Multisports: Debbie makes incredible journey of weight loss

By Peter Thornton

Debbie Pemberton in Sculpt 6km run (No 1056). Photo / Supplied
Debbie Pemberton in Sculpt 6km run (No 1056). Photo / Supplied

In her diary, Debbie Pemberton carries photos of her at her heaviest.

"They are a reminder for when I reach out to buy food that I want emotionally," she said. "I then go and do an impact class, which is a great stress-buster for me."

The resident of St Johns in Auckland has been on an incredible journey of weight loss and self-discovery. With the help of surgery she has shed more than 120kg and has dedicated herself to a disciplined life of exercise and nutrition.

The 44-year-old plans to study for a bachelor of sports and recreation, with a double major in physical activity and nutrition.

You have lost a huge amount of weight. What weight were you and what you are now?

My highest weight was 200kg, and I was 85.5kg before abdominoplasty surgery.

When I hit 200kg I went to a dietician and lost about 14kg, before my GP put me on to the green prescription suggesting I do three times 20 minutes of aqua jogging a week. This also happened to coincide with an appointment to see a bariatric surgeon who offered a gastric bypass, which I had in 2006. I managed to lose a further 30kg, weighing in at 155.2kg on surgery day. I am currently 77.6 kg.

How hard has this journey been emotionally?

I became severely depressed and suicidal because of my body image, and the way people treated me with sniggers and bullying in my workplace, but I felt totally accepted at the gym despite my insecurities. After getting down to 65kg I was still really depressed and emotionally ate my way up to 98kg, which scared me enough to get back into aqua jogging.

I sometimes found going to classes an embarrassment because of the large amount of excess skin left after such a speedy weight loss, and now feel more confident in going forward and being able to enter more fun runs or walks and perhaps even work my way up to a duathlon. Having surgery was only a tool, and exercise in moderation and keeping it fun and interesting is what I thrive on. I hope to inspire others to make it a part of their life and not a "chore".

Who have been the people who helped you out along the way?

The support and encouragement from the Olympic Fitness Centre in Newmarket has helped me stay focused on my goals and dreams. The fitness instructors and staff motivate me to keep going - especially when I hit rock bottom. This year has been one of the hardest to deal with as my father passed away in April, and then my Mum in July, so having exercise to turn to has been a lifesaver for me.

What are your goals for the rest of 2012 and beyond?

My future goals include this year's Sculpt Women's 6k, and to hopefully run the whole course and to work my way up to doing Round the Bays for the first time next year, then on to perhaps a duathlon then setting sights on the Lake Taupo Team Challenge. I am so grateful that I was offered this surgery as I am now feeling more excited for my future.

What was the main way that you lost weight and how are you keeping it off now?

Going to the gym regularly - up to six times a week - and before my physical setbacks I would sometimes do a cardio then a weights class. It gives me a natural boost of serotonin which then gives me more energy to carry on with my life outside the gym.

I also looked at what I was eating and wrote up food diaries so I could see how much I was either overeating or undereating, which led me to making sure I cover all food groups in a day. I looked at the food groups like takeaways, chocolate, icecream, fizzy drinks, cheese and potato chips and over the course of a year slowly eliminated one food group at a time.

The way I stick to my programme is to write a list before I go grocery shopping and not to have the foods I know that I will binge on in the house. I still allow myself the odd bit of chocolate or icecream, as depriving myself totally will lead me to a binge.

- NZ Herald

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