Michelle lives with her three children on the Mornington Peninsula. In the past five years, Michelle – who now weighs a petite 56kg – lost her current body weight and more, thanks to a radical decision to turn her life around.
"At my heaviest I weighed 130kg. At that point I didn't tend to look at the numbers so I was surprised by how much weight I'd gained over time. It was due to being lazy, unhealthy eating habits and generally falling into a rut. My knees had started hurting, I had joint pain and I'd get breathless."
The turning point came when Michelle was on holiday in Queensland with her family. Michelle was asked to get off a ride at a theme park as the safety bar couldn't close. "Being super morbidly obese is a hard pill to swallow. This moment was my absolute lowest point. My seven year old was with me and was really distressed. I knew things couldn't continue."
Michelle had tried a myriad of methods to lose weight. "I'd try every new diet and fad going. I joined a gym and I tried working out with a personal trainer. I read up on nutrition and how to eat healthily, but despite all my attempts, I couldn't shift the weight. It was because I didn't follow through."
This is when Michelle started investigating lap band (bariatric) surgery. "I started researching the surgery three years before I actually had my op. I felt like surgery was my final chance. I was worried that if this didn't work I'd be out of options."
Michelle has family members with type 2 diabetes – she didn't want to develop diabetes and wanted a better future for her family. "I thoroughly researched the surgery before making the final decision to go ahead. This was my last resort option. It had to be a total lifestyle overhaul. It wasn't just a case of having the surgery: I had to start from scratch with my diet and exercise regime."
Michelle says that she would never advocate for, or even recommend, surgery to anyone. "There are so many pros and cons and they are different for different people. There is always a great risk associated with surgery and this treatment is only appropriate for people who are morbidly obese. It is a last resort option and it is not easy."
Michelle looked into the risks, spent a lot of time at the gym, worked with her doctors, as well as a nutritionist and counsellor, and prepared for surgery, and her change of lifestyle post-surgery. With this support she lost 12kg pre-surgery and found great emotional support online talking to people who were in similar situations.
Five years on, Michelle is now 56kg – so she has lost more than half her original body weight. "I feel really fantastic! I've gone from being unable to cross my legs to someone who can climb trees with their kids. My confidence has grown too. I always appeared very outgoing but now I feel a true sense of inner confidence."
Michelle's relationship with food and exercise has entirely changed. Their household is full of healthy food, no pre-packaged or processed foods. "We use the terms ‘sometimes' and ‘everyday' foods and the kids get it. That's not to say they won't pester me to buy certain things, it's just easier to say ‘no' and explain why."
Michelle is passionate about fresh produce and finding ways to create meals that are delicious and nutritious. "My whole relationship with food has changed; food had been both my best friend and worst enemy, and I'm now at a point where I can find joy in food again."
"People that don't know me very well will often ask ‘How did you do it? How did you lose the weight' and I tell them, ‘through bloody hard work'. Because it has been hard work, and it will continue to be. I've completely changed our family's lifestyle. But we're all happier and healthier for it, and I now feel like I can be a good role model for my children."
Michelle's tips for anyone trying to lose weight are:
Michelle is a member of The Parents' Jury and is involved in advocating to create healthier environments for Australian children, through reducing junk food marketing to children, and promoting healthy eating and physical activity.