Fiona Falkiner is no stranger to the concept of transformation. In 2006, Falkiner was a contestant on The Biggest Loser, and she was hoping losing weight would make her happy. But following major success on the show, she found herself spiralling into a deep depression. Here, in a column for news.com.au, she talks about life before, during and after the reality TV juggernaut.
The word diet has been a word that has haunted me for most of my life.
It started way back in my early teens when I would come home from school crying to mum, asking her why was I so much bigger than all my friends?
Mum (out of love) would suggest we give the latest fad diet a go, she would even do it with me to help encourage me to stick at it.
We tried them all; shakes, the Atkins, the cabbage soup diet, you name it. All of them unfortunately not producing much of a result, but instead just a miserable and starving me.
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When I was a contestant on The Biggest Loser I actually started to notice how different diets work for different people.
I remember we were all on a strict calorie intake of about 1200 calories a day, and for the first few weeks, one of the contestants was having small amounts of carbohydrates with each meal. After a while of not dropping the numbers he wanted to, he decided to cut out carbs altogether.
I was impressed because with the amount of training we were doing it would have been brutal having no carbs in the tank, but instantly he started dropping huge numbers and I guess with that came happiness so he stuck with his formula.
I naturally decided to follow suit because I too wanted to drop the kilos but it just was not for me. If I didn’t have my handful of oats in the morning before those gruelling training sessions I was a blubbering mess in the first 20 minutes and I would have nothing in the left in the tank to give.
I used to have the all or nothing approach. I would go from a strict calorie diet with little or no carbohydrates which would see me lose weight fairly quickly, but just as the kilos were falling off the mental state would start to take a turn for the worst and I would end up having huge blow outs or binges. I liked to call it the diet yoyo.
A few years ago I decided to take a My DNA test. I was curious to see if there was anything in my DNA that made dieting harder for me than it was for others. I guess it was also me trying to find excuses not to diet. Ha!
It turned out to be really interesting. I discovered that I carried a few genes that increased my risk of being overweight, in other words it was easy for me to stack the kilos on.
All this time I was thinking I was just a permanently hungry human but I in fact had an FTO gene variation, which means I have an increased appetite and struggle to feel full so I tend to overeat.
I had always suspected there may be a reason why 30 minutes after I finished eating I’d be hungry again, so to discover it was genetic was a little comforting. It actually was helpful because I am now very aware of what I am eating and aim to always eat high protein meals to help me feel fuller for longer.
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I also discovered I had an ADIPOQ gene variation which means my body produces less of the fat burning hormone than what most people do. So essentially my body struggles to burn fat which results in me struggling to drop the kilos.
With this knowledge in mind, it would be easy to throw in the towel and say, ‘bugger it I’m just supposed to be overweight’.
But what I have learnt over the years is that weight does not actually equate to being fit or healthy. I have actually been at my peak fitness when I was at my heaviest. It’s not always about the numbers.
I can’t explain the freedom and the happiness I got when I decided to stop focusing on the scales. I mean, I am 36 and have been a size 16 most of my life, sometimes a small 16 sometimes a larger 16, but regardless of how strict my diet or how hard I train I’m pretty much always a 16. My focus is on my health and when I eventually have a family my focus will be on being a fit strong and healthy mum, not just a skinny mum.
My fiance suggested to me the other day that we go Keto for a bit. I had to explain to her that there is still a part of me that freaks out when I think about putting myself on a “diet” (or even say the word “diet,” I guess you could call it a trigger word). It’s a strange psychological thing, as soon as I hear the word I immediately feel like I’m destined to fail.
I will go into the diet guns blazing, lose weight, but become a crappy person to be around because I’m hungry and then I’ll end up self sabotaging, aka binge eating, until I spiral in to a sad heap.
I told Hayley she can do Keto but for me these days it’s all about balance. We cook at home a lot, we eat a at a lot of protein and salads for dinner, lunch can be anything from a salad wrap to sushi, and breakfast can be an omelette, green smoothie or oats and yoghurt. We will still occasionally eat out, or treat ourselves to a wine and cheese night because doing these things make us happy and happiness is important!
We are all wired differently, each and every one of us is unique and it’s proven we all have different genetic make ups. It then makes sense that no one diet is going to suit all of us, so don’t be afraid of a bit of a trial and error.
Don’t be disheartened when a “diet” or new way of life doesn’t work out for you. It may take some time but eventually if you stick at it you will work out what is right for you.
Don’t focus on losing weight, focus on being the happiest and healthiest version of you.
Fiona Falkiner is a model, presenter and former Biggest Loser contestant. Follow her journey on Instagram @fionafalkiner. You can read last week’s column here