Above: Joanne (seated) with Buckingham House manager Donna Shrubsole checking out newly delivered gymnasium equipment at Buck House.
By Joanne Q
(Panorama readers met Joanne Q in issue #48 in 2013. In that issue we heard about her decision to get back control over her life – and finances – from the Public Guardian. Many people with mental health issues take medications which are known to lead to weight gain. Joanne has a message of hope).
JOANNE: A year or so ago I weighed myself at 112Kg and I was unhappy about that. Something ‘clicked’ and I said ‘come on, DO something!’ So I became determined to bring my weight down to something more healthy. Was I successful?
Two months ago, I had a full blood count done which showed my cholesterol and sugar levels were perfect for the first time in 15 years! ALL of my results were normal. How did I do it?
I built my fitness up slowly over ten months or so. I started by going round the block for 15 minutes. Then I increased it to half an hour. Then I increased my walks to 40 minutes to the beach and back. I regularly walk from Coogee to Randwick four or five times a week.
At the same time I worked on my diet. I stopped eating things like burgers and chips altogether for a while. I found this really hard, but I had encouragement. Before, I would have had three Pepsis a day, but I replaced that with water.
I feel like I have a lot of support from family and friends. Dimitri, my partner has given me a lot of support along the way. For nine months, through my local hospital, I worked with a Dietitian and an Exercise Physiologist for advice.
Foods like burgers, chips, pizza and fizzy drinks are known as ‘discretionary’ foods. While bringing my weight down I cut them out completely but now that I am maintaining my weight at 80Kg I am able to have these sort of things occasionally. In fact, yesterday I had an Oporto burger! And I had Chinese for dinner.
I replaced ‘discretionary’ foods with a lot of salads, a lot of Subway sandwiches, Boost juice and diet chocolate instead of real chocolate. If I had any discretionary foods at this time, I must admit, I would feel guilty.
I already knew from experience that some things are definitely hard to give up. I gave up smoking over ten years ago. But I thought that getting to 80kg was achievable and that I could maintain it if I kept up my exercise and limited my discretionary foods.
Today, I’ve got a lot more energy. I’m ready to get myself back into work again, first by doing some voluntary work, then doing courses and studying.
In the future, I would like to lose another 10 Kg to bring my weight down to 70Kg but I’m not sure about that yet. I am pretty happy with maintaining a weight of 80Kg. To do that I need to keep control of discretionary food and limit it to once or twice a week, as well as keeping active.
A lot of people with mental health issues find that the medications that help them also lead them to gain weight. It is easy to lose hope, but if you are determined to keep your weight at a healthy level I would like to say that I was able to do it, and maybe you can do it too! Since I have been able to improve my physical health, my medication dosage has actually been lowered!
If you want to achieve your goals, I’d say ‘Don’t give up on yourself.’ Think of yourself as a valued person. Value who you are and what you want to be.
Joanne spoke to Warren Heggarty. Thanks to Krissy Gram and Donna Shrubsole for their assistance with this story