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Sarah's journey with Fernwood from 'morbid obesity' to health

Sarah Buckley

Joining a gym can be intimidating – now imagine if you weighed in at almost 180kg and wanted to join a gym. Sarah from Fernwood Carindale did just that in January 2014. Now 50kg lighter, Sarah contacted us to share her story of what it’s like joining a gym as a morbidly obese woman needing to lose weight. We hope her brave words inspire you as much as they have inspired us.

Living in denial

I always knew I was overweight – but before now I was happy to live in a world of ignorance. Deep down I knew I was destroying my body each and every day (and potentially shortening my life) but ignoring the problem just seemed to work. By saying ‘I’m overweight’ sounded better than having to deal with the reality – that I was and still am, morbidly obese.

Deciding to make a change

I can’t say there was one single moment where I decided to try ‘one last time’ to make a change. I don't have one. I just knew that I didn't want to feel that way anymore.

Looking back I think I got sick of simple things, like being scared to be around other people’s kids. Kids tend to speak the truth and make innocently hurtful comments like ‘Why is that lady so big?’

I was afraid that when my son started school in two years’ time I would be the ‘fat’ mum and my son would be teased. These things taunted me day in, day out... until one day it kind of just clicked and I decided to take ownership and say ‘Today is the day I make a change’.

The road to recovery

I checked out the local 24 hour gyms because they were cheaper, but walking in and seeing the big muscly guys on the weights and super fit ladies on the cardio equipment made me feel out of my depth.

I had been a member of Fernwood before so I decided to check out my local club. There was something about walking into a woman's only club that provided some relief – but I was still anxious about how my first interaction was going to go down.

Thankfully my first encounter was with a lovely lady who made me feel instantly at ease. She allowed me to talk about why I wanted to join and why I needed this, and she gave me the space to cry and be vulnerable.

With the help of my new Food Coach and Personal Trainer I became focused and in control of my world. I went for six months with no slip ups - I ate clean, I drank lots of water and I worked my butt off. I lost a huge amount of weight and was feeling fantastic! I was able to do simple things again, like cutting my toenails and jumping – those basic things that you so often take for granted. I started to find hard lumps all over my body - which I later discovered to be collarbones, muscles and even bones in my feet... who would have thought?

My confidence levels increased and I was genuinely in a good place. I met so many lovely ladies who formed a support network within my gym. To help me stay accountable, I created an Instagram page where I had hundreds of followers who encouraged me and kept me on track throughout my journey.

Hiccups along the way

Then life kind of got in the way again. Work was stressful and stress has always been a major trigger for me. Food is my addiction. I don't have a terrible tale from my past as to why I got to close to 180kg; I am just addicted to food.

It's a self-sabotaging behaviour. You become comfortable again and think you have 'fixed yourself' and can have a chocolate biscuit or two again, or maybe just a couple of hot chips. But after years of feeding this addiction it just doesn't turn off that easily. The scale goes from being your best friend to your worst enemy overnight, and a slight gain sends you over the edge.

The support network you have offer you all the love and support they can... but they will never truly understand what it's like. The fear that all your hard work can be so easily undone. You work your butt off and eat to lose 1kg, but then you have a treat or a night out and before you know it you have put that 1kg back on plus another 2kg. Your body is shrinking but with that you have excess skin appearing that is saggy and makes embarrassing slapping noises when you exercise.

Disappointment sets in and you feel like you are letting people down. You have come so far but still have such a long way to go. People still see you as the overweight lady because they don't know your story or how far you have come.

Moving forward

Every day is a battle within you. But that battle tells me one thing - you are human! You are going to have bad days, weeks or even months, but as long as you are mindful and recognise that you have slipped up – own it! Start again and you will succeed. My mantra is “I can. I will.” I’ve tattooed it on my wrist to remind me that quitting isn't an option. I can and I will do this.

The power of the mind is amazing and this journey is far more mental than physical.

You can follow Sarah’s journey and offer your words of support at or on Instagram: @familylovehealthhappiness

*Fernwood client testimonial was achieved as part of an overall healthy diet and exercise plan. Regular exercise and proper diet are necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss. Consult your healthcare professional before beginning any diet or fitness program.