A primary school teacher has opened up about her battle with endometriosis and how she went about losing 20 kilograms before undergoing major surgery.
Heidi from Victoria tells Yahoo Lifestyle that alarm bells started ringing about her health in her mid-20s when she was forced to leave her job after 'practically falling asleep' during class.
"I realised there was something really wrong with me because I had no energy, I was gaining weight and I was in pain constantly," she says.
Her pain and fatigue were so extreme that Heidi tended to avoid socialising and was unable to cope with daily household tasks.
"When you pretty much sleep all weekend to catch up from just getting through the week it really limits how much socialising you do," she says.
After a year of chasing a diagnosis, Heidi finally found out she had endometriosis, a condition where tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus causing pelvic tissue and organs to become stuck together. It can be extremely painful and affect fertility.
"When I found out that I had endo and that being obese can cause it or make it worse, I started to do yoga and go to the gym regularly, but I wasn’t losing the weight at that stage," she explains.
Heidi weighed over 100kgs then and knew she needed a little bit of help with whipping her diet and fitness habits into shape.
"I tried to eat healthily and exercise regularly, but sometimes life got busy or I was not well and I would just make do with whatever food I had," she says.
Heidi joined Lite 'n Easy in 2019 to get her portion sizes under control and make sure she always had something healthy and nutritious ready to eat when she was too busy or tired to cook. Butter chicken and spaghetti are her current favourite dishes.
Introducing exercise into her routine was more of a challenge, Heidi tells Yahoo Lifestyle, and could sometimes do more harm than good.
"I found sit-ups, crunches and other core exercises quite painful. I once did a park run with my partner and then ended up in hospital for four days due to extreme pain," she says.
Undeterred, Heidi kept pushing herself slowly but surely. She joined a boot camp and had the trainer guide her through exercise options that worked for her. Her yoga teacher tailored stretches to help ease her endo symptoms.
She admits she was still scared of overdoing it and setting herself back to square one but tried not to let that fear prevent her from taking part.
"Exercise was my way to deal with pain overall and helped me stay off pain meds, but I just had to keep reading my body and not push it too hard," she says.
Following her first two endo operations, Heidi found exercise easier and less painful. She also had more energy which was a good thing as she'd just been told some big news.
"I was informed that I had a major surgery coming up where I had to get two fibroid tumours removed and that the fitter and healthier I was, the better the recovery was going to be," she says.
Dr David Blusztein, who is not Heidi's doctor, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that a patient's health risk before, during and after surgery increases with their weight.
"Perioperative risk is known to be higher in overweight patients and overweight patients may have a more prolonged recovery," he explains.
Heidi lost an impressive 20kg before her surgery and she says her recovery 'might not have been the same' if she hadn't.
Her entire health overhaul has benefitted her in so many other ways, too.
"If I hadn’t changed what I was doing, I would probably still be sick, probably unemployed because of not performing or just too sick to actually work.
"I would probably be lacking confidence in myself in all areas of life. I would probably be more reclusive than what I am now."
These days, 30-year-old Heidi hits the gym once or twice a day where she does cardio on the treadmill, stepper and the cross-trainer.
"I try to do at least 30 - 40 minutes of cardio. I also do weights in the gym now that I can push myself more without the fear of ‘hurting’ myself."
Heidi's friends and family are full of praise and support for her lifestyle change.
"The transformation that most people comment on is not actually how much weight I’ve lost, but how much happier I am, how much energy I have and that I don’t look tired or sick.
"It has taken a while to get to where I am now, but overall, I think my health has made a huge improvement on my life. I can now live."
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