October 2011

Depending on which magazine you read, most fitness articles seem to focus on outcome goals, you know, losing weight, getting the perfect body etc etc. Wendy’s story is a little different and if you’re looking for inspiration, you need look no further than our October client of the month. Battling with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and subsequent side affects of sore joints, stress and depression for 30 years would be enough to drive you mad but Wendy has persistently looked at the up side and her journey has led her to a physically and mentally healthy place and a vegan diet. Wendy is now in the running to win the 2011 Forever Strong client of the year main draw prize of $300 worth of acupuncture and massage from Mountaintop Chinese Medicine, or the consolation prize of movie tickets to enjoy during the Christmas season.

Why do you have a personal trainer? How did the journey begin?

I started off doing my own workouts but soon realised I needed someone to tell me exactly what to do and how to make the most of the equipment in the gym. I am also basically lazy and knew I needed to be accountable to someone who would push me and encourage me or I’d give up.

Why is physical fitness of importance in your life? Tell me a little about your battle with rheumatoid arthritis?

Physical fitness is essential in my life. ‘Use it or lose it’ is so true. I’ve had R.A. over 30 years and had many ups and downs - times of being on top of it and trying new things to help but also low times of depression, stress and not coping. It was especially hard when my two children (both adults now) were babies and growing so quickly. Many times I just had to lie down and rest most of the day with hot water bottles on my joints. Pain caused a fear of moving and put me off any exercise at all. But ‘life happens ’ and we have to keep on going. Today weekly workouts with Meeghan and having my own mini-gym at home are vital. I now have much more flexibility and confidence to run and not fear falling, to lift weights (no matter how pathetically light they are), to move freely and normally without planning every move. My husband is a great help for the things I still have difficulty with – like opening jars.

What do you feel you have achieved from personal training?

I have achieved MUCH more than if I was on my own. It helps tremendously to have a trainer who knows my needs and limitations and has the wisdom to work out the right program for me. I know I will get a large variety of exercises to keep me interested and motivated. Positive conversation, encouragement and laughter go a long way to promote a healthy mind too.

What can’t you live without that perhaps isn’t 100% conducive to a healthy lifestyle?

I used to think I couldn’t live without a piece of chocolate (or six!) or something sugary with a cup of coffee at 3:00pm. I love food but became aware of the dangers of emotional eating. Now I’ve learned the true meaning of temperance and must say that there really is nothing I crave now that isn’t conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Temperance is not just banning something – that just makes one want it all the more. True temperance is,

  1. Avoiding whatever is harmful to the body
  2. Eating in moderation whatever is beneficial to the body

I can still eat sweet things but don’t crave them anymore. I haven’t had a coffee for 6 months.

Tell me about your recent health camp and how you became a vegan?

Just before my decision to attend a 19 day health retreat, my GP suggested that I go on antidepressants and see a psychiatrist, and my rheumatologist suggested I go on a third medication for R.A. These three options were not a possibility in my mind so I decided to take the fourth option and do something radical which I’d wanted to do for 25 years – go on a health retreat. I had a complete makeover and it changed my life. I knew the food was vegan and thought I could handle that for a few weeks and have a good detox but did not realise I’d come home vegan. The food was unbelievably delicious. I ate and ate and lost a kilo each week I was there. All the treatments were under supervision of a live-in Dr and included fabulous water therapies, exercise (bushwalking + gym), relaxing and much more. Two weeks after I returned home my blood tests for R.A. showed a 25% improvement in inflammation. My rheumotologist said ‘keep on doing what you are doing.’ My most recent blood tests were very good and he said I could stop my second medication (which has a side affect of depression). I am totally sold on this new lifestyle, have remained vegan, lost 8 kilos, feel in excellent health mentally and have much more energy.

And one last thing…

One of my quirky philosophies on life is that ‘Life is one long battle against gravity.’ As a baby we resist it to become upright and walk. As we grow, all vertical activities involve resisting gravity. In youth we reach peak resistance and think we can defy it. Just look at all the sports and how they are essentially gravity-defying acts. eg lifting weights is just gravity resistance. As we age, gravity starts to fight back and we sag, get wrinkles and shrink. Eventually it wins and pulls us six feet under! So the moral of the story is – we can’t avoid dying so let’s make the most of the time we have and have fun fighting the gravity battle by keeping on lifting weights!!