2021 was a year of massive change for 42-year-old Erin Keefe. It was the year she decided to reclaim her sense of self, to love herself, so she could be a better mother and partner. This bubbly mum-of-two tells Spirit Magazine how she lost a whopping 55kilos and rediscovered the ‘real Erin.’

As a child I was very lean, and very athletic in my school years.  My issues started when I began earning my own money, buying whatever I wanted and eating whatever I wanted, which was mainly junk food.  

I have been unhappy with my weight since my early 20’s. I recently saw a photo of myself at my brother’s wedding and at the time I thought I was so fat!! In reality I was so slim and can only dream of being that weight again. 

My weight loss journey started after winning a trip to Japan to the Rugby World Cup Final.  I was at my heaviest and after the first day and a 24km walk I was stuffed.  My legs were giving out and I was in immense pain.  When I came back to NZ in November 2019, I thought, “I have to do something.”  So, like most kiwi women, I decided, “new year 2020, new me.”  I started at the gym and eating right but after six months nothing had changed.  I was very down, and depression was getting the better of me.

My life was good. My partner, Wharenui and I, had bought our own home, the kids were good, but I wasn’t. Around that time I bumped into a family friend who had dramatically lost weight through surgery. That was when the seed was planted. After that I messaged her several times and eventually took it further, booking myself in for an Anastomosis Gastric Bypass.

Throughout, Wharenui has been a real gem. He loves me the way I am, but he could see how unhappy I was with my weight. He’s seen me try so many times, and fail so many times, so he supported my decision to have surgery. 

My sons, Wiremu 13, and TeArahi 11, have also been amazing. They don’t get junk food as much as they used to. These days it makes me sick just smelling it, but I will buy it for them on the odd occasion if they ask.

My brain still has some adjusting to do. I dish up my meals on a side plate, but it’s always chocka, especially if it’s a roast meal, but after three, maybe four bites, I’m full.  Sometimes my hungry boys eye it up and I have to tell them I’m coming back!!  Weiner Schnitzel and mashed potatoes with gravy are still all-time favourites!!!

Clothes shopping was something I loathed. I’ve gone from a size 26 to a 14(borderline 12). It still amazes me when I go into a store and the salesperson selects a size 12 or 14, I think “OMG it’s going to get stuck and I’ll have to yell out to get help getting it off,” but it doesn’t happen. I know I’ve lost weight, but I still think I’m bigger.

Fitness – I’m learning to love it! I go to EA Networks and Emily designed the perfect programme for me. Surprise! – I’m loving it and enjoying it.  I also love swimming and I’m learning to play softball, with a very patient team!  My Energy levels are off the hook……NOW. 

At the very beginning of this journey, Emmily Harmer offered to take my photos throughout, with the plan of a big final photoshoot?  I said a big fat NO to that at the start. I’m very thankful to her for photographing my journey. At times it helped me see the progress when I couldn’t see it myself.

I also needed help MENTALLY as people were complimenting me and saying how fantastic I looked but when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t see it.

I’ve had an appointment with Kate Berridge of Beyond Obesity. She helped me see clearer, and get to the bottom of why I wasn’t celebrating and accepting my new me……..and finally I could see.

I am currently 6kg from my goal weight. My surgeon is very happy with my results, but not half as happy as I am!

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.