I Owe My health to Stephanie Rice

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This looks to be Stephanie Rice’s last Olympic Games in London this year

I owe Stephanie Rice my life. Okay, so that may sound a tad melodramatic but I at least owe her my health. As the London Olympic Games fast approach us the spotlight is firmly fixed on the 24-year-old queen of the pool. 60 minutes interviewed her on Sunday night and Sunday Life ran a cover story profile on the swimmer at the beginning of the month. This looks to be her last Olympic Games as she plans to retire from professional swimming following the 2012 London Games. This makes me a bit sad but we all know not to trust a “retired” swimming hero by now, don’t we?

Steph Rice holds the world record in the 400-metre women’s individual medley, and won three gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. In August 2008 her life changed dramatically and she became a superstar and I was in awe of her.

“I’ve always been very self-motivated – that’s what it takes. You can never really rely on other people”

These are the famous words of Ms Rice who is fiercely competitive in and out of the pool. There was a fire in her belly in Beijing and it was infectious. Here I saw a thousand miles away a woman of such determination, guts and spirit. A woman who never gives up. A healthy, fit and focused 20-year-old who I so desperately wanted to emulate.

In 2008 I was the heaviest I have ever been in my life. I was close to (perhaps over) 100kg. I was unhappy. I was unfit, sick and full of excuses. I’d start an exercise regime and give up. I would join the gym and then eat McDonald’s afterward. I was negative and my personal relationships were suffering as a result. I was disappointed that I couldn’t stick to anything and nothing worked.

Turns out all I needed was an epiphany, or a lightning bolt moment as I call it, to make me believe in myself. As I watched Steph Rice in the pool giving it her everything I thought to myself ‘look how much the human body can withstand’.

There is a history of Type 2 (and Type 1) diabetes in my family. My dad was diagnosed in his 50s and I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps. But I had all his bad habits – a dangerous addiction to Coca-Cola (up to 30 cans a week), chocolate blocks were demolished in minutes not weeks and I lived on a diet of fast food. It’s not that I didn’t have people around me begging me to try to take my health more seriously, it’s just that I didn’t care. I didn’t care what I put in my body because I didn’t care about the person inside.

Stephanie Rice was the pinnacle of my road to healthy eating and exercise. I didn’t count calories, I didn’t go on some crazy diet, I didn’t deprive myself of anything. I just slowed myself down and took responsibility for my body and, perhaps more importantly, my life.

I started to find healthy recipes I could cook that were easy and yummy. Michelle Bridges’ cookbooks, How To Lose the Last 5kgs and No Excuses Cooking are lifesavers. I didn’t find these when I lost the 20kg but I wish I did. It took me 12 months to lose the weight and when I graduated from University in September 2009 I was at my goal weight. I even lost the last 5kg during my 6-week trip through Europe! Even after all that pasta I had in Italy!!

I’m not saying I have all the answers or that my method will work for you, I’m not saying you need to lose weight. All I’m saying is with self belief you can achieve anything. Losing the weight has made me a more positive person and I can actually say this and mean it: ‘I like myself and my body’.

If you treat your body like a Rolls-Royce and feed it with fuel to keep your mind and body active, you will reap the rewards. There is NO secret. It’s just diet and exercise. Find something you love doing and stick to it. You need to teach yourself about healthy eating, not follow a program where you learn nothing about nutrition or a crazy diet where you basically starve yourself. We all know how many products and programs promise unrealistic results, or promise results “in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise”.

Love yourself. Believe in yourself. Be in your corner and draw inspiration from anywhere. Because I tell you what there’s nothing greater than feeling happiness and contentment in your own body, wobbly bits and all.

Have you ever struggled with your weight or your confidence? How did you overcome it? Or if you’re struggling now how can we help you as a community get motivated?

Negative comments about weight loss or bullying will not be tolerated. This is my own personal story and I do believe sportspeople can be good role models in our society.

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  • Flirby

    Great post! This has certainly given me something to think about. I have a huge weight problem that I really need to solve or it is going to become a huge health problem. The paragraph starting “if you treat your body lie a rolls royce” really resonates with me, I’m going to,print it out to keep in my wallet for motivation.

    • Rose Russo

      Thanks Flirby, I’m glad this post has given you something to think about.
      I think motivating yourself and positive thinking is the first step.
      I wish you all the best – good health and happiness xxx