“I’m learning to make myself a priority”
From diabetes candidate to a healthy, active grandma, Rachel is helping others improve their lifestyle and nutrition needs
Despite diving into a variety of diets since her late teens, it was discovering the holistic approach – eating as close to nature as possible, in addition to changing her lifestyle – that resonated with Rachel Willis from Hobart.
“I had a choice. I could keep telling myself and believing I was always on a diet or I could tell myself ‘I am living a lifestyle change’,” says the now 55-yearold grandmother. “It’s amazing how much easier it becomes when you believe you do have the choice.”
At the end of 2009, Rachel was overweight, suffered chronic fatigue and low energy levels, and had also started menopause.
“I remember being on all sorts of diets from my late teen years,” she says. “Sometimes it was to lose a couple of kilos, sometimes it was as much as 40kg. I always managed to lose the weight, but I didn’t have the knowledge to keep it off.”
Her lifestyle habits – the weight, stress, eating processed foods, not enough exercise and poor sleep – led to the doctor informing Rachel her blood glucose levels were rising and she had pre-diabetes, borderline type 2. It forced her to consider the shape of her future.
“I had a fear of having to rely on medication to keep me well and the health complications that can go with having type 2,” she says. “It forced me to think about my future and what it would look like, especially when grandchildren came along. I knew I wanted to be a healthy, active grandparent, and I wanted to enjoy life and have plenty of energy.”
A few months later, Rachel joined a 12-week weight loss challenge – which taught her how to read food labels, and understand the vitamins and nutrients the body needs daily – at Hobart Health Hub with her sister. “I resisted at first because I thought I could do it on my own,” she says. “I have always been a private person and I was a bit sceptical, but after a few weeks I was so glad I joined, and I was amazed at how much I thought I knew and didn’t.”
Surrounded by positive support, Rachel continued with five consecutive challenges, losing 48kg in 16 months. Following a healthy nutrition plan, she also started walking (see our walking guide, on
I’m learning how to make myself a
page 120). At first it was for only 15 minutes, but in a few months she worked up to 45-60 minutes, five to six days a week.
Since 2009, Rachel has done things she once would never have tried. She has abseiled Tasmania’s Gordon Dam, enjoyed canoeing and, just over three years ago, began riding a motorbike. “The change to my body after six to eight weeks was amazing,” she says. “I gained heaps of energy, I was sleeping better and I was able to focus better, which meant cooking and meal planning became easier and more doable.”
Through all of this, Rachel has kept the weight off. She brought her blood glucose levels back to normal range in a few months, and now only visits the doctor for check-ups. “It is hard to believe the difference I feel now,” she says. “When you start to notice the difference in how you feel, your energy, your skin… I am rarely sick… your overall health improves. It also makes you realise that as you age you don’t automatically have to start feeling old and like you’re going downhill, as they often say.”
Rachel now works alongside her sister at Hobart Health Hub, sharing her story and helping others to achieve their own health and wellness goals.
RIGHT: Michelle in May 2017. FAR RIGHT: Michelle abseiling theGordon Dam in April 2016.