After years of being overweight, Bundaberg woman Kelli Thurston took back her life and achieved an astonishing 92kg turnaround.
Kelli is now less than half the woman she was 18 months ago.
She said the journey helped her to not only love herself again, but it gave back the strength she once had as a determined teenager.
“I have been reflecting during these ‘strange’ times and of course thinking a lot about my huge weight loss, the surgery and what it all means today,” she said.
Kelli said some 30 years ago, when she was a naive young woman, she had fallen pregnant at 16 and chose to give her son up for adoption.
“This left me feeling torn apart, ashamed, alone, fragile and very vulnerable,” Kelli said.
“Upon my return to school for Year 12, I was called into the principal’s office. She proceeded to tell me that I had been elected to be school captain but ‘under the circumstances’ I would not be able to take on the role, but was to be a house captain instead.
“In that moment I lost a little bit of myself.”
Kelli said all her self-esteem, pride and any love she had for herself disappeared within seconds.
“It wouldn’t be until many, many, years later that I would fully understand the impact of that moment,” she said.
“I remember walking out of her office and bursting into tears, hiding and not telling a single soul about it until almost 25 years later.”
Change in lifestyle helps Kelli's weight loss
Kelli Thurston's life changed at that moment and within three years she had left her busy city life in Sydney and moved to the country town of Walgett, where she worked for the Commonwealth Bank.
“I was not afraid of change, I was used to it,” she said.
“My father was in the Army for 22 years and I had travelled Australia and lived overseas at a young age and my schooling amounted to 22 different education facilities during my education.
“I loved the country life and living as part of a tiny community.”
“I left Sydney weighing still less than I do today and most definitely the fittest and strongest I have ever been.
“Living in Sydney I played, refereed, umpired and trained for sport almost every single day before and after work.
“I loved it. I lived for it. It was my socialisation. My drive. My freedom.
“I didn’t have to think about what I ate or drank as I burned it all off anyway.
“Food was fuel and I didn’t drink much alcohol as I was usually designated driver.”
After moving to Walgett, Kelli’s life changed in ways she never stopped to think about until years later; she found almost all of her physical activities decreased and the most common way to socialise was sitting at the local watering hole and consuming alcohol.
“It was the middle of summer, and for those who don’t know Walgett that means temperatures in the high 40s plus, so beer and the air con at the pub became the norm,” she said.
“There was minimal sport to play unless you organised it yourself. No gym, not that I was much a gym goer anyway, and socialisation was a big part of the Walgett way of life.
“My life just revolved around beer and socialising now instead of sport. I even worked nights at a local pub.”
As her life continued, Kelli Thurston married and had twins, then two more beautiful children and that became her way of life.
“I loved being a busy wife and mother,” she said.
“It gave me purpose and I belonged, but having four children under four and a husband who was away a great deal and no direct family to call on as they were all in Sydney, it was also a very isolating in parts.
“My in-laws became my family and were a fantastic support and I will love them for that support forever.”
Walgett became Kelli’s home but, as she said, in all the business of life, she found herself lost at times.
“I had been lectured by my father not to put myself first before my children,” she said.
“So, I didn’t. I just got on with life but sometimes it felt like I was simply just existing.
“I never stopped to think about what I wanted and if I did it was quickly pushed aside by motherhood.
“I was busy – too busy to think about me, and the dark cloud of depression that was above me.”
Moving forward 25 years, through a broken marriage, Kelli fell into a deep depression – this added drastically to her massive weight gain.
“I was very depressed, had gained a massive amount of weight and was starting to struggle, really struggle,” she said.
More than two decades of bad habits take a toll
“I had always been strong, and my strength and determination always pushed me through, but now my health was starting to fail.
“My body was tired and fatigued and I lacked any drive and hardly ever exercised.
“The bigger I got the less I moved. Lacking nutrients, fitness and motivation and taking prescription medications to help and then another drug to mask the side effects.
“It was getting hard to move, to stand, to walk, to get in and out of the car, to get on and off the toilet, in and out of a chair, if the chair could hold me. I was so ashamed.”
As Kelli’s life spiralled out of control she said she started to realise if she didn’t change her life she would soon die.
“The final wake up for me was when, due to stopping my blood pressure medications, I had a frightening heart episode and an ultrasound showed fluid around my heart,” Kelli said.
“I couldn’t walk more than a few metres without feeling like I was literally going to stop breathing.
“It scared me. It was time to do something about my health. Not just my weight.”
Mental health support aids weight loss journey
Now with a caring partner, and grandchildren who she wanted to watch grow and enjoy life with, Kelli said she made the decision to start loving and thinking about herself again. It was time to deal with her mental health.
“My children were all adults and I had time to really reflect on what I needed to do and about what was holding me back – it was time to face the demons,” Kelli said.
Reaching out for support Kelli was able to change her thinking with the help of two close friends, her school friend Silv, and Jennifer a life coach.
Kelli said both women were essential parts of her journey towards first liking and eventually loving herself again; the intensive self-discovery sessions gave Kelli the ability to shift her thoughts and let go of so many things that she had hung onto for so long.
“Things I didn’t understand, things that were holding me back,” she said.
“It gave me the ability to see clearly and lift the fog. I became more focused on what I wanted.
“What I needed most importantly was loving me for the first time in a very long time – perhaps for the first time ever.
“I had started the process of change and healing myself. I had time to myself to think and reflect. To cry and yell and scream. To forgive myself.”
As Kelli’s mindset changed, she began to feel happy and whole again, but she said there was still the weight and associated health issues that she needed to deal with.
Celebrating her 50th birthday, surrounded by her family and friends, Kelli said she had a huge moment of awakening.
“The final shift in my weight loss journey – it was, no more excuses, no more being lazy, no one to blame,” Kelli said.
“I started looking into weight loss surgery; I researched the different types of surgery, the costs and the surgeons.
“I joined a Facebook group and I discussed it with my partner Wayne, who, of course would become my biggest supporter through the tough parts after surgery, and I made the informed decision to go ahead.”
The surgery appointment was locked in, and the process to shed as much weight as possible before the operation began.
Kelli's weight loss reaches almost 100kg in a year
“I started my pre-op diet straight after new year 2019, as surgery was booked for 27 February 2019,” Kelli said.
“I stopped drinking alcohol and guided by a fantastic dietician I successfully lost 14 kilograms.
“This diet regime would steer me through the tough post op period. The tough times.”
Now just a little more than a year after her weight loss surgery, Kelli is a changed woman both physically and emotionally.
“I have lost a staggering 92 kilograms but, most importantly, I have gained my health and my life back,” she said.
“I feel like the 20-year-old that drove to Walgett over 31 years ago but with all the wisdom and knowledge of a 51-year-old.
“I now have so much love in my heart, for me and for the world around me.
“Life is so different.”
“I no longer take prescribed medications. I no longer need bi-lateral knee replacements.
“Moving around is so much easier. I fit in every chair I sit in with ease and without fear of breaking any.
“I can walk into shops and buy clothes off the rack. I have dropped from a size 28-30 to a 12-16.”
Kelli said she hopes her story will inspire others who feel their life is spiralling out of control to stop and act.
“So, if I can inspire just one person, a friend, a loved one or a total stranger to lose weight and regain their health and well-being, by whatever means possible, then I will be happy,” she said.
“If I can inspire more, then I will be ecstatic.”
As Kelli’s life changed, she built the confidence to not only love herself again but to become the local Shebah ride-share operator and today she inspires other women to love themselves again whilst promoting the city she loves and calls home.
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