‘The best $500 I’ve ever spent’
TANYA and David Vanags were in a vicious cycle of overeating. They knew they had to do something about their ballooning weight, but they just couldn't seem to change their bad habits.
"I was never an overweight teen or child ... but as I got older and had children and lost my father I began emotional eating," Tanya, 42, says.
Her husband David, 49, was also in a similar unhealthy spiral.
"We were bad influences on each other," she says.
"One of us would say 'do you want a pizza' and we'd get excited.
"We wouldn't go out ... we'd sit at home and our excitement was food. Food was a comfort and our best friend."
She acknowledges that when things were at their worst, she became obsessive about food, always making sure she had enough of it on hand.
"At Macca's I'd get a medium meal, but also a cheeseburger as well because I had this anxiety that I didn't want the food to end," she says.
At her heaviest, Tanya weighed 121.8kg and David weighed 114kg.
"That was the most embarrassing thing for me, that I weighed more than my husband," she says.
"Every day I would wake up and think, 'Today is the day I am going to do something about my weight.' And then I wouldn't because I didn't really know where to start and I was scared of failure, and then I'd feel guilty and depressed and I would eat more to make myself feel better."
After years of procrastinating and trying every quick fix from weight-loss pills to meal-replacement shakes, Tanya was spurred on to make a serious change when a doctor warned her she was close to being diabetic.
They also wanted to be better parents to their two sons, aged 9 and 12.
"We weren't able to play with the kids - the boys are really active and my husband and I were just standing on the sideline most of the time. It was like we weren't participating in life".
It was also concerning that they were potentially teaching their kids bad habits.
"We worried that we were teaching them to be obese adults," Tanya says.
"We thought they were going to have problems in the future if we kept showing them that it was 'normal' to eat like this."
A friend of Tanya's suggested they check out the WLCW (Weight Loss Coaching Works) program on Facebook. (If the name rings a bell, that's because it has been key to singer Casey Donovan's much-publicised weight loss.)
"A friend of mine suggested this Facebook program. I thought, 'Here we go again, another thing I'm going to fail at.' But I figured I may as well just try it, so I signed up online in January 2017.
"In the first week I lost 4kg. I thought, 'I might just keep going on this.'"
She says: "It really just involves regular healthy eating and walking 12-15,000 steps per day. The aim is to get you moving."
Participants in the program are encouraged to walk 5000 steps first thing in the morning before breakfast.
"Once you get the 5000 steps in, the rest of the steps seems to come naturally throughout the day," she says.
Tanya walks an extra 20-30 minutes on her lunch break at work and the children have started to get involved in the morning walks.
"We all get up now at 5.30am and we talk and walk. The boys love it. It's changed the whole dynamic of the family. We chat about the day ahead and actually communicate with each other."
She likes the program as it has taught her how to create a healthy diet with the "right" carbohydrates, and is eating her own "real" food instead of pre-packaged frozen meals.
"I've done Jenny Craig and Lite n' Easy and things like that, but that was just putting a frozen meal in the microwave and not really knowing what I was eating," she says.
"That's not really sustainable unless you want to eat those meals for the rest of your life.
"I don't even call it a 'diet' anymore - it's just how we eat now."
In just over a year the couple has lost a combined 70kg (which equals the weight of their two sons put together).
"I only have 10kg to go now until I reach my goal weight," says Tanya.
"I am sitting at 78kg ... I have lost 43kg and David has lost 30kg.
She believes it helped having her husband do the program with her, as "we are always helping keep a check on each other".
The program is a $500 one-off cost. It was an extra $50 for David to sign up too, under their "buddy deal" which allows you to bring someone along for $50.
"It's the best $500 I have ever spent," says Tanya.
"The way I feel now, I would have paid $5000 for it."
It's a 10-week online program but Tanya insists they "don't give up on you" once that period is over.
"You have a coach, and someone else on your team who is a support to you as well, offering encouragement. You can ask them any questions at all, and they give you tips and advice on how to stay on track."
They also provide a list of foods to help you monitor your carbohydrate intake - a key part of the weight-loss program.
"For example, I am aiming for 60g of carbs a day, and this sheet with the value of the different carbohydrates helps you with that".
She insists that she has never been hungry on her new eating program, thanks to the fact that it includes two snacks in the morning, two snacks in the afternoon, and two snacks after dinner.
"They encourage you to eat every hour-and-a-half. I am a bit OCD, so I set my alarm for 90 minutes and after lunch I have a couple of pieces of cheese, and then 90 minutes later I might have some ham and then 90 minutes later it's dinner time."
TANYA'S DAY ON A PLATE BEFORE WEIGHT LOSS
Breakfast: iced coffee, toast (sometimes four pieces)
Lunch: binge on something fried - hot chips or takeaway of some sort.
Dinner: pasta of some sort, huge serving. Always go back for seconds even when full.
Always go to bed full and then never sleep properly.
"Soft drinks were also a problem. Coke in particular."
TANYA'S DAY ON A PLATE NOW
8am, Breakfast: one slice of toast and one egg
9:30am: protein-only snack
11am: protein-only snack
1pm, Lunch: one protein serving, one fruit, salad which consists of baby spinach, carrot, tomato, cucumber
2:30pm: protein-only snack
4pm: protein-only snack
5:30-6pm, Dinner: one protein serving (usually chicken) with stir-fried vegetables (cabbage, carrot, onion, zucchini, etc).
7:30pm: protein-only snack
9pm: protein-only snack