Bypassed Beauty: Interview with Heidi Swallow
I know I only recently uploaded an interview post with my friend Shell less then 48 hours ago, but I am excited to interview yet another friend of mine who I also have developed a special connection with over the years. Her name is Heidi and from the moment we made contact online we both knew we had to stay in touch. Heidi is an intelligient, witty and sassy woman who has a good heart and thats what attracted me to her.
In the eyes of society, seeing myself and Heidi in the same room some would probably ask what I saw in a woman who was defined by her size and was subject to continual judgement by others. But I can tell you right now that looks are only skin deep and that some of the sexiest women I know have been defined by society as overweight. My first girlfriend Christina hovered between a size 16-18 and it was her curves that drove me wild as well as her generous nature and down to earth personality. To this day my former partner and I are still friends after nearly 15 years. We still talk often.
Heidi, to me back when we first met when she was at her heaviest, still radiated beauty, intelligence and substance in my opinion, as I didnt pay attention to what others said. I knew deep down that she was an amazing individual regardless of her size. Remember appearences can change, but attitude and personality cannot. That is what attracted me to Heidi, the fact I also could be myself around her and not feel insecure. During my teen years, girls wouldnt date me because I was short and had pale skin, I also suffered from ezcema. Didn't help that I was slightly hairy also.
This may sound strange coming from a Qualified Personal Trainer, but don't judge others based on their appearance. Heck, even my doctor tells me that I am overweight based on my height and build despite the fact 75% of my body is PURE MUSCLE. I also am fighting my own issues with my weight due to a combination of factors including stress, lack of sleep and misprescribed medication issues. Don't assume that overweight people are that way because they don't exercise or eat nothing but junk food. I do martial arts several times a week, I hike and I eat a very balanced diet. Plus I drink lots of water. Never assume, but learn to understand.
Anyway, let me introduce you to Heidi and for those of you who want to begin your fitness journey take note of her previous circumstances. Just like Shell, she too is a single mum, yet manages to lead an active lifestyle. These women are excellent role models who have defied the odds and didn't give up on their goals.
I have known you for some time now, 7 years to be exact. What made you embark on this fitness journey after all this time?
To be honest, I have been on a weight loss/fitness journey my entire adult life. I have been overweight since I was 5 years old and by my early teens I was morbidly obese. I have just turned 35 years old and it wasn’t until my 35th year that I am finally the fittest, strongest and lightest weight I have been my entire teenage/adult life. It was a long time coming! Simon, you are probably one of the main people who have witnessed the roller coaster that is my fitness journey! I have always embarked on a fitness/weight loss journey but I have never been successful or at least had the success I would have liked! The key fact I want to highlight though is despite my lack of success, I did not quit. Consistency is the key.
I pride myself on the following oxymoron, “I am the fitness fat person you will meet!” (Or at least I was until I dropped the weight!). At 140kilos I was still participating in the Melbourne Color Run at Flemington and Climbing the Eureka Sky Tower (Australia’s tallest vertical climb- boasting 88 floors and 1642 steps!) and I continue to compete in these events because I like to measure my progress and fitness. To answer your question though, it finally just clicked for me. I got sick of being bullied about my weight (not a recent event- I have been bullied since my primary school years) and I also got sick of everything being hard from walking to tying my shoe laces to squeezing into public toilets! My daughter was quickly growing up and I was struggling to keep up with her! I wanted to be an active parent in her life not one who repeatedly sits on the sidelines!
How has the journey motivated you to make such serious changes in your life?
Well Simon, you know most of my story but to highlight the seriousness of my weight issues for your readers; by my early teens/high school years I was 100kilos. At age 19, I was the heaviest I had ever been at 120kilos! By 30 years old I was 130kilos and while pregnant with my daughter in 2013, my weight ballooned to over 165 kilos at 30 weeks pregnant, which I stopped weighing myself. I potentially hit the 170kg mark but I’ll never know! After the birth of my daughter I lost and gained weight and stabilised around 140kilos. Quite frankly life was hard and I was sending myself to an early grave! Death by food! If I did not make the necessary changes to lose weight and increase my fitness, there would not be a future for me and my daughter would not have a biological mother in her future either. I am a realist and THAT is a pretty harsh reality to be facing-either change your eating and fitness habits or die!
Did your daughter have any influence on you to partake in this journey?
100%!!! YES! YES! YES! I have briefly touched on this already but my daughter was the trigger for me applying myself 100% to my fitness journey. I would almost go as far to say that if it weren’t for the birth of my daughter I would probably still be sending myself to an early grave. That being said, I did also suffer a vast array of mental health issues brought on by her birth- PND, PTS, Anxiety and depression as well as having to deal with “people” who were far from supportive to the birth of my daughter and my decline in mental health.
At my lowest, the bullying surrounding my weight was at its worst and from the very people I thought should/would be the most supportive in my time of need. All this combined further impacted on my lack of fitness and weight loss journey. So I guess what I am trying to say, for a brief moment, her birth (indirectly) affected my journey (through the negative actions and lack of support of others) BUT without her birth, while I would not have suffered from mental health issues/uncontrollable hormones and abuse from people who should of been supportive, I more than likely would of continued to slowly eat myself to death. My daughter’s birth and the people and the circumstances surrounding her birth just shocked me into that realization a lot sooner!
So...I guess I’ll take this opportunity to also thank those “bullies”- despite them not being in my life anymore (thankfully), they fanned my fire to help me achieve what they thought I couldn’t. There is nothing more satisfying than smashing goals and accomplishing achievements that others had long written you off and laughed at your failed attempts. A little off track but I’ve encountered a few of these said “bullies” recently and there is nothing more satisfying then watching the smirks on their faces quickly disappear when I enter the room. Not to gloat, but my physical transformation (as per pictures) speak for itself. I am fit, I am strong. I am confident. I am karma baby- tell me I can’t and I will because I can! I am legitimately happy for the first time in forever. No more fakes smiles and or hiding in the shadows.
What has been the hardest thing to change during your transition?
On a fitness/weight loss journey the two main obstacles you need to address are FOOD and EXERCISE and I am sure you have all heard about the ratio, “80% nutrition and 20% exercise” will get you results! Fortunately for me, I don’t mind exercise. I can be lazy but I am also very active; I run, dance, participate in stair climbing events (Eureka Climb and Stadium Stomp) and just recently I completed in my first triathlon. So let’s address the elephant in the room-FOOD! I have a food addiction and whether you are anorexic, bulimic or morbidly obese; I am here to tell you food addiction is real. It controls your life.
I am mostly an emotional/comfort eater and there is no limit to my addiction! I eat when I am happy, bored, upset, tired. I eat to celebrate (birthdays, friendships, Christmas’ etc) and I eat while in mourning (Funerals). Sometimes I know that I am eating when I am not hungry or to fit in socially but for the majority of the time I was doing it mindlessly. Food is such a social thing, it is really hard to avoid and deal with. It comes down to choosing your hard! I work every day to ensure I choose the food choices that are going to give me the outcome I desire- a fit, healthy and strong body.
I have sought the assistance of a psychologist close to 2 years now to help me win this battle with food. Sadly, I can’t say I have beaten the addiction yet (and I may never conquer it completely) but I am getting stronger every day and forming more positive relationships with food, people and myself. I obviously have had some success battling my demons, after dropping 45 kilos and 148cm in one year!
It shouldn’t be this hard but I ask myself these questions before I eat: * Are you hungry or are you thirsty? If I am hungry... *Are you hungry or are you full? (i.e. Do you want to eat this food because it tastes good or is it genuine hunger?) * Is this food going to nourish your body or do you just want to eat it because everybody else is? *when did you last eat? *Are you full? Stop Eating! I ask myself these questions so I am consciously aware of why I am eating and when I am eating. As time goes on, I find I have more confidence in food choices and I don’t need to question what and why I am eating. I hope that makes sense? It’s hard to explain what is going on in my head when i think about food and my addiction to food.
In addition, I eat off a bread and butter plate so I don’t “over eat” and I rarely have a second helping. Portion control is a massive part of weight loss and given my food addiction, it is a constant battle for me. So yeah, changing food habits and my relationship with food has been the hardest transition but I take comfort in knowing that healthy food options and correct portion sizes are struggles for most people! You, I we are not alone! The struggle is real!
What changes did you make to shed so much weight? Have to give up anything that you often craved?
There were many changes but I implemented them over time. I strongly advise not to give up everything at once. The “all or nothing” attitude to weight loss (especially when you have a lot of weight to lose), sets you up for almost instant failure especially when you miss a workout or eat something you shouldn’t, the negative mindset sets in and you can undo all your hard work. Be realistic and set small attainable goals. Remember that all these small goals add up and help reach those bigger goals. I started with “shake diets” and cutting out carbs and processed food all together. I quickly learnt while doing that was great for weight loss and my metabolism, it was not sustainable for me in the long term.
The moment I relapsed and ate bread or had a soft drink, I was addicted again; I couldn’t stop myself from eating the crap and gained the weight I lost plus more. I adapted and learned to listen to my body and I don’t deprive myself. Weight loss and fitness journeys are not about deprivation, they are about moderation. I try to keep my meals healthy and nutritional but if I feel like eating pizza for dinner or a piece of my birthday cake- I will. The difference now is I’ll eat one or two slices of pizza and not the whole pizza and I am content!
Some of my weight loss tips:
*Eat off a bread and butter plate
*Eat protein first
*Try limit going back for a second serve
*Meal preparation ( I really need to get better at this but failure to plan is planning to fail!)
*Throw out the scales and take progress photos and measurements!
Also, you must identify foods you crave and reduce their intake to 2-3 times a week
For me that is bread, pasta, rice, sugary and processed foods remember everything in moderation is ok! I find keeping foods in your diet that you enjoy on a occasional basis, makes your lifestyle change feel less like a diet and you’re more likely to succeed in the long term!)
I remember when you were featured In that’s Life magazine. How did it feel sharing your story with Aussie readers?
(Please supply article) Yeah that was pretty amazing Simon! Just quietly, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy being a mini celebrity for a week! I actually received quite a lot of positive feedback from family and my friendship circles for having my story published publicly. That being said, I don’t share my journey with social media to become famous! I am just an ordinary girl who sometimes does extraordinary things and I just like to record my progress for my future self and my daughter to reflect on when she is much older!
You may remember Simon, I was a bit apprehensive about appearing in That’s Life!
Magazine originally and I actually wasn’t going to accept the interview offer. I am quite a humble person and I would like to think that despite getting my confidence back, my fitness journey hasn’t changed or affected my personality. If I also recall correctly, you were one of the people who convinced me to agree with the interview with That’s Life! I believe your words of encouragement were along the lines of taking an advantage of having a massive opportunity to use my personal story to inspire others and well I am all for inspiring people!
On one hand having my story published gave me some confidence to continue to share intimate parts of my journey with the public on my Facebook blogs and Instagram pages (which I generally don’t promote! If people like to follow they can and if they don’t that’s cool too!) On the other hand I was little disappointed at the angle of the story the magazine took. Although I expected it because a magazine sells by selling exaggerated versions of the truth.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve picked up a magazine thinking one of my favourite celebrities is pregnant only to read they spoke to a friend and that friend spoke to the media so they must be thinking about getting pregnant soon! So now we must all be in baby watch Anyway, I digress! The magazine pretty much depicted me as the “stereotypical morbidly obese person”- the type who eats and eats and sits on the couch doing nothing and feeling sorry for myself. Yes, I previously ate too much and too much of the wrong types of food (that is obviously how I got to that excessive weight I spoke of earlier) but as I also told you earlier, I was still very active for my size! I may have been slow but I still attempted park runs, miss muddy, stair climbs and the color runs just to name a few!
I know there are many people at that weight who wouldn’t dream of attempting some of the things I did at that larger weight! Further, the other angle the magazine took was promoting Tiffany Hall’s TIFFXO program (for those following at home- Tiff is a former gladiator and white trainer on the Biggest Loser Australian series and black belt in Taekwondo). I was actually approached by the Tiff Team to appear in That’s Life and they forwarded my story onto the magazine. Naturally I was representing Tiffxo. So the article more focused on content of her program more so than my weight loss story. This is totally fine. I joined the Tiffxo program in May 2017 and I am still an active ninja on the program and within her community.
I love the program and if you are into boxing, effective workouts, healthy meal plans that can be done in as little as 15-20 minutes per a day then I highly recommend you check her program out! No, I am not getting paid to endorse her program but I believe in the program, I am proof the program works and I am happy to promote anything that I believe in and I believe will assist others. So in sum, the article allowed me to showcase my weight loss and be the face of a program and i love and i know works! (And no, I wasn’t paid for my story either, all pro bono).
Favourite Inspirational Quote?
I could give you 1000s of quotes hahaha So.... I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes that I keep referring to during my journey. They keep me focused and motivated.
“Believe you can and you’re halfway there” ~ T. Roosevelt
“Motivation is like a BAD boyfriend, never there when you need it! Build habits instead!” ~Michelle Bridges
“People with goals succeed because they know where they are going” “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” ~ John Maxwell
Any products you recommend for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I love my smoothies and I specifically use the Healthy Mummy smoothie mixes! My favourite flavour so far is banana but I am dying to try the choc orange and choc mint flavours. I’d highly recommend adding healthy mummy smoothies to your diet if smoothies are your thing! The Healthy Mummy Shakes are low in carbs and sugars and high in protein. They have NO added artificial nasties and are vegan friendly. Nutritionally speaking, they are one of the best on the market. You don’t have to be a ‘mum’ to use the product; the brand just targets women, specifically busy mums!
I am a firm believer in do what you love and use what works for you. Personally, smoothies work for me and my daughter. My fussy 3 year old loves her “smoothie juice” and it is a great way to get in extra fruit and veg in your diet especially when you struggle to eat from all food groups daily.
I would also recommend adding protein water to your diet. I use Bodiez Clear Protein Water (Berry Flavour). I am sure there are others on the market! Protein water helps keep you hydrated, aids in muscle repair and adding extra protein in your diet is far better option than juice, soft drink or cordial. It is a great option for people like me who struggle to drink water. It is also low in sugar, carbs and is vegetarian friendly! Exercise wise, I always ensure I have a couple of good workout DVD’s in my collection. I don’t always have the funds to sign up to online fitness programs and I find I personally get bored if I stick to the same exercise routine for weeks on end and I like to mix it up.
Part of my success is keeping exercise fresh and challenging! In my workout collection are Michelle Bridges DVDS, Healthy Mummy post pregnancy workout DVD and I have been known to download a few Fitness Marshall dance videos from YouTube. I also have downloaded at least 3 months worth of TIFFXO workouts (encompassing Hiit, Flow and Tone!) Other products I find great to have on hand- foam roller, hand weights, kettle bells and resistance bands. Also download yourself some phone apps that will help keep you accountable. Some of the apps I use include: monitor your weight, strava, my fitness pal, fitbit etc
Finally how can my readers stay in touch with your epic journey or connect with you?
You can follow me on Facebook , just click the link or on Instagram, and type in @bypassed_beauty.
Pleasure interviewing you and I am glad to have seen your epic journey first hand. You truly inspire me! XO