Jess fights for family
Heart disease is New Zealand’s biggest killer, and for years it had been stalking Jess Shannon — that was until she decided to fight back and drop 62kg in 14 months.
The 33-year-old mother of three’s remarkable weight loss, from 132kg, came about after she was rushed into Tauranga Hospital last year complaining of chest pain and waking at night gasping for air.
Doctors soon discovered her heart was giving up. Shannon found herself at death’s door and reliving a childhood horror.
Years earlier, when she was 10, her mother had died from a heart attack.
Shannon and her sister were eating dinner with her when she tumbled from the kitchen table to the floor.
Twenty years later, that devastating moment replayed itself in Shannon’s mind as the doctors told her she must change her life or die.
“I decided I need to be around for my kids. I don’t want to repeat family history,” she said.
Shannon shared her story in a week when World Heart Day was held across 120 countries last Saturday to raise awareness at the 17.5 million deaths caused by cardiovascular disease globally.
In New Zealand, heart disease claims one person every 90 minutes and accounts for one in every three deaths.
Shannon has now reached a stable weight of about 70kg after she used her family as motivation to transform her diet and start exercising.
Where she had often previously skipped breakfast and then had a “massive dinner” followed by sugary treats, she instead began to eat three healthy meals.
“In the morning, for breakfast, I have two Vogel’s toasts with tomato or eggs or hummus, or sometimes even peanut butter,” she said.
“It just depends what I feel like — muesli, yoghurt. At lunchtime I have salad. For dinner I have a normal meat and vege dinner — just small portions.”
She was told she should exercise at least 10 minutes each day.
“That ain’t going to do anything,” she thought — and aimed higher. Recently, Shannon teamed up with a friend to complete a relay leg of a half marathon in her new home town, Waipukurau in Hawke’s Bay.
The two friends were the fastest team home, completing it in two hours and 40 minutes.
“It’s been a bloody hard road,” she said. “But I’m proud because I know I will be there for my children and husband and can help set them up to have a healthy life of their own.
Hawke’s Bay mum Jess Shannon before she lost 62kg ...
. . . and after. Shannon lost 62kg in 14 months after being told her heart was failing and she was going to die.