the weight, something else had to be going on with her body. “I did some research and made an appointment with my gynaecologist, who confirmed that I had PCOS, making it almost impossible for me to lose any weight,” she says.
Undeterred, she took control again – but this time it was different. “I researched healthy meal plans, signed up with a group trainer, set a goal and worked as hard as I could. After my first weigh-in, when I started seeing results, I was unstoppable.”
Siobion said bye-bye to late-night snacking and hello to a kilojoule-controlled eating plan. “I followed a 1 200 calorie (5 016kJ), low-carb, high-protein diet. I was having a protein shake for breakfast, protein and salad for lunch and protein and green veg for supper. [I’d have] two snacks, which could be anything from two rice cakes with peanut butter to two boiled eggs or fruit and yoghurt,” she says.
She also started strength training five days a week. Training consisted of kettlebells and body-weight workouts, like planks and push-ups, plus countless dips and squats. “My trainer pushed me to my limit from the very beginning. There was no excuse being the newbie or the fatty – we all did the same workouts, whether you’d just started or been there for years.”
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Once she’d reached her goal weight, Siobion fine-tuned her eating and exercise plan. She’s increased her calories to 1 400 (5 852kJ). “I’m still eating the same, but I have oats, yoghurt and fruit for breakfast and my protein shake as a second breakfast or post-workout snack (I go to gym in the morning). I still have my chicken or tuna salad for lunch and Bolognese with zoodles and butternut for supper.” She also treats herself weekly with Mexicana Nachos!
As for her updated exercise routine, it’s now a mix of kettlebell workouts, cardio, CrossFit and Pilates, five days a week. Siobion’s aim is to tone her “belly area” as she still carries some excess weight there.
One month into her weight loss, the skin condition Siobion had struggled with started clearing up. PCOS and its associated symptoms are a thing of the past. “I no longer suffer from GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) and depression,” she adds. “I’m completely reborn and have a new-found confidence. I can play ball with my daughter and do dance-offs with her. No more excuses for not going to family events or date nights… and I take full-length selfies,” she quips.
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And she’s paying it forward. “I’ve created a Facebook page called Lose It With Sio and I’m determined to help as many women as possible.” She’s completing a kettlebell instructors course, does health coaching and hopes to do motivational speaking. “I’m so grateful for my journey – I just want to share it with the world.”
Don’t wait to be ready: “You will never be ready. You are as ready today as you will ever be. Just do it. If I had to wait until I was ready, I’d still be 30 kilos heavier and unhappy.”
Challenge yourself: “If you can, do a little more and push a little harder when working out. You never know how far you can go until you get there.”
Make time for workouts: “If your day is already jam-packed, wake up 30 minutes earlier and just do it.”
This article was first published on Women's Health SA.