Meet our 12 Week Challenge Winner for 2014

Belinda Stephenson, a member of Fernwood Tuggeranong in the ACT, is the national winner of the 12 Week Challenge. A focus on changing her eating habits helped her to lose 24.3 kilograms and 21.6 per cent body fat. To celebrate her success, G Adventures are sending her on an overseas holiday worth $10,000, with $2,000 in spending money from Natvia.

On winning the 12 Week Challenge...

It’s very exciting; I never thought this would happen. A few of the ladies called from head office to tell me I’d won and had me on loudspeaker. My mouth was open but nothing was coming out! I couldn’t speak but a few tears broke free.

How is this experience different to past attempts to get in shape?

From a weight perspective, my whole life has been a rollercoaster – I would put weight on and off. I’ve been on every diet you can think of, but I would always end up back where I started. This time has been different, because I haven’t been on a diet - I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything.

I’m so focused when I put my mind to something. But in the past I would let things like work dictate my habits – we have our own landscaping business and I work nights and also make cakes. If we were on the road in the truck, we’d go through the Maccas drive thru. I didn’t pay attention to meal portions – for example, instead of having half a cup of rice with a meal, I’d eat a bowl full.

Personalised strategy

I’ve only ever known how to lose weight, not how to maintain it. So this time has been all about going back to basics. One of the biggest challenges was finding time around my schedule – three jobs, two small children and a husband – to prepare all the healthy meals. My food coach, Cherie, suggested we scrap the initial approach as it was too stressful for me to sustain. So we made it as simple as possible to go back to healthy, fresh food that I can eat on the run. Back to basics!

What contributed most to your success?

The best thing I ever did was take my focus off weight and put it onto food. I’m thrilled that I’ve lost 24 kilograms, but more importantly, focusing on my health has equipped me for the long term. I didn’t weigh myself until the last day of the challenge, and that worked for me.

Secret weapon?

My stubbornness - if I say I’ll do something, then I’ll see it through. I’ve always enjoyed training, but food has been my weakness and my weight combined with injuries made it harder to play with the kids, and to do physical work in our landscaping business. I knew something had to change and a different approach to past dieting attempts was needed.

Community is key

We are tight-knit at Tuggeranong. It’s the sort of place where you actually want to go in and see everyone. My personal trainer kept me motivated and catered to my injuries by showing me modified versions of exercises. We had a challenge Facebook page where we shared stories and supported each other. Our group was split into teams to create healthy competition – I couldn’t have my results without my gorgeous teammates in the “Fiery Red Foxes”; they are most deserving of praise.

I’ve never been to a gym where people honestly care for you. They will go out of their way to stop and have a chat and see how you’re doing – even if they run into you on the street. They’re like an extended family.


  • Don’t do numbers. I deliberately didn’t check the scales until the last day of the challenge. It wasn’t about weight for me – it was about food.
  • Reward yourself. My food coach kept me focused on strategies for non-food rewards. Throughout the challenge, I bought myself a new pair of runners and booked in for a hair appointment at the salon to feel good using alternative approaches to celebrating with food.
  • Enlist support. One of the challenges for me was not getting enough sleep. It was wonderful to reward myself with a sleep-in on a Sunday, and that was possible because hubby took the kids out for the morning.
  • Weekly “cheat” meal. Once a week, I had a meal where I could eat whatever I wanted. That was important for long-term sustainability. It might be a creamy sauce with a meal out at a restaurant, having dessert and a glass of wine, or a piece of birthday cake. The funny thing is, even my cheat meals aren’t much of a cheat anymore, because I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I still have Easter eggs sitting in the house because I haven’t felt like eating them.
  • Have a future strategy. This experience, for me, has been about focus for after the event. Logging in to food coaching once a week has kept me accountable. And because I’ve changed my approach to food, I’m much more conscious of doing what’s good for my health – and that means eating well.

Words by Chelsea Roffey.

*Fernwood client testimonial was achieved as part of an overall healthy diet and exercise plan. Regular exercise and proper diet are necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss. Consult your healthcare professional before beginning any diet or fitness program.

Stories to inspire you

Success stories