By Jodi Bryant

'Fooling themselves' with 'healthier potato chips' was the first step in a Northland couple's two-year weight loss journey of a combined almost 100kg and counting.

But Daniel and Jaimee Sterling soon realised this method wasn't going to work so ditched the chips, upped the ante and saw radical changes.

"It took several month's trial and error; we started by eliminating certain things, which led to a time of fooling ourselves, buying 'healthier potato chips' for example, but eventually we knew we had to eliminate this altogether," explains Jaimee, 37.

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And this was no easy feat for the Waiotira couple who say they stopped bringing many unhealthy food types into the house because 'self-control is not high in either of our traits'.

When they met in 2009, they describe themselves as 'Probably middle of the road – not healthy but not at our worst'.

Continues Jaimee: "After we got together, we began to put on the weight, eating plenty of takeaways, baking and junk food. We didn't lose weight for the wedding (in 2010) – instead we seemed to put on more!"

After the wedding, Jaimee joined Weight Watchers and lost around 20kg before falling pregnant with their son Sam, now eight. However, bad habits returned and both Jaimee and Daniel, 39, gained further weight.

The turning point came in late 2017 when it became apparent Daniel was reacting to wheat, dairy, soy and nuts. Eliminating these items from their diet, started the Sterlings on a path to healthy eating, although Jaimee admits she took some convincing.

"Dan started to push me to join him on eliminating some of the obvious unhealthy things, which initially I was not that receptive to. I took it as a bit of an attack on how we were living and, although he was right, I didn't like it at the time! It took a bit of time before I started along the same track and doing it together made it much more doable."

Seeing results helped also. After both losing weight, they reduced their carbs and sugar consumption, which eventually led to The Ketogenic – low-carb, high healthy fats - way of eating. They also began including exercise.

"For the first time, I was doing organised exercise classes twice a week at Activ8," says Jaimee. "This was very hard to begin with but, with each class I 'survived', I figured I could do this. I began to really enjoy it and saw the changes to my body and fitness."

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Dan joined Pumping Iron gym and, after several months, encouraged Jaimee to join him so they began doing strength workouts together which helped with body shape. They now incorporate around three-five workouts into their week. Naturally, there have been obstacles along the journey, causing their new habits to take a slide.

Says Daniel: "We both, of course, have our moments when things get tough; lack of time, low motivation. But we work through it and keep going. It is so much easier with all of us eating this way; removing temptations from the house and with both of us going to the gym, it encourages the other."

"It took me a while to realise that it's ok to have a few days off the gym," adds Jaimee. "As long as you get back up and go again after that. There will be days where you eat something you shouldn't, but don't give up because of it. It's about realising this is a journey, not any overnight change, and maintaining consistency towards where we want to be."

So far Daniel had lost a whopping 52kg and Jaimee 44kg, having gone from size 22 to size 12.

"We both have further to get where we want to go but already the changes have been huge. We now do things that we previously wouldn't have considered. Improved fitness means more willingness to get out and do things that we previously wouldn't have and we are loving the extra energy. We go bush walking, we bought dirt bikes so we could all go out together, we work outside all day and don't need to rest every hour.

"Our 10th wedding anniversary is next year and we want to do a three-four day hike to celebrate it, something that previously we would not have been fit enough to consider. We want to be role models for our son, not leading him into a lifestyle that we were unhappy with ourselves."

As well as relishing being able to shop in 'normal' shops, they also cite positive mental changes with the strengthening of their relationship. "Prior to this, we were not in a great relationship space and, by doing this together, it has given us shared goals and brought us together."

Both Daniel and Jaimee have received many positive comments of support and several friends have even joined in on their journey.

"As cliché as it is, if we can do it, anyone can. Our journey is not over - this is now our lifestyle and not some fad diet. We look back sometimes and can't believe the 'before' people are us!"