24 January 2019
65KG WEIGHT LOSS JOURNEY – THE WHOLE STORY
This is without doubt one of the most remarkable transformations we have seen at JPS. We wanted to share this very raw and honest insight from our hard working client Jess and give you an insight into her journey to highlight many of the trials, tribulations and challenges our client Jess faced on her journey…
This is without doubt one of the most remarkable transformations we have seen at JPS. We wanted to share this very raw and honest insight from our hard working client Jess and give you an insight into her journey to highlight many of the trials, tribulations and challenges our client Jess faced on her journey from 149kg to 65kg and what it takes to achieve such an incredible transformation.
FOREWORD FROM COACH LYNDON PURCELL
If you know Jess, then you know… But you likely don’t know the whole story.
If you don’t know her… Well then, get ready for a hell of a ride
A few weeks ago I mentioned to Pendles that I thought it would be a good idea for her to reflect back on the past 12+ months and write down what had transpired, for her own personal benefit.
At this point, we were entering the final stages of preparation for her second powerlifting competition. As with any prep, it was far from smooth sailing, but in all objectivity, it was going impeccably well. Pendles had continued to lose weight almost linearly and she was nailing PB’s everywhere.
As a “trainer” I couldn’t have been more pleased, performance was on the incline and bodyweight was on the decline. But this was merely an assessment of the superficial factors, and as a friend, I sensed something deeper.
As Pendles tends to do, she was over-critical of herself. Frequently she would become annoyed at mis-grooving a heavy double on the bench press, or frustrated at herself when I would tell her not rush her deadlifts. Although these frustrations would eventually reach termination, I hated to see her torment herself psychologically over an imperfect performance, of a near arbitrary movement, while under external load.
Because really, what she was annoyed about, is insignificant in the overall scheme of things. This woman has changed her life and inspired others along the way, never failing to smile or share a laugh with anyone who will listen to her.
I couldn’t care less about a squat PB, a grinded rep or improvements on Wilks score.
I care about those things, because in this specific instance, Pendles cares about them. And I care about her.
Now, I understand it is not my position to be overly protective and do everything within my power to “protect” Pendles from frustration and disappointment, those are inherent outcomes in life, they cannot be avoided and even if it were possible, it would almost certainly not be beneficial for her development.
What I can do however, is intervene when I think it’s appropriate/necessary, helping to objectively frame the situation for her in the appropriate context.
I don’t remember the exact moment it struck me, I think my awareness of the situation built over time, but it eventually became abundantly clear to me to me, there was a massive disconnect that existed between how Pendles was treating herself, and how I/others viewed her.
It was at this point I suggested that Pendles write about the journey she has undergone in recent time. Time and time again I have reminded her that; There will always be problems, and the problems she is facing today, she would have killed to have a year ago.
After reading her very personal reflection, it instantly struck me that it should be shared. Now, this was NEVER my original intention. Pendles is, and always will be, a friend first. This was not an endeavour for seeking appraisal for her efforts or to promote the JPS services. I simply suggested this because I thought it would help her.
Now, I think it has the potential to help others.
So I asked Jess if it could be posted on the blog, which scared her, but she saw the potential positive impact it could have and she consented.
I won’t waste anymore of your time. I’ll let Pendles take it from here..
The first memory I have of being “the big girl” was in grade three. I was nine years old and the biggest girl in my class, if not the school. Since then, it has always been the same and even though I told myself that I was going to change the way I was, I never did. To be honest, things just got worse. Throughout primary and high school, I played sport; netball, hockey and softball. I wasn’t even bad, but I was always the position that didn’t need to run or move around a lot – goal shooter in netball, goal keeper in hockey, pitcher in softball. It’s was like I was as inactive as possible while still being active. I always had great anxiety and paranoia about my weight and how people viewed me and treated me. Even down to if my friends were all really just hanging out with me as a joke. This anxiety got really bad towards the end of high school and the beginning of uni. I was always an overachiever academically which lead to putting self-care on the back burner. I now realise that I used that as an excuse to let my weight get out of control. By year 12, I was wearing a size 26 school dress.
When I started uni, I moved 6 hours from home onto campus accommodation with an access card to dining hall and the mini mart. I have always (and still am) one to make the most of my money and man, did I try to get the most out of that card. People always say that anyone who starts at uni gains a little weight, but I definitely took it to the extreme.
By the end of first year I was in a very dark place mentally. I was anxious all the time. Getting out of bed was such a task and going to class felt like the hardest thing possible. I was depressed and suicidal, under the constant watch of a psychiatrist and the hospital, constantly medicated and eventually was so worked up that I started collapsing 30+ times an hour. I honestly should have had a frequent flyers card for the Wagga Base hospital because I was in there so much!! Basically, I was fucked.
To fast forward a verrrry long story, after my first year of vet school, I moved into a house off campus and started working with a dietitian. I lost a few kilos but eventually stopped seeing her because I was intimidated and then slipped back into old habits. By the time third year came around (mind you, it was really year 2.5 because I had failed some subjects so I was a bit behind) I had had some hard yards, dealt with some weird situations, gained back any and more weight that I had lost and I was slipping back into a dark space. Somewhere within this period, I realised that my anxiety come from being so big and the feeling of being unable to help myself. It almost felt as if I was drowning within my own body. At this point, I started taking duramine and went to another dietician. This particular lady however, told me that my only option was to get gastric surgery, but before that, I had to consume 3 VLC shakes plus 1 cup of green veg per day. This completely hit me for six. I felt like the person that I had reached out to, had basically told me that every other option was useless. I just wanted to give up. I remember just being a complete mess.
It wasn’t long after this that I was in such a dark place, that I left vet school, Wagga and my friends, and moved back home. It wasn’t worth it anymore. I was in such a terrible head space that I couldn’t trust myself to not do anything stupid.
When I came home, I was still taking duramine – going to various doctors to get prescriptions so I never had to explain myself to the same person twice. I wasn’t sleeping, barely eating and I was even more anxious. So, I gave up on that too.
I started Science & Education at La Trobe the year I came home. Two things that I have always (and still) love. But there was still this overarching anxiety, especially as I now knew no one around me. I was so self-conscious, that if I was 5 minutes late to class, I refused to go, even if I had just drive then 75 minutes to Bundoora, just because I didn’t want to walk in front of the class to sit down.
Fast forward again to after Christmas 2016. I had seen a photo taken on boxing day of my dad’s side of the family. When I looked at the photo, all I could see was me. I took up the majority of the photo even though there was over 15 people in the shot. I couldn’t believe it. But it was the final straw. From there, I started planning on how I was going to change, no matter what it took.
I knew that in 6 months, I was traveling to America and Canada by myself and I was desperate to not have my weight hold me back. It had been a long time since I could comfortably sit in a plane seat, let alone do up the seat belt. I had heard rumours that US airlines make you buy multiple seats if you were too big – I definitely could not afford that both financially or mentally. I also badly wanted to go on rides at Universal Studios and go on helicopter and hot air balloon rides over the Grand Canyon and New Mexico. To do any of these things, I first needed to ask for help.
HOW I ENDED UP AT JPS
When I went back to work after Christmas, I spoke to a few of the girls and told them how I wanted to find a personal trainer. I had looked around close to home, uni and now was looking close to work. One of the girls mentioned that she had a friend who had been training out of a gym in Airport West and that she really enjoyed it and maybe I would too. Enter JPS Health & Fitness. Even after researching JPS for a solid week and convincing those around me that I was going to start training, I knew I hadn’t 100% convinced myself. My anxiety was still at an all-time high and it took 3 days and multiple panic attacks before I was even able to submit an online inquiry. I also very clearly remember running from my desk at work to hide in the bathroom to have panic attack when I got an email response back from Sam. What could be more intimidating than putting yourself out there and asking for help. How could someone help you, when you couldn’t even help yourself?
The way I was acting before my consult, you would have thought I was expecting to experience public torture when I got to the studio. Yet another panic attack, 4 laps of the block and a lot of tears later, I finally walked into JPS for the first time and was greeted with Lyndon. There is plenty of things that I quickly forget, most of things that mum has told me are “extremely important”, but my initial consult is not one of them. It started well with Lyndon showing me first how to get to the guys toilets and then he realised that it’s probably not a place that I’d be spending a lot of time. I remember random conversations from that day – how his laptop screen got smashed, how he wasn’t “very good at being formal” (in hindsight, I’m so glad he wasn’t formal. That would’ve freaked me out.), how as long as I wasn’t dick I would get along just fine with the other members, to make sure I paid on time because he didn’t want to talk about money and how he promised me he was “better at the coaching part than the admin part” (this was as Lyndon called Josh to save him from the EFTPOS machine while I tried to pay). I also remember that I walked in to the consult thinking that I was only going to listen to what Lyndon had to say and then I would go home and think about my options; no matter what, I wouldn’t buy a membership until I went home first. By the time I started the consult, I think I knew I was going to join, and by the time I actually booked my sessions, I had officially signed up for a 20-session pack. That was changed to a 50-session pack by the end of the first week.
It’s funny looking back on these very early days, knowing how everything panned out; how that was the start of a crazy roller-coaster ride of blood, sweat & tears, and the start of one fucked up friendship with someone that I now couldn’t imagine my life without.
THE EARLY DAYS
I started at JPS weighing 149 kg as a 21-year-old girl. In my first session, Lyndon made me cry. Not because he was a dick (this particular time anyway) but because he was genuinely nice to me & I wasn’t used to that. Also, I’m a sook and would (and still can) cry at the drop of a hat. We were doing prowler pushes and we were talking about how exciting the whole situation was – the start of a new beginning. He told me how he was really excited too & that it was super cool that each time we saw a kilo come off on the scale, it would be the last time I would ever be that weight. It was too much for me. I had tears running down my face and was just an emotional mess. The funniest part about the situation now, is how Lyndon reacted – a supportive shoulder pat accompanied by the “Oh fuck. What have I done? / What have I gotten myself into? / Please stop crying” face. I’ve seen that face many times since. I cry a lot.
But I think I learnt something important that day. As scared as I was to open up to Lyndon (and in turn AC as she was shadowing my very first session) mostly because I was scared of judgement and him thinking I was a joke, I realised that he wholeheartedly wanted to help me change. Months later he told me what was going through his head when I first attempted a squat (or more aptly, a “knee bend”), but even when he didn’t know how to help me, he still wanted to. I think that’s very powerful.
After a few weeks, I stopped having major freak outs before training. I did however still try to aim at getting to the studio at 4.59pm so I didn’t have to awkwardly wait until Lyndon was ready for me (definitely a big change to now where he has often asked me if I got my times wrong because I was so early). The thing about a gym that is such a tight knit community or family, is that it from the outside, it seems intimidating to try and become a part of it. It didn’t take long to realise that I had nothing to be scared about and the JPS family became my family.
Once I got over the initial trepidation about training and being around so many new people, the real excitement set in. Training was the highlight of my day (it still is) and for once, I started telling people around me that I was doing it. Previously, if I tried something related to weight loss, I didn’t tell anyone because I was scared that they would judge me when I ultimately failed at it. But right from the get go, I knew something was different about this time.
The following months were full of terrible jokes, sporadic unfinished conversations and definitely a lot of sweat and tears. Everything was tracking well and leading towards the day I went to America. The weight loss started to add up, moving my body became easier and my anxiety was slowly decreasing. JPS became my home away from home, and all the boys felt like my brothers.
Leading up to my holiday was a very anxious time. I was constantly thinking about how I was going to cope without my JPS support network and about how much weight I was going to put back on. I also had the thought in the back of my mind that I hadn’t done enough; that I was still going to have to buy another plane seat & that I still couldn’t go on a ride at Universal. It was a constant panic that never seemed to subside & anyone that I would talk to that had been to America would get drilled with questions about the best places to eat and where I could train. I also was stressed about goring on Contiki in general. I’ve never been a social person, mostly due to my anxiety, so the thought of spending over 4 weeks being constantly surrounded by people whom I did not know, terrified me.
The day I left was a rollercoaster of emotions. Not just insane anxiety, but ultimately a large sense of achievement and excitement. From the moment I sat down on the plane and was able to easily do up my seat belt, to the moment I stepped off the plane in San Francisco, I was just buzzing and couldn’t wait to tell someone about it.
Sometimes I even amaze myself with how much I can blow things out of proportion in my head. Somehow, I had convinced myself that no matter how hard I tried, I would be pushing shit uphill trying not to gain a heap of weight back while I was away and I would lose any strength that I had built. It turns out that simply was not the case and I started to realise this before I had even checked into my first hostel in San Fran. After over 24 hours of travel, all I wanted to do was move, so I walked and found a gym, trained on my own for the first time ever, and then went and found myself some snacks that I could take with me while I travelled. With that, all the worries that I had began to dissipate, because I realised that Lyndon really had set me up to succeed while I was away.
To write about all of the little wins that I had while I was away, would be a waste of time. Simply, there were too many. I very clearly remember how I excited I was to send my check in emails/essays/novels every Sunday night. It gave me a chance to share all those little wins, the stupid stuff I had done, the random conversations that no one else would understand and more importantly, it kept up with a little bit of routine from home. Even seeing an email with Lyndon’s name on it, reminded me that although I was making smart decisions while still enjoying myself, when the time came to go home, there was a job to be done.
SHIFTING TO A STRENGTH FOCUS
When I got home from America, as per usual, I was elated to be back training at JPS. But after a few weeks, I started to struggle finding a goal within my training. I had spent 8 months thinking about weight loss every single day, even while I was away. It was the first thing I thought about when I woke up and the last thing I thought about when I went to sleep. I needed to focus on something else.
After a few too many tears in the gym, Lyndon and I sat down & discussed focusing on powerlifting to take my mind off of weight loss. It’s funny how when you start focusing on one thing, other things start to fall in to place. As Liz Craven recently told me, when “we start focusing on strength, magic happens to our bodies”. All of a sudden, I had focus and purpose again. Weight loss was still the ultimate goal, but I felt like I had something else I was training for.
There were a lot of things that I learnt while prepping for my first meet. Mostly that I’m still a sook, but also that I am mentally and physically stronger than I thought. To be honest, the hardest part of the whole prep was coming to terms with putting dieting on hold. It was a terrifying thought and it took a lot of processing to get my head around it. In my mind, I wasn’t ready to stop dieting (apparently what I learnt with my American experience was nowhere to be found within my head!). While had accepted that my current focus was powerlifting/strength, in the back of my head, weight loss was still my number one priority. Eventually we were able to change my thinking about the situation. My nutrition became eating to fuel training, rather than to help weight loss. My body composition goals were just going on hold for four weeks, not being forgotten.
I think that was the moment that I really started thinking about food as fuel for training (although I had definitely improved my relationship with food over the months leading to this!) and for allowing me to function and focus throughout the day. Since then, this has been something I think about on the daily. Even when I wanted to weigh in lighter (for absolutely no reason other than to satisfy my own twisted head) for comp, I knew that I had to make sure that I was eating properly to allow me to make my lifts.
JPS Open came and went so quickly and so many goals were ticked off of my list, but more than anything, it cemented my love of powerlifting and wanting to better myself. So, soon after, I had my eyes set on my next comp.
The lead up to my second comp was a lot easier in so many ways, even though it had its own challenges. It definitely helped that I was coming off a month of maintaining my weight over Christmas/New Years (a challenge in itself) and that I had changed my mind-set to “athlete” rather than “dieter”. From then, the challenges that we faced were things that 12 months prior, I would never have dreamed that I would have been facing. I was (and still am) self-conscious about my loose skin, but that showed the amount of work that I had put in. I was in a constant state of frustration at my deadlifts and squats, but before I couldn’t even get into a deadlift position or bend my legs enough to squat. There’s no better way to help get through a tough challenge, than reminding yourself what you’ve already been through and achieved.
Even through all of the personal, professional, physical and mental challenges, that we faced leading up to comp, when the time came, it was one of my proudest achievements so far. Dropping 11kg while adding 30kg to my total, and travelling outside of my comfort zone to compete. The competition experience was so different the second time around as well. I managed to relax, stay composed and focus on enjoying the day, rather than perfecting the art of competing. I even managed to make it through the day without a panic attack, unlike JPS Open! Of course, I wanted to do Lyndon proud (especially after dragging him to Sydney) but more importantly, I did myself proud. That’s what powerlifting is about in my eyes – putting your best foot forward, supporting people who you may never have met before because they are leaving it all on the platform too, and doing yourself proud. I’m competing against myself, not only trying to beat my Wilks score, but also trying to improve my preparation and how I hold my composure on game day.
WHERE WE ARE NOW
At this point in time, I have just competed in my second powerlifting meet and am beginning a cut to the under 84kg weight class for comp in August. I’m excited to build on everything that I’ve learnt over the past two preps and hold my own on the platform, even while going down a weight class.
The next few months will hold plenty of new challenges that I haven’t faced yet, but I’m sure that I’ll be able to work through them, as testing as they may be. I know the people around me are there to support me and I’m so thankful for that.
My current goals: Even since starting to write this, my goals have changed. But currently they are:
- 120kg squat
- 60kg bench (and don’t bitch it)
- 165kg deadlift
- Make it through a whole training block without crying (this one might take a while, but currently W1D2 and going strong!)
- Make it to the -84s & get a total
- Work on mentally/emotionally accepting the physical changes that have happened to my body over the past 12+ months
- Keep up with uni
- Don’t get caught up in the shit I can’t change
- Make time for myself
- Do a cartwheel without breaking a bone
WHAT I WOULD TELL MY PAST SELF
I have been thinking about this for a while now, about how I should’ve started training earlier, and imagine what I could have achieved by now and blah blah blah. But I have come to realise that actually, that’s all wrong. The truth is, timing is everything and who is to say any of this would have happened at all if the timing was off? If I had joined a gym in Wagga, would I have even come home? Would I still be a mentally unstable vet student? (Would I still be around to tell the tale at all???) If I had contacted JPS months earlier, Lyndon would not have even been working there. If I had spoken to Sam on a different day, Lyndon may not have had a free spot to take me consult and I may have been put with another coach. From there, who is to say that I would have enjoyed sessions so much and that I would have stuck with it and seen results? It could have been a completely different story. Everything just came together at the right time. I guess you could say, it was a fortunate stroke of serendipity. So, while people may think my advice would be down the “get started earlier” path, it isn’t quite that simple.
Instead, I would say this: Try to not be your worst enemy. Everyone is their own worst critic, but there comes a point when you are self-sabotaging yourself because you are so full of self-doubt. When it feels like the world is against you, there is no point in turning on yourself. Feeling helpless and out of control is never a nice feeling, especially when you feel like that about your own life. When it feels like you’re drowning in your emotions, self-pity and lack of self-worth, the only option is to ask for help – no matter how stubborn you are. If you don’t ask for help, you’re not going to get it. There was a time in my life where I thought I was too far gone to be helped, mentally and physically. I had always dreamed of what it would be like to overhaul my life, but it wasn’t until I sucked it up, asked for help and actually made an effort, that things started to change. Yes, it’ll be hard. Yes, you will doubt yourself. But fuck, it’s gonna be worth every single second.
TO LYNDON & THE TEAM AT JPS
Thank you for everything. Seriously, everything. From day one, everyone has made me feel so welcome and part of the crazy family. From finally having confidence in myself, to being able to pick myself up from shitty situations (well at least a little faster than before), every little change in myself comes back to you guys. Without you, I wouldn’t be the person I am now and I wouldn’t be gearing myself up for the next set of challenges that are ahead. You have been there through the accomplishments and the setbacks, the tears of joy and the tears of frustration, you’ve been there for pep talks and to tell me to suck it up & move on. You’ve been there for this whole crazy ride. I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again, I am eternally grateful and I can’t imagine life without the pack of fools that are now my family.
Thank you for letting me tell 17 stories without ever finishing one, thank you for all the pity laughs at my terrible jokes that only I find funny, thank you for your unwavering support and thank you for pushing me to be better every day. Thank you for letting me use my check in emails for counting down the days until Jurassic World 2 (59 days as I’m writing this), for fun facts and for telling each other cool words. Thank you for making me laugh until I cry, for ignoring me when I actually cry so as to not make it worse and for never doubting me even when I doubt myself. Thank you for making me a better person.
I’ve never felt comfortable within a group of people like I do with you guys & I’m so thankful that you have accepted me for all my flaws and ridiculous ‘quirks’. You all mean the absolute world to me. (I’ll add some extra “fuck you’s” into the next few weeks, just to balance this all out!!)
Now, time to buckle down, cut some weight, get strong AF and try to stop being a sook *shrug girl emoji*