By Rebecca Drew
THIS WOMAN always felt skinny on the inside but has lost more than THIRTY-ONE-AND-A-HALF-INCHES from her waist since almost halving her body weight after feeling like her HEART was going to ‘EXPLODE’ whilst hiking and being turned away from rollercoasters because the harness wouldn’t do up.
HR and payroll specialist, Jenna Galea (28) from Oshawa, Canada, was always the bigger friend but inside she felt ‘skinny’ because of her zest for life that saw her love travel, hiking and going on days out. Despite this, much of her life revolved around food whether it be in the form of social events, as a reward or for comfort.
Outside of her friendship group at school, Jenna was taunted by bullies who would call her ‘fatty’ and she would come home crying because of the jibes she faced.
In 2016 Jenna started to notice her weight taking its toll on her life as she started suffering from heart palpitations, sore joints, stomach aches and debilitating foot pain as well as shortness of breath which started to impact on her ability to go hiking with her friends without taking lots of breaks to catch her breath and soothe her legs.
Jenna started to feel embarrassed as she was turned away from rollercoasters, having to watch on whilst her friends had fun and when looking up hotels for holidays, she’d search out those with chairs without armrests so that she could fit, as well as this she started to lie her way out of activities like canoeing out of fear that she couldn’t fit in a boat and stay afloat.
In August 2017 at 27st 4lb and UK size 32, Jenna realised that she was slowly killing herself and was frightened of dying in her sleep and of the fact that she wouldn’t be able to have a family if she carried on.
With her mum, Jeannine’s support Jenna started the £520 ($660) a month Dr. Bernstein diet and decided to turn her life around. In just under two years, Jenna has lost an incredible 13st 3lb and is now a fit and healthy 13st 12lb and UK size 16, and she is finally feeling ‘alive’.
“One incident that always stuck with me was when I was walking home from school, a bus full of kids drove by and they pulled the windows down to yell, ‘hey fatty why don’t you eat another twinkie,’” said Jenna.
“I remember being so upset, not understanding why I was being picked on so hard – because I was a good kid, a nice kid, and would have never bullied or treated others the way I was being treated. I would come home at least twice a week in tears because other kids had made fun of my weight.
“On the inside, I had a huge zest for life. I’ve always been someone excited about life, opportunities to travel and experience new things. I always felt ‘skinny’ on the inside. Despite being overweight, I still had aspirations of climbing mountains, travelling the world, running marathons, and doing anything ‘physical’ that skinnier people could do.
“When it came to doing things with friends, I started to notice my inability to keep up. I love hiking and I have a memory of going for a hike with a friend and her husband. We were halfway up a hill and I had to take about five breaks walking up that hill because my calves were on fire, my heart felt like it was going to explode, and I was losing my hearing, likely due to a spike in blood pressure.
“My friends were kind enough to stop, wait, and tell me it’s no big deal but the shame, embarrassment and frustration I felt on the inside was enough to bring me to tears.
“I was turned away from a rollercoaster at Wonderland in Toronto, because I was too large and the safety harness wouldn’t buckle me in. This was extremely embarrassing as I still had to stay for the rest of the night and watch my friends go on rides as I waited at the bottom of the coasters for them.
“When going on vacation with my boyfriend to the Caribbean, we would literally look for resorts where the chairs at the resorts appeared to have no armrests because I couldn’t fit in most chairs.
“I would have to lie my way out of things my friends would arrange in the summer because I knew I wouldn’t be able to participate. So rather than being honest with them and myself, I would lie my way out of events. Examples of these things would be waterboarding, skiing, tree-top trekking and canoeing because I knew with my weight, there was no way I would fit, or maybe even stay afloat in a canoe.
“Before I made the choice to start losing weight, I had mixed emotions about myself. On my good days, I felt confident in my skin. Many times I had people tell me, ‘you’re so confident,’ or, ‘you rock being overweight’.
“On my bad days, I didn’t feel good at all. I was mad at myself for being so overweight; I feared I was killing myself slowly; I was so frustrated my clothes were always tight, that I didn’t feel comfortable in my clothes, and that I always felt like people were staring at me.
“Overall, most days I did not feel good, didn’t feel healthy, didn’t feel happy or emotionally stable, didn’t feel confident, didn’t feel able or even worthy of being around for others. Overall, I was very unhappy with everything in my life, and I knew that my weight had a lot to do with it.”
Before her weight loss, Jenna would have a breakfast wrap, hash brown, two muffins and a large coffee from McDonald’s for breakfast; chicken, rice and vegetables for lunch; breaded or barbeque sauce chicken with pasta and vegetables for dinner or if eating out, she would have pizza, all you can eat sushi or burritos; crackers, cookies, crisps, cheese, yoghurts and chocolate for snacks and would have ice cream for dessert each night.
Now Jenna has six hard boiled egg whites, 5oz of raspberries, a large coffee and a litre of water for breakfast; no sugar jelly for snack; chicken salad with balsamic dressing for lunch; chicken breast, salmon or steak with vegetables for diner and makes sure she drinks three litres of water a day.
“When it comes to the physical side of things, I breathe better, sleep better, move better, have significantly more energy, I’m no longer hitting a wall by two pm, I’m excited to jump out of bed and start my day, I’m no longer lethargic and sluggish, my brain fog lifted and I tell people all the time, ‘I just feel so alive,’” said Jenna.
“The ECG, cardiologist exams including a stress test all cleared me with a strong, young heart. It was relieving to know I have a healthy heart. I also no longer experience back, neck, shoulder, knee and foot pain. My feet no longer swell or hurt after standing on them for long periods of time.
“I’m able to run which I haven’t been able to do since I was about 13 years old. I’m way more physically active and enjoy going on long walks, hikes, swimming, trampoline classes, hot yoga, and general cardio workouts at the gym and the occasional weightlifting. I’m also starting to look into half-marathons, it’ll take me a year or so to condition and train my body, but it’s a big bucket list item for me.
“I am always so humbled and just stunned at how proud others are. I have heard it all. People tell me that I inspire them, motivate them, that they’re proud of me, they’re so happy for me, they idolise me, they tell me how beautiful I was but how I am absolutely glowing now.
“Through my journey, I have had a number of people tell me they started dieting because of me. I have people publicly and privately sending me messages on Instagram telling me how I’ve inspired them and helped them take that final plunge into being healthier.”
Jenna’s goal weight is 10st 10lb but she has gone from a 70.5in hip measurement to 46in and a 62.5in waist measurement to 31in, she tracks her progress on Instagram.
Finally, she shared her words of advice to others.
“The most important thing is starting when you are ready and do it for you. Do it because you want to better yourself, improve your health, and feel good. Don’t do it because you feel social pressures. If you don’t do it for you, you likely won’t stick with it. Find a plan that works for you,” she said.
“Surround yourself with a support system, this sounds so cliché, but this will make or break you. Having a support system doesn’t mean having your best friend do the same diet as you, it just means explaining your needs, goals, wants, to your family, friends and co-workers, and expecting that they be accepting of your lifestyle change. When people see you getting happier and healthier, they’ll want to jump on board and support you in ways you never expected – stick with it because as your network grows, things get easier for you.
“My secret to weight loss is water, water is the highway for fat cells to leave your body. Increase your water, stay hydrated and you’ll feel better in so many ways.
“Live life in moderation. Despite being on a diet, you are a human. You still need to live life between your goals. If travelling or having a girls’ weekend, treat yourself, you deserve it.
“Just know, that come Monday, you’re back on your plan because your goals are worth more than the temptations of treats. Stay focused, stay motivated – it’s so worth it.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/jennsrivalfitness