How I went from overweight teen to marathon-running nutritionist
by Kate Dullaghan,
- February 24, 2017
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- Healthy eating
- Physical activity
- Fruit and Vegetables
- Goal Setting
- Weight Management
- Personal Stories
- Smart Swaps
- Mental Health
When people first meet me they usually discover fairly quickly that I'm a nutritionist and physical activity researcher who loves endurance events and cooking up a storm with homegrown produce.
They tend to be impressed that I've completed six marathons (so far) as well as various other endurance events (although it's not something I find overly special).
But my lifestyle hasn't always been this way – I was very overweight growing up.
Despite being active, my eating habits were poor. In fact, I was very overweight until a few years after I graduated from university.
At one point I weighed more than 100kg at only 160cm.
It's usually at this point that people look me up and down with a confused expression on their face and ask:
"But, how could you ever be obese?"
"But, where would you have put all that weight?!"
"But, you're so fit - you run marathons?!"
Until we inevitably arrive at "How did you do it?!"
I guess there's something quite compelling about hearing a nutrition professional recount her own personal weightless success story!
So how exactly did I do it?
It all started on a hot summer's day just over 10 years ago when I missed the bus.
Instead of just waiting for the next one, I decided to walk to the next stop.
When I arrived I was too early for the next bus, so I kept walking, and ended up walking the whole way home. Little did I know, this had flicked an internal switch and I started putting myself first for a change.
What followed was a series of small changes that resulted in the person I am today.
In short, I started valuing my health.
My meals became more focussed on fresh produce and I actively sought ways to incorporate more movement into my days.
- I started to make a habit of walking between bus/tram stops, instead of waiting idle. I took the stairs instead of the lift and used my lunch break to walk a block or two (or more!) and get away from my desk. All the walking felt good and reminded me of why I enjoyed it so much when I was younger so I kept it up.
- To complement my new physical activity habits and feed my passion for food and science (my undergraduate degree was in genetics/biochemistry), I also started researching how to prepare healthier meals and how to adapt my favourite recipes to be healthier.
- I did little things like substituting natural yoghurt for sour cream, apple purée instead of butter in baking and kangaroo (which is super lean, high in protein and iron, and is both environmentally sustainable and much cheaper) instead of other red meats.
- I would regularly visit my local market to buy bags of marked down produce and dried beans/lentils, as well as unfamiliar fruits and vegetables. Then I’d research or experiment to create delicious new dishes with fresh produce at their heart.
Since then, I haven't looked back – I've continued to maintain an active lifestyle and still love exploring new foods, particularly as they relate to other cultures.
I quickly realised that this wasn’t just a passing phase, so I completed formal qualifications in nutrition and completely reinvented my career to revolve around my new way of living.
Growing up being so overweight and feeling so visibly different from my peers wasn’t always easy.
But my past has helped shape me into the person I am today – I am stronger, more resilient, goal-driven and understanding because of my experiences.
It also taught me the value of taking advantage of now instead of waiting for tomorrow – it never actually arrives!
So my daily mantra is: “Instead of putting things off for another day, do what you can straight away – it doesn’t have to be huge, just make a start today!”