OR­DI­NARY PEO­PLE

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - UPFRONT - ELISSA LAWRENCE

When I was 14, I weighed 140kg. One morn­ing I woke up and de­cided I had a choice to lose the weight or con­tinue to be obese. So in the Christ­mas school hol­i­days, be­tween grades 10 and 11 [at Ca­pal­aba State High in Bris­bane’s east], I de­cided to do it. I went to the gym across the street from where we lived and ex­er­cised four to six hours a day. I lost 40kg by the time I went back to school and over the next six months, I lost an­other 30kg. In to­tal, I lost 70kg, which was half my body weight.

My par­ents [War­ren, 66, Ma­ree, 64] were nor­mal weight and my older brother [Adam, 34] was 6ft (183cm) and thin. My old­est sis­ter [Re­becca, 44] has also lost 60kg. All my life, my par­ents sup­ported me and took me to Weight Watch­ers and Jenny Craig and the doc­tor’s to try to ed­u­cate me to lose weight.

I was ac­tive – I was a dancer, did mu­si­cal theatre and swim­ming – but I was a binge eater. In the mid­dle of the night, I’d wake up and go to the fridge and eat. I didn’t know when to pull back. By the time I was 15, the gym had be­come my sec­ond home be­cause I was do­ing so many classes, and I got a job as a fit­ness in­struc­tor. I’ve been in the industry ever since, work­ing my way up and now I’m a na­tional group fit­ness man­ager for Goodlife Health Clubs. Los­ing the weight gave me the con­fi­dence to be my­self and I also came out as be­ing gay when I was 15. My part­ner [Ben, 32] and I have been to­gether for five years. Danc­ing and per­form­ing have been a big part of my life. Af­ter school, I stud­ied for a diploma in mu­si­cal theatre at Aus­tralian Dance Per­for­mance In­sti­tute. One month be­fore grad­u­a­tion I got a con­tract to work over­seas on cruise ships and I did that for seven years from age 21. For a year, be­tween cruise ship con­tracts, I also played Cap­tain Feather­sword in The Wig­gles’ Dorothy the Di­nosaur live shows. Be­tween cruises, I would al­ways come back to the fit­ness industry.

Hav­ing that mas­sive trans­for­ma­tion, it re­ally in­spired me to think that any­thing is pos­si­ble. If you want some­thing in life, cre­ate that mind­set, go for it and achieve it.

“In the mid­dle of the night, I’d wake up and go to the fridge and eat. I didn’t know when to pull back.”

LUKE MERINO, 32 FIT­NESS MAN­AGER , FORT I T U DE vA LLE Y

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