Kirsty beats quake stress to lose weight

AFTER: Since losing weight, Kirsty Dunford, 35, feels more healthy and confident.
AFTER: Since losing weight, Kirsty Dunford, 35, feels more healthy and confident.

A Christchurch woman has battled earthquake stress to shed nearly half her body weight.

Kirsty Dunford, 35, has dropped 52 kilograms from her 1.71 metre frame since her weight-loss journey began in 2004. Her efforts have put her in the running for the title of Weight Watchers' Slimmer of the Year.

Nine years ago, Dunford weighed 117kg and felt miserable. "I was an emotional eater. I ate to make myself feel better, I ate when I was sad and bored. Instead of dealing with emotions I would console myself with sugar and chips. The worse I felt, the more I ate."

BEFORE: Kirsty Dunford before her dramatic weight loss.
BEFORE: Kirsty Dunford before her dramatic weight loss.

Finally, she decided she "deserved more from life" and had to break the cycle. Through Weight Watchers, Dunford managed to lose an impressive 45kg over the next 10 months. "There were a lot of hard times but I just kept at it. I knew it would just get harder later if I let myself give in," she said.

Dunford managed to maintain her goal weight for the next seven years, until the Christchurch earthquakes hit.

Her workplace was destroyed, her house was damaged and she was "terrified" by her long-standing phobia of earthquakes. She was overwhelmed by stress and turned to food to cope.

"I gained 13 kilos in quake weight. I stopped watching what I was eating and went back to my old habits of eating as an emotional response."

When a new Weight Watchers group formed at her workplace, Meridian Energy, Dunford decided to sign up again. "It made me look at what I'd been doing with the quakes. I had to acknowledge that I was eating because I was stressed and get more tough on myself about keeping my stress eating in control."

Since last November, Dunford has lost 21kg, taking her total weight loss since 2004 to 52kg. She is now a slim 64kg, but still allows herself an occasional treat. "I still eat chocolate every day. Weight Watchers is great like that because it's maintainable over the long-term because you don't give up treats. It's just about getting a healthy balance."

Since losing the weight, Dunford feels "more confident" and said she has achieved things she "never dreamed of ".

"I was a size 26 at my largest and couldn't shop for clothes in ‘normal sized' stores. I wouldn't get on a plane because I was so aware of my size. Now, I've travelled and seen the world. I've gone white-water rafting, where I never would have put on a wetsuit before.

"I would have missed out on so much if I had never lost the weight. It's not the answer to fixing everything in my life but it does make it a lot easier and opened a lot of doors."

Dunford's weight loss has earned her a spot as one of three semi-finalists in Weight Watchers' 2013 Healthy Life Awards. The semi-finalists will be whittled down to two New Zealand finalists, who will compete with five finalists from Australia for the title of Slimmer of the Year. Entrants from the South Island in the awards have lost a combined total of more than 761kg, while the 500 entrants from throughout New Zealand and Australia have lost a whopping 10,154kg.

Winning the title would be "a huge pat on the back", Dunford said, but she also wanted to inspire others.

"I know how hard it is starting out and imagining you could be different. I just want to tell everyone it is achievable and maintainable and worth the struggle."

The Press