Interview With Carolyn Gerdtz 40kg Lighter!
Before weight: 96.7kg
Before body fat: >45%. I tried using some scales but it went “overscale” and couldn’t read it. I never used them again.
After weight: 57.6kg
After body fat: around 15% (done using callipers)
How old are you? 37
What is your relationship status? Married, no children, 3 very spoilt cats
You have undergone one of the most amazing transformations we have seen. What has been the reaction from your friends and family regarding your improved health and fitness
I have received amazing reactions from all over the place! My family live in Sydney, so I don’t get to see them that often, but they saw me at the stage I had lost around 20kg. They were really happy that I had lost that much weight and told me I looked great. I finally sent them some photos (only around a week ago) and they were completely speechless. My Mum didn’t think it was me, until she looked really closely! My Dad was also really amazed, and my sister sent me an email starting with the words “OH MY GOSH! I can’t believe how you look…it’s amazing! All I can say is I’m so very proud of you and how far you have come and what you have achieved. You’ve inspired me!”. It was so wonderful to receive that. AND of course, my wonderful husband Paul, who thinks he has the best looking wife around now!! LOL!!!
I have had an enormous amount of support from Sue, Michelle and many of the Idealbodiesonline.com clients as well, who have given me lots of compliments and encouragement, especially when I have posted my progress photos on the forum. I have also been incredibly supported by my friends and colleagues at work who have encouraged me – a lot of them now can’t really remember what I looked like before, as they see me every day and the changes have happened gradually over 12 months. I have been so fortunate to have such a wonderful bunch of people who continue to encourage and support me.
What is your favourite part about being in your best shape?
There are so many great things about being in shape. Not only feeling healthy and fit, but being able to buy nice clothes and that general feeling of wellbeing. I love having a toned body, nice arms and some abs! That was one of my major goals, to have a set of abs, as I had never ever had a flat stomach before in my life.
I also love talking to people about having a fit lifestyle as well and talking about my weight loss journey. I love being able to inspire others if I can to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
What is your least favourite part about a fitness lifestyle?
Keeping an eye on my eating. I love to cook, and I love to eat, so the challenge is to create tasty, healthy and interesting meals. I would love to just be able to ‘eat what I want’ but to maintain a lean healthy body, sweet treats and high fat foods need to be on the ‘occasional foods’ list and not the every day food list.
Similarly, what was the hardest part about getting into your best shape?
I had quite a few challenges during my transformation.
The first one happened even before I started. As I was on medication for my blood pressure, Sue from Idealbodiesonline.com insisted that I get a clearance from my doctor before starting an exercise program. I raced off to the doctor to get the letter, only to be told that he didn’t want me to do weights. I protested with him, and he finally relented and said that I wasn’t allowed to do heavy weights, and gave me the letter for Sue. Sue was wonderful and gave me a program which included a light weights program with higher reps, to keep within the doctor’s recommendation. I wasn’t able to get clearance from the doctor to do a more rigorous program until I had come off the medication and my BP had stabilised. This was around Week 18, and it was great news!
Getting used to preparing all of my own food and taking it all to work with me was the next challenge. I had to change so much about my routine and my lifestyle! I said goodbye to the lady in the coffee shop the week before I started, as I was going to be taking all my food to work from then on. I finally got myself into a routine where I prep up all my food for the next day into little containers while I prepare dinner at night, and I have it all ready to just pull out of the fridge and put into my cooler bag in the morning.
The other thing was getting used to a much higher level of activity. I had been completely sedentary for a very long time. Sue gave me a great program to start me off, with full body weights and only 2 cardio sessions, increasing this to 4 sessions a couple of weeks later. At that stage I managed to work my weight training and cardio generally into a single session in the afternoon after work, with weights first, followed by cardio. This worked for a long time, even with Sue gradually increasing the number of weights and cardio sessions as my fitness improved. I tried hopelessly to change my afternoon sessions to morning ones, but I just couldn’t seem to get motivated to do it. Each time Sue would set a new program for me, she would increase the intensity, or increase the amount of cardio, or make other changes, and it finally got to the point where I felt like my afternoon training sessions were just getting far too long for my liking. I was getting home far too late, and it was starting to interfere with my home life.
So, I challenged myself to move my cardio to the morning, with only weights in the afternoon. It took a while to get into the routine, but I finally made the commitment to doing it. I still train like this even now, and I get up at 4.30am to be at the gym by 5.30 for my cardio sessions. I have a shower there and then head off to work for the day. On weight training days, I come back straight after work and do my weights session before heading on home.
How long did it take you to get to where you are now?
57 weeks. I kept a spreadsheet and charted all my measurements and my weight every week. I lost a total of 39.1kg and 220cm from my measurements. The biggest drop was 41cm from my waist, 31cm from my hips and 31.5cm from my chest.
Why did you want to change your body and fitness?
I was getting all the health problems associated with being obese. On my 165cm frame, just under 97kg is far too heavy. I ended up on medication for high blood pressure, I had high cholesterol, and I was experiencing a racing heartbeat every night from drinking and stress at work. I couldn’t get up stairs without huffing and puffing, I was constantly having to get new clothes in bigger and bigger sizes (ending up with a pair of size 20 jeans), and I was generally feeling very depressed about myself. I was also snoring at night (I was really loud apparently) and as a result sleeping very poorly. Often Paul would move into the spare room on particularly bad nights when he couldn’t get me to quieten down. I sweated a lot, and was generally really uncomfortable in my own skin.
There was also one other thing, which may seem a little odd. I couldn’t take my rings off. They had been stuck on my chubby fingers for over a year, and they looked dreadful. I actually can’t recall exactly how long, but it was definitely longer than 12 months. My fingers underneath were red and chafed and were getting unbearable. I was considering getting them cut off they were so uncomfortable. I also couldn’t fit into a lot of my shoes, as I had put on weight on my feet as well as everywhere else.
I was so ashamed of what I had become, and even though Paul never really said much about my weight, he would try and encourage me to do something about it – “I know you’re not happy like this, why don’t you just do what you used to?” But it was a while before I felt ‘ready’ to commit myself to doing something about my weight.
Did you hire a personal trainer to help you get into shape?
In the end, yes. I tried Jenny Craig for a while and lost a few kg, but I just got sick of the food. Also, I soon figured that I wasn’t going to get my ideal figure doing their program. I would have gotten thinner, but I always admired fit and toned women, and I thought that I wasn’t going to get that way on the JC program. So I dropped out. Then I went back to Weight Watchers – but some of the same women were still there from when I was a leader (yup, I was a leader a long time ago!), and I felt so ashamed that I was so big I felt I couldn’t stick it out. I felt so embarrassed, and sitting in the meetings again, I felt like I wasn’t going to find the answers I wanted there either. Even when I was with them all those years before, I hadn’t achieved really what I wanted, so I don’t know why I thought I would find them now. So I dropped out from there too.
I had started reading fitness magazines again, and I saw the Idealbodiesonline.com ad, and I thought that maybe that might be the way to go. Online training is something different, and Sue Heintze offered a training and nutrition program, coordinated together. She had also helped a lot of other women achieve wonderful transformations from ‘normal’ bodies into fit and toned figures, and I thought “that’s what I want too”.
I emailed Sue, and she sent me the sign up forms. I didn’t do anything about them for months. I was a bit unsure, especially since I had so much weight to lose, and I saw that most of the success stories on the IBO website were mainly achieved in 12 weeks. I knew that it was going to take me a LOT longer than that, I had a lot of weight to lose. I read the FAQ on the “I have a lot of weight to lose, can you still help me”, I don’t know how many times. Finally I convinced myself that it was worth having a go, and I emailed Sue again, and asked for the forms, again. This time I signed up. I had talked myself into it by saying that “this is a long term thing for me, and I am going to be just doing this in 12 week blocks”.
I received my first program from Sue, and she recommended I take photos and measurements. I started my program at 96.7kg. Taking the photos was the hardest thing I have ever done. My husband had volunteered to take them for me, but I refused. I wanted to believe that he hadn’t actually seen me in underwear for the last 2 years – I was in denial. He told me that he knew what I looked like, but I didn’t want to believe him at all. I took my photos with the self timer on the camera, I was so embarrassed about how I looked. When I had to download them off the camera I came so close to crying. I didn’t want to believe I looked like that. I felt so awful and ashamed of myself. Then I had to send them to Sue, and I was so apologetic about how dreadful they were. She was so nice and supportive about it, and made me feel a lot better about having taken them, saying that the next ones will be better, we are all embarrassed about our ‘before’ photos.
When you began working out, did you go to a gym? If so, was it difficult at first?
When I received my program, I decided to join the only gym in town that I had never been to before. I didn’t want to go somewhere where I possibly knew anyone – I wanted to be completely anonymous. It was a smaller gym, but really friendly and the team there were so wonderful and supportive. Unfortunately it has just recently closed down, which was really disappointing.
My first few workouts were really difficult. I initially cringed at the amount of exercise, thinking it was so much! Sue did start me off on a full body weights program with two cardio sessions, building up to four per week. I was so unfit, and I hadn’t been inside a gym for years. On my first weights session, I decided to warm up on the rower and then afterwards proceeded to trip over the thing when getting off it, ending up on the floor! It was a bit embarrassing, but still, I kept on and got on with the workout.
Gradually as I improved, Sue increased my cardio sessions, and cardio times, and graduated me from a full body program to a 2 day split, then a 3 day and finally a 4 day split program. All the time she kept an eye on my progress and kept on gradually increasing my training to keep me challenged. Each time I would think, oh heck, how I am going to fit all THAT in? But, each time I would sit down, plan out my week and work on how I was going to do it. I figured, if she’s given it to me, then she thinks I can do it, and therefore I also should believe I can do it.
Do you work or did you previously work?
Yes, I work full time.
If so, what as?
I’m an electrical engineer, working with a consulting engineering firm. I lead a team of 9 engineers and drafters, and work on projects mainly for heavy industry and mining. It’s a great job, and I really enjoy it. I get to work both in the office on design, as well as on site doing commissioning, so it’s the best of both worlds for me.
What is your favourite healthy meal?
Grilled fresh salmon with mixed roasted vegetables. I do up a mixture of baby eggplant, zucchini, red capsicum, red onion, leek, fennel and tomatoes, and roast it up in a hot oven with a little olive oil spray and some seasoning. It’s also great cold and I love it for lunch the following day as well.
Your favourite not-so-healthy food?
Hot puddings! I love desserts, they are probably my biggest downfall. Anything like sticky date pudding, chocolate self saucing pudding, steamed treacle pudding, well, you get the idea…..
What does a typical day’s diet consist of for you?
Breakfast – Pancake made with rolled oats and eggwhites, with sugar free maple syrup, coffee with skim milk
Morning tea – cottage cheese and an apple, coffee with skim milk
Lunch – Large tuna or chicken salad, with flaxseed oil and balsamic vinegar
Afternoon tea – Tuna or tinned mackerel with rice and steamed or leftover roasted vegetables
Post workout – protein shake made on water
Dinner – Fish, steak or chicken with salad or vegetables, almonds or natural peanut butter. Diet jelly for dessert
I also drink at least 3 litres of water a day, and my water bottle goes everywhere with me! For most of my program, I had a ‘free meal’ once a week. I decided to stop having the free meal around 8 weeks out from my photos, which was really hard!
Do you take any products or supplements?
I take L-glutamine morning and night, and in my post workout protein shake. I also took MRM Metaburn during my last 12 weeks of my weight loss, to help my fat loss along. I also take a multivitamin and a calcium/vitamin D supplement.
What is your favourite exercise to do at the gym?
I love shoulder and chest exercises, mainly as these make me feel strong! I really love lateral raises for shoulders, as these show out the shoulder muscles! I also love barbell bench press, as I can press 50kg (30kg of plates plus the 20kg bar).
What is the best training or health advice you have ever been given?
Two things – to plan out everything, and also not to worry about what others think about what you are doing.
Planning is the most important thing. I schedule in my workouts every week. If I have a busy week and know I have meetings which are going to go past normal working time, or if I have other things on, I rearrange my training so I still get in all my workouts. I also sit down every Saturday morning before I do my grocery shopping and plan out all my evening meals. I tend to eat similar things during the day (so I know how much of those I have to buy), but I plan out my night time meals so I don’t have to think about what to eat each evening and possibly go for unhealthy options.
Not worrying about what others think was a big thing for me too. I go to a lot of meetings where lunch is provided, and it took me a long time to pluck up the courage to take my own food with me. Now I take my blue cooler bag with me, along with my food, and I don’t worry about what others think. I think they are all used to me doing it now!
Who are your training / body role models, and why?
Sue and Michelle from Idealbodiesonline.com are probably my biggest role models and mentors. They both have great figures, and have a great attitude to training and nutrition that helped to both motivate and inspire me along the way. One thing I really love about these ladies and all of the IBO team is that they are not advocating the ‘quick fix’, but rather a long term approach to lifelong fitness and weight management.
I also read fitness magazines like Oxygen and look at a lot of the fitness models and competitors, and use them as inspiration. I really love the lean, fit and toned look (as opposed to just being ‘thin’). My final goal in my body transformation was to have a set of abs that I could be proud of, and I am happy to say that I achieved it!
How do you feel about your body and yourself now?
My self esteem has improved out of sight! I am no longer ashamed of how I look, in fact I am quite proud of what I have achieved and how I look now. My confidence has improved so much, I am no longer ashamed of how I look, and in fact I feel quite the opposite. I love being fit and having a toned up body (with some abs!!!), it’s a great feeling of accomplishment. I think this translates into other areas of my life now too, I feel positive about things, I am better able to cope with stress (although I do still get a little stressed out occasionally, who doesn’t?). I find that if I have had a bad day at work I tend to go faster on cardio, or lift more if I am doing weight training, and I use my training time to work off my “grrrrrr” from the day. Seems to work really well!
What do you like to do in your spare time? Do you play any sports?
I don’t seem to have all that much any more! I am a bit of a homebody, and I love things like cooking, reading and catching up with friends. I also love crafts like cross stitch and tapestry. I am also a mentor now with Idealbodiesonline.com, so I spend a little time each day catching up with my mentorees and giving them encouragement and support.
How has improving your fitness and health changed your life?
Probably the biggest thing is that I have so much more energy than I had before. My husband even asked one day where Carolyn had gone as this new woman seems to never sit still! I just have so much more drive and energy, and little things that I just couldn’t be bothered doing, I just get in and do now. Even things like changing the bed, or doing a load of washing I would put off or try and talk Paul into doing it. Now I just get in and do it, and it’s done in a flash. My house is tidier, I am more organised and I feel great!
The important thing to note though is that it wasn’t just after I had lost all this weight that I started to feel better. I started noticing changes to my life not long into my program with Sue. Each week I wrote a feedback email to my wonderful feedback coach Michelle, and they are now a wonderful reminder of my journey. I would write these huge emails, probably too much detail sometimes, but it almost became like a little therapy session each week. It was my time out to think about what I’d done during the week, how I’d gone – what went well, what didn’t. Did I miss a workout, did I miss a meal – I would bare all. Michelle always knew what challenges I was facing, I shared all of it. I figured that if I wasn’t honest and telling the whole story, then the only person I was really cheating or lying to was me.
Some of the major changes/milestones that I made along the way included:
- I got into my ‘new’ size 18 workpants during my first 12 weeks, which was my first goal. I had to stick it out in these until I got to a size 14, as I didn’t have a size 16 ‘waiting’ for me! Now I fit into a size 10, which is wonderful!I was able to stop taking blood pressure medication at around Week 13. I had lost around 10½kg at this point, and it made such a difference to my overall feeling of wellbeing. The doctor was really happy about this too.
- I managed to get my rings off during Week 19. It was an absolute highlight. I remember sitting up at our kitchen bench fiddling with them and getting the whole lot off. What a relief after over 12 months. I felt triumphant, I really did. It was such a wonderful feeling, I can’t explain the relief and joy at being able to do this. My fingers were pretty red and dented, but I knew that I was finally on the way to my rings looking like they fit me, and not looking like they were strangling my poor fingers. Putting them back on again was a bit of a challenge, but at least I knew I could take them off again if I had to! At the end of my transformation I had to have all my rings resized, and they have gone down 2 full ring sizes (as they were nearly lost a few times, they were that loose). I have really small fingers now!
- From barely being able to walk for any great length of time without feeling like I was going to have a heart attack, now I can even run on the treadmill. I love the feeling of being fit and strong. And walking up stairs is no longer a problem!
I went from having a ‘keg’ to having a 6 pack! And I now love going shopping for clothes, as I know I will be able to find things that fit me, and also look good.
What advice would you like to give other people who want to transform their bodies and lives?
Do it for yourself, first and foremost. I don’t think you can do this successfully if you are only doing it for someone else. I also think you are setting yourself up to fail if you are just doing it because your friend/partner/family member decides to get fit or lose weight, and you decide just to do it because they are. Certainly it can be easier and a lot of fun to be losing weight, getting fit, etc with a friend, but what happens if that person gives up? If you are doing it for them, or for some other reason that is not your own, then you will probably drop out too. Make the commitment to do it because you want to, because you will get the benefits, and because it’s important to you. Others, like your family, children etc will get the flow on benefit from a fit, healthy and happy you, but you need to be putting yourself first. When you look after yourself, you are far better equipped to care for and look after others in your life.
Probably another thing is don’t put it off because you have other things or events on in your life. I told myself that fit and healthy people have lots of things on too! I had a holiday in Vanuatu right in the middle of my transformation. Life has to go on, and I didn’t put mine on hold because I was doing this, I just fitted my eating and training in around all my other activities. The trip was wonderful, I was into a size 14 at that stage and thought I was looking pretty good! I also had to buy some new clothes before I went, which was my first real shopping trip since starting. It was hard staying on track during the trip and I tried as hard as I could, but I admit I was no saint during the 2 weeks I was away. I gained 1.4kg during the trip, but got right back on the program as soon as I returned, with the extra weight gone within the next week and a half.
What is your biggest hope for the future?
To be able to maintain the fitness lifestyle as a way of life. I am gradually learning what maintenance involves, and this is as big a learning curve as learning to lose weight! Lots of trial and error, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. I still fall down occasionally and things sometimes don’t quite go to plan, but the important part is to pick your self up, dust yourself off and keep on going. I also hope to inspire others who are really overweight to make the decision to get healthy, as it’s the best decision you ever make.
Is there anything else you might like to mention about your transformation?
Background and History:
Probably a little of my background and history would be helpful so that you know how I ended up so overweight. You don’t end up over 30kg overweight overnight, it happens over a long time. I used to be quite healthy and slim, and was even going to the gym regularly several years back.
My weight loss story actually starts a long time ago. I have always had a ‘weight problem’ – I was an overweight child, who became a ‘solid’ teenager, and then an overweight young adult. I wasn’t in the obese category then, but I was certainly a ‘big girl’. I have been a yoyo dieter for years, having lost the same 12-15kg a few times. Even at my smallest then, I still wasn’t happy with my body – yes, I was “slim” but each time I had just dieted my way down to my ‘goal weight’, not having done much in the way of exercise. Then I started going to the gym, and was getting more and more into training and really enjoying it, but then a few things happened which made it all fall in a bit heap.
I received a promotion at work, which was great but was something I was not really prepared for. My stress level went up. I worked longer hours, I ended up drinking more and more alcohol to ‘relax’ at the end of the day. I was still going to the gym every night when I could, but I was getting home really late and my husband was starting to feel neglected as I was never home. I felt really guilty, and my gym attendance started to decline – 4 classes a week plus weigh training dropped to 3 classes and no weight training, then 2 classes, then I just dropped out altogether. And all this time, my weight was going up. One of my gym friends even asked if there was something wrong, as she could see me getting bigger from week to week. I tried to brush it off.
But, I was in trouble, and I didn’t really want to admit it. My unhealthy lifestyle was in full swing. I was drinking every night consistently, I was eating a lot of takeaway as I couldn’t be bothered cooking. I didn’t take my lunch to work, so I would go to the shop. Before long, my usual chicken and salad roll was replaced with lasagne and chips – ‘comforting food’. Funny though, I always had a diet coke with it!!! Then I started getting toasted sandwiches for breakfast, as I couldn’t be bothered eating at home – after drinking each night, I always felt under the weather, so preparing something healthy was not something I felt like doing. Before long, eating in this way and not exercising, my weight skyrocketed, and I started getting all of the problems associated with obesity.
My 5 top tips:
- Plan, plan, plan. Planning your eating and exercise takes the uncertainty out of what you are going to eat and when you are going to exercise, and makes you far less likely to stray off you program.
- Take healthy food with you in a cooler bag. I have even eaten tuna, rice and vegetables out of a container at a stand up cocktail event. Yes, people will comment, but it doesn’t matter!
- If you are going to a restaurant, do a little reconnaissance beforehand and check out the menu. Decide what you are going to have beforehand that fits in with your program, and then affirm to yourself that that’s what you are going to have. I find this takes the temptation out of menus, and leaves you more time to chat to the people you are with!
- Exercising in the morning really wakes you up for the day. I really love it now, and it gets it out of the way before the day begins.
- Talk to other people in your gym. I have made some great friends, and it makes it a whole lot more enjoyable when you know a few friendly faces there! I really enjoy the social aspect of working out as well as the actual training, as you are all there for the same reason!