6 tips for 12 Week Challenge success from last year's winner

Starting weight: 87.7kg
Current weight: 66.9kg
Weight lost: 20.8kg

Fernwood Clayton's Sophie Nativo has dropped a quarter of her body weight and mastered a six-minute plank, but the goals keep coming for our 2016 national 12 Week Challenge winner. Next up, she’s applying for a passport so she can enjoy her prize and embark on her first-ever overseas trip, closely followed by sculpting a rock solid set of “Vanuatu abs”. Fernwood caught up with the elated champ to find out her winning tips.

1. Aim high

I’m a very competitive person. In my first food coaching appointment I said to my trainer: “I really think I’m going to win this” and we both burst out laughing because I’ve done this challenge twice before and never got anywhere with it. It was funny for me to think, “Oh yeah, I can win this”. But as the weeks progressed, it became, “Actually … maybe I could [win].”

When I first wrote my goals, I wanted to do a three-minute plank. I ended up doing three minutes in the first week, so we doubled it after that. I didn’t think I could do a one-minute plank, and I ended up doing six minutes! Your belly – and everything – shakes and it’s a bit crazy. You need to set realistic goals – but aim high. If you actually try, you can probably already do what you think you’re not able to.

2. Challenge old habits

The food [aspect] was tough because I’m used to eating in a certain way and to change all that was hard. [Before the challenge] I was binge eating. I would eat quite well, but I’d get upset or angry or something would happen at work and I’d go, “Nup, I don’t care anymore” and I’d binge eat takeaway and chocolate. I thought, “I’ll start again tomorrow, it’ll be fine”. But it catches up with you. You can’t get rid of that just with exercise.

As the weight loss started to happen, I was more social, went shopping more, and felt happy and confident when going out. I’m so happy with myself now, I can look back and say, “What does it accomplish when I binge eat?” Now I have strength goals or getting better at whatever it is and I know I won’t be able to achieve that if I binge eat.

3. Stay positive

When I didn’t see the results I thought I deserved, I’d think, “What’s the point anymore?”. My trainer and food coach, Jay Cramer, changed my attitude. I’d get a little lecture, a pep talk along the lines of: “It’s not always going to go the way you want it to go … and life’s not always going to go your way”. The next week I’d be really positive and things would go my way. I really do think the more positive you are, the better it’s going to go for you.

There was one week I gained weight. I’d followed the meal plan completely and couldn’t understand why this would happen. It was unfair and I wanted to binge or give up. I thought, “This isn’t worth it or working anymore, there’s no point”. Now when I have those moments I look back and think, “Just keep going because you’re going to get through it”. At the time I thought it was the end of the world – I cried – but you’ve got to stay positive.

4. Set goals

At the start of the challenge we had weight loss goals, but also fitness goals, and I didn’t realise how proud I would be of those. [As I mentioned] my fitness goal was to do a six-minute plank [and] each week I would add another 20 seconds. Being able to make a plan and tick things off really does make a difference. Once you get there you’ve got to think of something else to keep you going.

My weight loss goal was to lose 17.9 kilograms – from my starting weight that would take me under 70 kilograms. I made a 20.8-kilogram loss; it ended up being 24 per cent of my total body weight. I’ve lost a quarter of myself!

Telling a lot of people I was doing the challenge, and was going to do well, made me more determined. I had all these people watching me and I had something to prove. My goals now are abs for Vanuatu! I haven’t been overseas before, so as soon as I get my passport I can legitimately start thinking about dates. Keeping the balance with food and being social is also really important.

5. Follow the meal plan

The previous two years I attempted the challenge, I didn’t follow the meal plan. I thought, “I’ll just stick to what I think is right,” but fell off the wagon early on and couldn’t get back on it.

I’d been going to a lot of classes and not seeing any progression in my body – no weight loss. I was getting a lot stronger but for the amount of classes I was doing I shouldn’t have looked the way I was looking. I felt bothered and upset by it, and I knew not getting results had a lot to do with the food [I was eating].

This time I thought: “I’ll stick to the meal plan and follow the recipes” and it made a massive difference for me. I didn’t have to think about my food [and] it made it easier.

6. Make yourself a priority

In the other two years I tried the challenge, I had university and work and would miss a workout to say “yes” to a shift that I really didn’t want. This year, I didn’t sacrifice the challenge for anyone else. I learnt to say no - too bad if it upset someone else, you’ve just got to make it a priority. I’ve also learnt to rely a little bit more on other people, to hang out with others or do other things instead of getting caught up in old habits.

Words by Chelsea Roffey

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