Tamara McDonald felt like a hypocrite.
There she was, a registered nurse, working with new mums with gestational diabetes and telling them they had to lose weight to improve their health, when she tipped the scales at 115kg.
But it had always been that way for Tamara. Overweight since primary school, she had accepted that was her lot in life, despite now saying her weight destroyed her confidence.
The idea that she had the power to change her life was unreal to her.
“I was the girl at school that used to get fake notes to get out of PE,” she says. “I hated it.”
While working as a nurse, life was busy, but Tamara started to struggle, working 12-hour shifts on her feet every day.
“I used to have takeaway all the time. I looked happy on the outside but I really wasn’t — I was miserable,” she admitted.
“I hated going out, I rarely ever went out, and I was always in the back of photos. I just had no confidence.”
One day while walking along the street near the nurse’s quarters where she was living, Tamara was given a flyer for a free health check at a local gym. It was a flyer that would change her life.
“The personal trainer told me after I had the assessment done that my physical age was 88 years old — and I was only 22!”
“My blood pressure was high. My resting heart rate was about 120. He told me the way I was going, it would only get worse for me in the future. I just started to cry.”
Tamara signed up for the gym on the spot, and had no trouble losing her first 10kg.
“This was without changing my diet very much,” she said. “I was still eating crap and drinking lots of soft drinks.”
Tamara plateaued after her initial success until dinner in an Italian restaurant with her best friend Sonia who helped her kick on to the next phase.
“I hadn’t seen Sonia for four or five months because we’d both been so busy,” she said. “And when she walked in she looked stunning.
“She’d put on 25kg during uni, and she’d had three kids, so to see her having lost all the weight was amazing.”
Sonia told her she lost the weight with WW, the new Weight Watchers.
“I thought, ‘Oh yeah, fad diet, I’ve tried them all’,” Tamara said.
While she should be eating around 38 points a day, Tamara had eaten around 250 points in one meal.
“No wonder I wasn’t losing any weight,” she said.
Sonia invited Tamara to go along to her WW meeting the next day.
“I went along and I haven’t looked back since.”
From that day on, Tamara’s life changed dramatically. Now aged 31, she has lost a total of 46kg, and attends F45 exercise classes regularly.
Tamara has also discovered a love of running, having completed four City to Surfs, a Spartan run, a half marathon, a marathon, and even a 50km ultra-marathon.
It’s a long way from that overweight nurse who felt like a hypocrite.
“I used to hate exercise,” she said. “If you’d told me years ago I’d be a gym junkie now and have run ultra-marathons I would have laughed in your face.”
But that’s not the only big change in Tamara’s life. She also credits her weight loss for a big boost in confidence that led her to her now husband.
“I never had any confidence before,” she says. “I never went out, I never went anywhere. Then when I lost the weight everything shifted for me.
“I have WW to thank for my husband!”
WW was so integral to Tamara’s whole-life transformation, her WW coach Marie — who had become a close friend over their years together — was even a bridesmaid at her wedding.
Tamara says she and her husband would like to start trying for a baby soon but first she wants to reach the magic figure of 50kg lost.
In the meantime, Tamara is enjoying being fit and strong, although she admits sometimes it takes a while for her brain to keep up with her body.
“I’ll go to the shops and I always go for the bigger clothes even though I’ve lost all the weight,” she said.
“I’m so appreciative of my body now and I’m happy to look in the mirror. Whereas before I hated my reflection. I avoided going to the shops and trying on clothes because I was always embarrassed.”
Tamara has maintained a healthy weight for six years now, but she said she’ll never stop adding up her points every day.
“I’ll definitely keep doing that forever,” she said. “It’s a sacrifice well worth it. I feel so happy now and more confident now.”
For those who find themselves overweight and lacking in confidence, Tamara said it’s important not to be hard on yourself.
“When I first started, I was told I had to lose over 40kg and it was quite daunting and confronting,” she says. “But I always remember what my WW coach Marie told me: she said when she joined she felt the same as well.
“Her coach told her, you don’t have to lose it overnight. It took a long time for you to gain that weight. It’s going to take probably just as long for you to lose it.
“Basically, just take each kilo at a time. I broke mine up into 5kg lots, and then I’d reward myself with something as I reached each goal — as long as it wasn’t something food-related!
“I’d get some nice new clothes or book a massage or something like that.”
Tamara says that after being big for most of her life, and trying all manor of diet shakes and fads, WW is the best thing she’s done.
“It’s actually taught me what to do and how to cook rather than being on a shake diet that as soon as you go off you gain it back. This is about how to live for the rest of your life.”