To give you a brief background history of myself, I was a “biggish” girl for most of my life wearing size 16 to 18 clothes since high school. I was always the quiet/shy girl in my group of friends, never voicing my opinion too much, as I thought that no one would like me seeing I was such a big girl. I was a heavy drinker, going out every weekend, a two packs a day smoker, and I loved my high fat food.

I have always played sport though, and was lucky enough to represent our state in netball 13 times, and was selected for the Australian side when I started my healthy/fit living journey.

My healthy/fit journey started around 10 years ago, when I was misdiagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (fusion of the spine). My weight back then was around 98 to 100kg. I was in severe pain for four years where I could not walk properly, and struggled to sit and lie down. I gave up my love of sport as I was told that if I continued I would cause more damage. I lived on Voltaren to get rid of the pain and tried to continue playing until the pain got unbearable. I was told to change my diet as the starch in foods increases the fusion, so I changed my diet.

During that time, I became depressed and gained more weight. I reached 112kg, the biggest I have ever been. I hated myself. I didn’t know what to do.

In 2008/09, I was pregnant with my first child. At the 12-week mark I had one of my episodes where I couldn’t walk and couldn’t lie down. I was taken to hospital and advised by a back surgeon that I did not have Ankylosing Spondylitis but a bulging disk. That 24 hours was the most excruciating time in my life. My weight at this time was sitting around 98kg.

A year later I had my second daughter and went through similar pain with my legs and back. After talking to the back surgeon again, he advised I should never have given up my sport as moving helped keep my disc in place.

About six months after my second baby, a girlfriend of mine asked if I wanted to get back into being fit again and try outdoor group training. I thought why not, I have to do something as I felt horrible. So I went to outdoor group training for three years, three sessions a week, early mornings and night. I completed my first City to Bay 12km run and completed the Trail Blazer Challenge. I started playing netball again and was selected to coach and play again in the state side and was selected to play in the Australian side in 2012. I enjoyed running and the other fitness aspect a lot. My weight slowly started to go down and people were noticing, which was fantastic as this boosted my confidence so much. At this stage my weight was sitting between 86kg to 89kg. One day, while at netball, I saw a picture of a very fit athletic looking girl and thought to myself I want to look like that!

I started researching for PT’s and researching on the internet how I could build muscle and become athletic looking. I became obsessed!

I found a few PT’s, one who was more interested in themselves than me, another who couldn’t fit my schedule, and another who was into CrossFit but due to my back problems couldn’t pursue it.

I kept searching around for the right PT and bumped into a friend of mine who was also once a large woman but was looking absolutely fabulous. She was training with her PT who does CrossFit, bodybuilding, and group training, and who she thought would suit me, so I contacted her and set up a date to meet.

This is where my fitness journey began! This is when I met the most humble, determined woman, my inspiration through my journey, Mareike Miller. For the first time, I met a person that wanted to know my goals and helped me create a pathway to reaching them.

Mareike’s approach and her ability to push me, without the hard-core yelling and stern approach, was what I needed. I like to train hard and training with Mareike was more than just training, it became a journey of friendship, knowledge and understanding of how my body works and reacts to discipline, physically and mentally. After two training sessions, she asked me a question that changed my fitness direction – would I be interested in Figure Bodybuilding? Seeing her inspiring photos and trophies in her studio, I thought why not. I took a leap of faith and started training for my first ever Figure Bodybuilding Competition!

We decided to compete in October 2015. Mareike did not sugar-coat anything for me, she explained how hard I would need to work and how tough it would be mentally, but I saw it as a great challenge. And I haven’t looked back!

I trained very hard and could not have gotten through it without the support from my children, family and Mareike. She was with me every step of the way. If there was anything that I needed from Mareike I asked for it and she was there. Encouraging me, pushing me, keeping me on track with my plan and training, and in her own subtle way kept reminding me why I was doing what I was doing.

Through this journey, I discovered who I was, and showed my children that anything is possible. There were highs and lows, and at times I wanted to give up, but failure wasn’t an option! I competed in the INBA at a stage weight of 64kg and placed 2nd in Figure First Timers and Figure Novice. In the ANB I competed at 62.5kg in Figure Novice and place 3rd. To see my body transform over the months/weeks leading up to competitions was amazing. I was so proud of myself for being so dedicated and disciplined with my program in all aspects.

I have learned to always, always believe in yourself. Never ever give up on your dreams, go out and make them a reality. You truly only have One Life, so go live it!

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