How Lauren Anderson's diet and exercise programme changed her life
Making healthy changes in our lives is difficult, and radical transformations are rare. Over the next three weeks, we will profile a trio of Hongkongers who have embraced change and emerged as different people, from the inside out.
Lauren Anderson had always yo-yoed with her weight. But 15 months after moving to Hong Kong, she realised her lifestyle habits were getting worse. She had ballooned to 95kg on her 165cm frame, measuring 45 per cent body fat. She was utterly miserable, too.
"It wasn't just what was showing on the outside, it was what was going on inside, as well. I was so unhappy in every aspect. I had no confidence, and felt it was really hard to meet new people.
"I knew I had to change my whole life. That didn't just mean going to the gym, but rethinking what I was putting into my body and how I was living," says the 29-year-old Flight Centre manager from Brisbane, Australia.
She took the first tentative steps into a CrossFit studio at Coastal Fitness in North Point in October 2013. "I wasn't convinced. I thought CrossFit was hardcore and a bit of a cult," she says.
However, she was attracted by the promise of a community and the gym was just around the corner from her home, so she knew she'd have no excuses for avoiding exercise.
She couldn't do a single move at her first gym session. "Not even a regular squat," she says. But Anderson persisted, attending three times a week. Three months later, she was ready for the gym's yearly transformation challenge.
Over the next 10 weeks she worked out every morning at 5.15am, cut out alcohol and cooked every meal at home.
Slowly she began to shed her weight, and a healthier, more capable and confident Lauren started to emerge. It was an amazing transformation for someone who once couldn't walk up three flights of stairs.
Within 15 months, she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 metres), lifted more than her body weight, and lost a total of 24kg. Best of all, she has gained a new perspective on life.
"I can't believe how much my life has changed since I opened this door to health and fitness," she says. "I like who I am now. I love every single day."
To transform, I had to create new habits and be consistent. I had to be open to the advice of the trainers around me, and commit to doing what they said. Even when I felt terrible waking up at 5am, I knew that working out with friends was going to make me feel better, and my day was going to start off well.
I've learned so much about what a "healthy" diet is. I used to eat muesli, lots of fruit and low-fat foods and think they were healthy, even though they contained lots of sugars and more carbohydrate than I needed for my lifestyle. Now my diet is mainly proteins, good fats and plenty of vegetables. In the morning I eat red meat and vegetables with coconut oil or avocado; for lunch I have a big
salad with lots of protein.
I usually have a snack in the afternoon, like salmon with steamed veggies, and something lighter at dinner. For snacks, I make my own protein balls. I've also learned that it's much easier to be around other people who have the same habits as you, as it makes it easier to stay on track.
It's not just about diet and exercise, it's about your whole life. If I only slept for four or five hours a night, I could work out like crazy and I would still be bloated and feel awful.
I kept myself motivated with little goals every month. It may have been to lift one more kilogram, but it kept me going. I remember the day I lifted more than my bodyweight - 76kg at the time - and the feeling was unreal. That's why I enjoy CrossFit. It makes me a stronger person in general, not just fitness-wise.
Ultimately, change is about being uncomfortable and making sacrifices. You can't just start exercising and not change your diet, and vice versa. You have to make big changes if you want to see big results. For one week I ate only green vegetables.
I just knew I didn't want to feel the way I had felt before.
I'd now describe myself as determined. I'm much more positive and focused. I'm also more fun. Best of all, I'm more accepting of who I am. Six months ago I realised I just needed to love and accept who I am, and now I do. A lot of people don't realise that by losing weight and becoming healthier, your whole world changes from the inside.