Two years ago, Erin Sawyer was in a tough place. With her weight out of control and often facing 13-hour days in a highly stressful job, she knew something had to give.
"I wasn't seeing much of my kids or my husband and I found myself always opting for takeaways because it was easy comfort food and a quick fix to feed the family," she says.
"My weight and health were on a downward spiral."
Then the Hamilton woman heard about My Food Bag's Fresh Start health and weight loss programme - and it literally transformed her life.
Two years on she has lost 18kg and gets to do lots of adventures with her two daughters aged 7 and 5.
"I exercise every day and do things outdoors with the kids I wouldn't have been capable of, or had the motivation to do before.
"I have so much more energy and I'm a nicer person for it," she says.
"The 18kg I have lost is mostly due to Fresh Start. It is the easiest way to lose weight that I've found."
Her story comes as Kiwis kick off their 2021 New Year resolutions, many of which include healthy eating and weight loss goals. Fresh Start helps make those goals easier to achieve by delivering recipes and ingredients to create meals that are 450 calories or less.
My Food Bag co-founder Nadia Lim says Fresh Start is designed to help people lose weight "the delicious way". She says more than 16,000 Kiwis have tried the 8 Week Challenge programme and many have been incredibly successful with an average weight loss of 5kg over eight weeks.*
Sawyer says she first "dabbled" in Fresh Start in 2017. In 2018, she began working fulltime in educational leadership, but two small children at times it involved high stress and long hours.
"I would leave home at 7.30 in the morning and some days I wouldn't get home until nine at night," she says. "A normal day was 7.30am to 6pm and by the end of the year I had become so unhealthy I had very little energy.
"I had also gained a lot of weight and I realised I had to do something different for my kids' sake."
By the end of 2018 and with her 40th birthday coming up, Sawyer says she was determined to "look fabulous" for that milestone and so began working out at home.
"Despite regular exercise I still wasn't seeing enough evidence on the scales so I decided to try Fresh Start again [in September 2019] and in three months I managed to lose 8kg. It was so easy and I didn't have to think about anything, all the hard work was done for me.
"Back on to Fresh start in July  and in three months I dropped another 8kg," she says. "Altogether I have lost 18kg and this is mostly due to Fresh Start."
Sawyer's husband Heath has joined her on the programme and she estimates he has lost up to 10kg each time.
"I love Fresh Start for keeping my calorie intake in check. I love food and can easily consume too many calories but now focus on rewarding myself with things that are good for my body and mind."
She says it is hard to say what her favourite meal is: "I like so many of them, I love those that are closest to comfort food like prawn burrito bowl with chipotle sauce or the grilled cheese and beef burgers with garlic aioli and kumara chips; it has taught me so much about how to reduce refined carbs and to eat more vegetables."
Today Sawyer continues to work in education but is now successfully balancing her health and whānau and says she is at the stage of being able to maintain her weight. Even so she intends to take on the summer challenge – "it will definitely be a good time to reset".
Lim says the programme aims to help people lose about half a kilogram of weight a week. Ingredients and recipes come in a food box and customers are able to access extra nutritional support.
"The recipes have a focus on whole foods and lots of veggies," she says. "But there is no meal planning for those taking part, we do all that for you. All you have to do is cook the quick, easy recipes.
"We hope it will appeal to those thinking about weight loss as their New Year resolution in 2021 and those who have tried lots of ways to lose weight but haven't found anything that stuck."
• The Summer 2021 8 Week Challenge starts on January 20, with the first deliveries on February 7. Prizes will be awarded at weeks one, four and eight and those taking part will be supported by My Food Bag's nutrition team through weekly emails. For more information go to: www.myfoodbag.co.nz/fresh-start
*T&Cs apply. Weight loss based off responses from Fresh Start customers whose goal was to lose weight and who were successful in that goal. Individual results may vary.