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Julie Goodwin's accidental weight loss

Life is too short not to drink the wine or eat the cheese.

By Michael Sheather
MasterChef Julie Goodwin has shed more than 20 kilograms in the past year, but she says her dramatic weight loss has nothing to do with dieting and is no cause for celebration. Michael Sheather reports.
Life is too short not to drink the wine or eat the cheese. That is Julie Goodwin’s personal philosophy on dieting. “Food is part of the fabric of life,” says Julie, the 45-year-old former MasterChef champion, now one of the nation’s most popular cooks.
“We all need food, but it’s more than just a necessity – it’s also about enjoyment and sharing, and relationships and the way we all interact with each other. It’s not just fuel. It’s an essential part of who we are and how we live our lives.”
Julie Goodwin’s relationship with food has always been healthy. She has always loved food – the aromas, the tastes, the ambience and sense of intimacy it creates around a table.
And, for the most part, food has loved her right back. Indeed, it’s indirectly responsible for Julie’s career, her success, her business, her fame and a large chunk of the satisfaction she gets from life – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Yet Julie’s life is changing. In the past year, she has shed more than 20 kilograms, or around 1.5 kilograms a month.
She insists that she doesn’t have a magic diet bullet. There is no eating plan, no fringe foods, no fads and certainly no radical dietary restrictions.
What Julie does have, however, is ambition, drive, a family who love her and an increasingly demanding job that devours her time and energy. And that is at the heart of what has happened to her during the past 12 months.
Julie has long been the target of critics who have felt free to comment on her weight and size. Just recently, an article appeared in a national magazine quoting “close friends” and saying that Julie “feels so much younger” and that she “can’t wait to get into a bikini” – none of which is actually true.
“What it really did was position me as someone who has joined in that culture of ‘you should be thinner, you should be different from who you are’ and I have never, ever been a part of that culture,” says Julie.
“I don’t subscribe to it – I buck against it. I think we should all be allowed to be happy, no matter what we look like. It also made me look like I was saying, ‘Look at me, look at what I did’, when that is simply not the case. The truth about why I have dropped so much weight is that I am working too much. I need to find a balance in my life.
“It’s not that I’ve gone on some stupid, sad diet and dropped a whole heap of weight in a hurry. It’s not anything like that. I am running a business and running around like a mad thing, and sometimes I forget to eat, none of which is healthy.”
Julie’s weight loss began when she appeared on the reality program I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! in February last year. Julie and a dozen other celebrities were stranded in South Africa’s Kruger National Park for weeks, performing gruelling and sometimes demeaning tasks in exchange for food and rewards.
“Of course, in the jungle, I lost some weight because we starved over there,” Julie says. “But it wasn’t healthy. I wouldn’t recommend that for anyone. I became foggy in the head, depressed, cranky and had zero energy. There were days when nobody had the energy to move off their beds.
“My guts stopped working. It’s a terrible way to lose weight. I did it in the spirit of the program, but anyone who thinks that it’s a good idea to starve to lose weight is very misguided.”
And that weight loss continued when she returned home. At first, Julie was concerned that perhaps she had developed a serious medical condition.
“Losing weight was not something I was striving for,” says Julie. “I was actually worried about it at some points because, throughout my life, I have never been able to lose weight without working really hard for it.
“So I took myself off to a doctor to be checked out. That says something about my attitude to my weight. I lost weight and my first thought was, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ But the truth is there
is nothing wrong with me. I’m fine as it turns out. But the doctor asked me, ‘What’s changed in your life?’
“The answer is that I built myself a very hard job running my own cooking school on the NSW Central Coast. It has me running from 6.30 in the morning often until 11 o’clock at night, seven days a week. There’s not much time to sit down and, unfortunately, there is not much time for food. It’s
sheer hard work and that’s what is behind the weight loss.”
Julie says she feels uncomfortable when people congratulate her on the weight loss. “I’m a bit thinner, yes, but I don’t think it’s really worthy of congratulations,” she says. “I haven’t actually earned it. All I did was change the way I live my life.
“It’s not because I was unhappy. And it’s not because I wanted to be a different person. It’s critical that I make that point – that it didn’t come from any sense of personal disappointment. I have never wanted to be the voice that says, ‘You too can feel younger and more energetic if only you do what I do.’
“That happens far too often and I don’t want to be a part of it. I think the problems that come from destroying a person’s self-esteem are far greater than the problems that come from being a
few kilograms overweight. There are terrible consequences to a life lived in humiliation, shame and dissatisfaction with no self-worth.”
Listening to Julie, it’s easy to sense that she is speaking from the heart. She has, she says, survived a life-long struggle with her weight.
“Like everyone who doesn’t fit the mould of what society says we ought to look like, I’ve put myself through nightmares to try and fit that mould,” she says. “But as a mature adult, I’ve come to a better place and, in fact, I’m very healthy, very strong and I work very, very hard. This body might not look like Elle Macpherson but it’s given me three beautiful sons.
“It gets me around, like a beat-up old car. It gets me around from A to B and it does everything that I need it to. I’m as fit as I need to be and there is nothing I can’t do because of my health or size restrictions – nothing at all. I can’t see any reason why I should feel shamed into being anything other than what I already am. Most of all, I think we should all stop judging and accept that people can be large and healthy at the same time – one doesn’t preclude the other.”
Julie says that a restrictive diet simply isn’t worth the angst. In many cases, the weight almost invariably comes back as soon as the dieting stops.
“Think of all that energy, all that emotion expended in the pursuit of something that is unattainable, all to live up to someone else’s ideal of what you should look like,” she says. “I think you make yourself sicker worrying about things like that than you could ever be if you have a positive outlook and live a full and happy life.
“I’m not qualified to give anyone dietary advice, but perhaps the best things we can do are eat things that come from nature and move around a bit, and just try to live a happy life. Life’s too damn short not to drink the wine and eat the cheese.”
This story was originally published in the January 2016 edition of The Australian Women's Weekly.
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