IT was fear that prompted Melanie Purcell to begin a journey which has seen her lose nine stone in around 18 months. The Carlow native, who is now living in Athy, explained that she went to A&E with pains in her back and the doctor gave her a stark warning.
“He said to me, basically, that if I kept going the way I was going that I would be dead by 50,” she said. “I just wanted to be here for my husband and my friends and everything, so I said to myself, you know, I need to get this in check.”
Melanie said that she had always wanted to lose weight, but her approach had been that she would do it “one day”. Clearly this time was different – from a starting weight of just shy of 27 stone she has lost nine stone and counting.
She began with one of the popular slimming groups but realised after a few weeks that – while it has worked for others – it wasn’t for her. Melanie did some research and ultimately decided to count calories and exercise, beginning with walking around the GAA pitch in Athy and the town itself and then joining a gym.
“I stay on a calorie deficit and I go to the gym five to six times a week,” she said. “It seems to be working for me.”
For many people, joining a gym can be tough at the beginning – feeling out of place is not uncommon. Melanie said she was really nervous, wondering how she was going to do it, but described the staff in the gym as very supportive. After a while, she added, you notice that people are more worried about themselves than what others are doing.
Melanie has been documenting her journey over the last year-and-a-half on Instagram (melanie.purcell), sharing meal ideas, updates from the gym, photos of her progress, positive messages and more. She has amassed more than 3,000 followers, a community of people she can inspire and support – people get in touch with questions like where they should start and what type of things they should be doing. But they also support her, encouraging her to keep going. “We’re in the one journey and we support each other,” she said. “It is really nice to have.”
Her husband (who goes to the gym with her when he can) is also a big supporter – and very proud of her. Melanie explained that everybody has a bad day, when they want to just eat lots of junk food, and he’ll suggest going for a walk or just getting out of the house. “He’s really supportive that way. I’d be lost without him,” she said, adding that her friends – some of whom are trying to lose weight as well – are inspired by her weight loss and are behind her too.
The changes she has made are straightforward, though willpower has undoubtedly proved important. Melanie has reduced portion sizes, cut out white bread and reduced the amount of carbohydrates in her diet, and introduced “a lot” of fruit and vegetables into her life. That’s not to say she goes without treats entirely, but it’s about moderation and self-control – instead of eating a bowl of ice-cream she suggests opting for a scoop and some fruit.
With nine stone gone, Melanie wants to lose another six or seven stone. But the journey won’t end once she reaches her target weight and she explained that she doesn’t see herself as being on a diet any longer, it’s a complete lifestyle change.
“Your whole mindset changes,” she said. “It’s something that I will continue on in the future as well.”
For those who might be where Melanie was some 18 months ago, or who want to follow her example, she says there’s no point of no return. “I don’t care if you are ten stone or 30 stone, you can do it,” she said. “The first thing I would do is start to write down everything you’re eating… just write down everything that you eat on a daily basis.”
She also suggests increasing the number of steps you walk each day – if you normally walk 2,000 steps try increasing it to 5,000, or 5,000 to 10,000.