Tamara Fletcher never thought signing up to a meal delivery service would change her life so completely.
The 29-year-old step mum and wife from rural South Australia says she has struggled with her health for as long as she can remember. Between an unhealthy relationship with her weight, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome which has prevented her ever having anything resembling a normal cycle, getting fit and healthy was never something that seemed easily within reach.
“I’ve always been on the bigger side and growing up that’s all I knew,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “At 8 I asked to do Jenny Craig... but I always yo-yo’d with my weight.”
A tough loss as a child and a subsequent attachment to food for comfort eating kept Tamara in unsteady weight territory for years.
Once she hit puberty, her difficulty with her menstrual cycle just added fuel to the fire. She says by the time she was 26, in 2016, years of wildly irregular and horrific periods, and an inability to gain control of her weight had left her despondent, her health on the back burner, and any hope of a change far gone.
“I felt l wasn’t in control of my own body,” she says. “My body basically just did whatever the hell it wanted and I was along for the ride.”
‘One last try’ turns into 40kg transformation
It wasn’t until her and her husband decided to try for a baby that year that Tamara decided to brave the doctor’s office again in a bid to sort out her health ahead of a possible pregnancy.
“He said probably the most honest thing to me so far,” she says. “He said, ‘Before I try anything with you, I want you to try and control your nutrition and exercise regularly. If you lose 10% of your body weight and nothing happens then we can search for different options’.”
Tamara, who weighed 125 kg at the time, says she put off the weight loss for almost a year, finally decided to try and make the doctor’s recommended changes the next September.
“I remember it clearly, September 4, 2017, is when I started with Lite n Easy,” she says.
“It’s probably the day that my whole life changed and I realised I couldn’t hold on to heartache and hurt and eat my whole life away basically.”
In the first two months, Tamara shed a massive 10kg and today, more than two years later, she has dropped down to 85kg, shedding 40kg from her starting weight.
But it wasn’t the weight loss that soon had Tamara grinning from ear to ear, but a surprise side-effect that changed everything.
Tamara notices ‘massive’ change in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Within one-month Tamara noticed a huge change in her PCOS.
“From November 2017 to this day, my periods have been on time all the time, I can track my moods my emotions, I know when I ovulate,” she says.
“It’s so funny because of its such a normal thing for most women. But for women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, it’s not normal. So when your body starts doing it, you’re like, ‘oh my gosh’.”
It’s not an unusual phenomenon for weight loss to come with improved symptoms of the syndrome that is believed to impact between 12 and 21% of women.
“Weight management is absolutely key in managing PCOS,” GP Dr Helen Fisher tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It helps with regulating periods and further to this reduces your risk of gestational diabetes if or when you do fall pregnant."
"Weight loss can restore the normal function of the ovaries and result in normal hormone production. This may, in turn, lead to improvements in symptoms of PCOS.”
Sadly not all women will see the same result, with the syndrome varying wildly from patient to patient and weight loss no guarantee of any improvement.
Happily, for Tamara, she was one of the lucky ones.
“It’s so weird because any time it’s that time of the month now I actually say thank you to my body,” she laughs.
“I’m really grateful for it because I didn’t get it for so long.”
She says deep-seated insecurities began to vanish, replaced with a renewed confidence that only grew as she got closer to her health goals.
“Prior to getting my period normally, I would be anxious all the time,” she says. “I thought there was something wrong with me, I would be depressed, I was worried I could potentially not have kids.”
“Then when I started getting it and I was losing weight at the same time, my confidence was through the roof, even just from getting my period normally.”
How Tamara lost 40kg
A combination of ready meals with the pressure of meal prep removed, and simply starting to exercise slowly but surely had her gunning down an unstoppable transformation.
She began with a simple 30-minute daily walk and stuck to her Lite n Easy meals before eventually joining her local gym.
“There’s no personal trainer where I’m from, so it’s all been self-motivated,” she says. “In 2017 I started going to the gym every morning at 4 am and I never stopped.”
She combines 30 minutes of treadmill or cross trainer with a 20-minute workout she developed from online programs and YouTube fitness videos, and finishes up with ten minutes of boxing.
She says her early morning workouts started at 30 minutes and now go for one hour and a half, and have become essential ‘mental health time’ for her.
“I never thought that I would do any of this stuff in my life,” she admits.
“Before my weight loss, I was a shell, pleasing everyone, not myself.”
“Recently a friend said to me, ‘You’re not a shell anymore you are you’.
“It’s nice to see the change.”