Posted by Melissa: June 2012
In 2005 Gabriela Douglas, from Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs, welcomed her first child into the world (when she was 25). Though it was a joyous time for the new mum, it was also a time when the harsh reality about her lifestyle hit.
Two weeks after the birth of her first son, Gabriela says she hesitantly got on the scales to see how much she weighed. When she saw 119 kilograms flash up on the screen below her she knew she had some soul searching to do.
"I actually couldn't see the scales at home when I was pregnant – then when I got out of hospital I still couldn't see the scales so I had to buy electronic scales," Gabriela says.
"I was really flattened (when I saw the number)."
"I looked at myself in the mirror and thought ‘Oh, what have I done to myself'?"
Gabriela says she had to make a decision not just for the sake of her own health, but that of her newborn son.
"I just decided I had to change my lifestyle," she says. "I couldn't lecture my children about being healthy when I looked the way I did."
Since that day Gabriela has had an amazing journey, changing her eating and workout regimes and losing 50 kilograms along the way.
Gabriela says it was her diet – which used to include full fat milk and yoghurts and cups of tea with six spoons of sugar and other junk food – that caused her weight gain.
"I always was physically active," she says. "I just ate the wrong things."
She says she decided to not do anything radical, but to slowly change her lifestyle.
Firstly, she cut down the sugar in her tea by one teaspoon each week and chose the skim or low fat options of milk and yoghurt.
She also started shopping on the perimeter of the supermarkets – that is, shopping where all the fresh food is shelved.
"I avoid all the middle aisles – especially the chips and soft drink aisle," she says with a laugh.
She also started a blog to tell her story about being, as she describes it, a food addict and putting all her thoughts on trying to lose weight and battling the urge to buy junk food out in the open.
"It was really a diary into my mind ... I used to think, why can't I be like other girls? Why do I have to eat a Big Mac every time I drive past McDonalds?," she says.
"But then other women would comment and say they felt exactly the same way so it was good to know I wasn't the only one who had those thoughts."
Not to be content with those changes, Gabriela also started up the Lynbrook Bootie Camp which has been running for the past few years. She says the idea was partly inspired by her children, partly by her own childhood.
"When I was younger I didn't have any ‘body issues'. That was because I was always active and playing and running around."
So, while her children played at the local playground, Gabriela decided to workout.
The bootie camp originally started with Gabriela and a girlfriend exercising while their kids played, replicating some of the exercises done in the gym. It has now grown to a group of around 50 women (though not all exercise on the same days) who exercise 3–5 times per week for 45 minutes.
When she's not able to get to the playground, Gabriela says she also uses YouTube to look for workouts like yoga or for something fun, the Pussycat Dolls Workout.
"You don't need to pay money for the gym – there are things you can do for free – there shouldn't be any excuses," she says matter-of-factly.
"My biggest thing that I keep on trying to stress to people is don't say ‘I'm going on a diet' because you say you're going to do it for a short time and you have this mentality that there's going to be a reward," she says. "It's about a lifestyle change – incorporating healthy food into your normal life and exercising more."
"Don't expect a huge result straight away."
Though her reasons for her lifestyle changes were initially because she wanted to be a role model for her children (she is now a mum to three boys aged 6, 4 and 2), she says she also wants to be a role model for other children.
Gabriela is studying to be a teacher and will qualify in two years. She hopes to get kids active in class by introducing "jumping jack and leap frog maths" into the curriculum.