Real Life

REAL LIFE: 'My daughter motivated me to lose weight... now I'm saving other people's lives!'

This brave mum is now half her size... and saving others, too!

By Laura Masia

Dee Azzopardi, 44, from Pakenham, Victoria, shares her inspiring story:

I beamed with pride as my youngest daughter, Jezelle, walked on stage, gracefully accepting her graduation certificate.Although most kids were unsure about what their careers would be after school, Jezelle had it all figured out.
"I wanna be a police woman," she told me sternly, at four years old.
And she never wavered.
At the end of her grad ceremony, I asked another parent to take a photo of me with Jezelle, my husband Troy, and my other girls, Janda, 23, and Jordyn, 22.
But when she handed the camera back, I was mortified.
Standing next to my three beautiful girls, I looked huge!
I'd always been overweight, but now, at 138kg, I was heavier than I'd ever been.
At 15, I begged my mum, Debbie, to take me to her diet club, where you had to wear a pig mask at the next meeting if you gained weight.
I liked the idea of having some accountability.
"You're too young to worry about dieting," Mum told me, shaking her head.
Dee Azzopard (R) says she struggled with junk food all her life. (Image: supplied)
As I had kids, the weight piled on and with my eating habits, it didn't go anywhere.
Although I was vegetarian, all I ever ate was junk food like hot chips and doughnuts and never cooked healthy meals.
"You've got to eat vegetables to be a vegetarian, You're a Junkatarian!" Mum would joke.
To make matters worse, I'd promised Jezzelle that when she turned 18, I'd join the SES with her so that she could gain the skills needed for a good police recruit.
It would look great on her resume, too.
But as the time approached, I was hesitant to go through with it.
I'll look so roly-poly in that bright orange SES jumpsuit, I thought sadly.
That night, I came across a Facebook post from my friend Fiona.
She'd recently lost weight using the Cambridge Meal Plan and achieved such good results that she became a consultant.
What have I got to lose but all this weight? I thought, messaging her for help.
Fiona and I set up a meeting for a few weeks' time, once my work as a school nurse resumed.
On my first day back, my colleague suffered a medical emergency.
I ran into his office.
Sweat beaded at my brow as I performed CPR, desperately trying to save him.
Sadly, despite my best efforts, he didn't make it.
It was heartbreaking but the trauma made me wake up to my own reality.
If I keep going like this, I might end up like him, I thought.
I was shocked when I saw this pic. (Image: supplied)
When I met with Fiona a few days later, I was determined to make a change.
With my unhealthy relationship with food, I felt like I couldn't be trusted to cook.
Instead, I took out the guess work and replaced all my food with shakes, soups and bars for 12 weeks.
"I'm not setting foot in a supermarket," I announced to Troy and the girls. "From now on, you're all cooking for yourselves."
Thankfully, they were incredibly supportive.
Like me, Troy even forfeited eating food when we went over to friends' houses.
At first, it was hard to say no to the junk but I pushed through and didn't waver from my diet.
Within the first week, I felt better than I had in years.
Finally, I was eating food with all the nutrients and minerals I needed to function and had more energy.
It inspired me to keep me going and the weight started falling off.
By the time Jezelle and I signed up to the SES, I was already 25kg lighter.
When they handed me my orange uniform, I was nervous.
I'm so proud of what my body can do now (Image: supplied)
I'd opted for the shirt and pants instead of the jumpsuit.
"I'll never fit in this," I mumbled to Jezelle.
I still felt way too large.
"Come on, Mum," she said. "Just give it a go!"
Nervously, I slid on the pants and buttoned up the top.
To my surprise, it fit!
Although I'd come over this hurdle, my journey wasn't over yet.
I was still overweight and suffered from intense knee pain.
If I was going to be by Jezelle's side on the job, I needed to shed more kilos.
So I kept going.
I can't believe how far I've come. (Image: supplied)
Five months later, I'd lost 50kg and my first SES uniform was falling off my shrinking frame.
So I tried the traditional orange jumpsuit and it fit perfectly!
Looking at myself in the mirror, I was overcome with emotion and struggled to recognise myself.
I'd been overweight my entire life and seeing a skinny woman staring back at me was jarring.
But now, I'm so proud of what my body can do, whether it's climbing a mountain with my family or helping my SES team finish a job.
As a nurse and volunteer, all I want to do is rescue others, but I had to save myself first.
Now, I'm a consultant for the Cambridge Weight Plan.
I want everyone to know that if you have someone by your side and a strong reason to lose weight, anyone can do it.
We just need to stick together.

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