FORTY-FIVE kilograms ago, former Latrobe Valley woman Olivia Cole was given an ominous medical warning.
Not only did doctors foreshadow diabetes for the 130kg 27 year-old, but they were surprised she had not suffered a heart attack.
Eighteen months later the Cairns resident returned home to compete in last weekend’s Latrobe Valley Triathlon Club season opener, where she finished third, a completely transformed individual.
Cole recently became an accredited personal trainer, studies exercise science at James Cook University, does remedial massage with the Cairns Taipans, runs triathlons and above all, is healthy and happy again.
“Triathlon has brought the happiness back into my life,” she said.
“I did hit rock bottom and that’s the biggest incentive for me not to go back.
“I lost friends and I lost family, I wasn’t in a good place at all but now I’ve changed my whole life around.”
Originally from Toongabbie, Cole’s battle with the bulge began when her father Ray died from prostate cancer four years ago.
Cole rapidly slumped into depression and food was her vice, with McDonalds a daily indulgence, before an epiphany changed her perspective.
“I had a set of stairs and it was starting to be a challenge for me just to get to my unit,” she said.
“Little things like tying my shoelaces was a struggle and I thought I’ve turned into one of those people I had never wanted to turn into.”
With the help of a friend in psychology, Cole was able to analyse her eating habits and then enlisted a personal trainer to start the long road back to good health.
Cole ran her first triathlon at 120kg, just one month into her fitness program, and while she placed last, finishing was a momentous achievement.
“Crossing that line to say I’d done a triathlon sparked a whole different competitive feel,” she said.
Next, Cole tackled the 90-kilometre bike leg of the Cairns Ironman event in June and has not looked back since.
“I honestly thought that was impossible for me to do but once it was over I was thinking about the next one,” she said.
“You get these goals and they get bigger and bigger.”
With an Olympic distance Geelong triathlon in February 2013, Cairns half Ironman in June, a half Olympic distance event in Noosa and a full Ironman in Melbourne in 2014 on the cards, Cole said anyone can emulate her weight loss success.
“People get in a rut (but) the thing is that you can change,” she said.
“It’s just such a mental thing and you need to be prepared… having all those goals in advance is like a stepping stone to the next one.”
Cole has aimed to drop to 80kg by the end of the year.