20-year-old loses 47kg to avoid death sentence
AT just 20 years of age Janaya Smith was told she would be dead in six months unless she changed her unhealthy lifestyle.
Diagnosed with high blood pressure, the Greymouth woman, now 23, has turned her life around by losing 47kg in just over six months.
At the beginning of the year, Smith weighed 132kg, suffered from depression and anxiety and feared leaving her house on her own.
"When I was diagnosed with high blood pressure I was that low. I was the person that didn't value my life and basically didn't want to live."
Smith says she would come home from her job at the local meat works and go straight to bed because she wanted to shut herself off.
"Even in my own home I was locking myself away. I guess eliminating myself from the outside world because I just felt like everyone and everything hated me.
"I hadn't long moved from Blenheim to Greymouth and I didn't really know a lot of people. I was quite down and dark on life," she told the Herald. "I basically hit rock bottom and thought I didn't want to feel like this anymore."
So in March she reached out to personal trainer Kylie Senior who, like Smith, had just moved from Blenheim to Greymouth.
She started exercising in Senior's garage or in the domain after dark because she was worried someone would see her.
Eventually she moved to train in Senior's studio and began socialising with other gym members too.
"It's quite a tight-knit community at the studio where I train. That encourages me to talk to more people and look at people. But the old me would look at the floor and pretend that I was on the only one in the room."
When Smith started working with Senior, she told her trainer she would never see her running.
But on September 10, Smith ran the 10 kilometre Kaikoura Whale Run with her trainer by her side. And to symbolise Smith's weight loss, Senior wore a 20kg vest.
"She agreed to carry the weight that I lost, but 47kg was a lot. So to compromise we got down to 20," adds Smith.
Being surrounded by other runners at the start of the race was a milestone moment for Smith.
"Taking off [from] that start line with one thousand other people, when six months ago I wouldn't even be seen in the petrol station with another person - it blew me away just as much as everyone else."
Smith's entire lifestyle has changed dramatically. She now trains six days a week with three one-hour training sessions with her trainer and three self-directed workouts.
When she started training Smith would go for five kilometre walks or take a short walk up a hill. Now she goes for a run or takes spin classes at the gym.
Her strength has improved too: When she started exercising she could only manage two press-ups on her knees. Now she can do 50 full press ups at once.
Her diet used to consist of take aways five times a week, and pies, chips and biscuits for lunch.
Although she didn't look at a diet plan specifically with her trainer, the first three months saw Smith switch to eating only fruit, vegetables and meat.
Now she has a more lenient menu.
"We never looked at it as a diet. [My trainer] always referred to it as a lifestyle change because diets don't last forever," she says. "Now I'm in the maintaining phase it's not so strict. I'll have a biscuit if it's on a day that I train."
After dropping from a size 3XL to Medium, a local Greymouth store, Into Jeans offered to buy Smith a new outfit. She was thrilled to be able to choose a new look for herself: A dress top and jeans.
"For anyone that knows me that's quite out there because I guess I'm always just in really casual, sportish [sic] clothes," she explained. "To dress up girly is not something I do often. Especially being bigger, I didn't feel comfortable in them."
Smith kept her weight loss journey relatively private but posted photos and a video of her achievement on Facebook after she ran the 10 kilometre race.
And she's surprised everyone back in Blenheim who hadn't seen her since she moved to Greymouth and started training.
Smith's mother tells her she often struggles to remember what her daughter used to look like and her brother was blown away when he visited from Australia.
"The first thing he did was give me a hug and said to me, 'Oh my gosh, you've got hip bones.' This is the lightest weight I've ever been."
Now at her goal weight of 85kg, Smith says her biggest achievement is being able to stop taking two kinds of blood pressure medication.
"Through doing this exercise and changing my lifestyle I am completely medication free."
Smith is sharing her story to inspire others to get active.
"I know depression is a secret killer around New Zealand," she said. "I want to explain how helpful exercise is. If you're angry or sad or whatever. I'll put my shoes on and go for a run and you come back and you just forget that you even felt like that."
Her advice to others is to reach out for help and get going.
"My piece of advice really is just do it. Just reach out to someone. If anyone wants advice I'd be there to share.
"I don't think you could find anyone more shy or self-conscious... I was really sick of feeling how I felt so I just reached out and took that step. And I have not looked back since that day."
Going from strength to strength, Smith's new goal is to tone up and gain muscle.
"When I was big, every day was a bad day, but now every day is a good day."
# If you need support please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467