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From Plantar Fasciitis & Heel Spurs In Both Feet to Running 10km at the Gold Coast Marathon


From Plantar Fasciitis & Heel Spurs In Both Feet to Running 10km at the Gold Coast Marathon

Felicity Cohen: Hello, I’m Felicity Cohen. I’m so excited to introduce you to my Wellness Warriors Podcast. For over 20 years, I’ve been a passionate advocate for helping thousands of Australians. Find solutions to treating obesity and health related complications. Through surgical intervention and holistic managed care.

My podcast is dedicated to all the people past, present, and future who have helped shape my journey and continue to inspire me to work consistently to achieve a healthier Australia in both adults and future generations. I hope you enjoy it.

Welcome to our Wellness Warriors Podcast, today it’s my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Fiona Swadling.

So one of the purposes around starting up this podcast is after 20 years of working in this field and being at WeightLoss Solutions Australia, there are so many people who I feel have impacted not just my career and my personal journey, but this whole evolving industry. And I think it’s a really opportune time to start, at 20 years post, where I first started to unravel some of the stories.

And I think for me talking to people, who’ve actually been through the journey, whether it’s 15 years ago, 20 years ago, or even a couple of years ago, there are so many exciting stories to share. So welcome. And thank you so much for coming in today.

So Fiona, you had your surgery just two years ago.

Fiona Swadling: Yes. Yes, it was, it was exciting. It was a hard decision, but I’m very glad that I did it.

Felicity Cohen: So let’s just start with where that decision started. What was the seed? That first kind of initial thought process for you around why it was an important decision?

Fiona Swadling: I took about a year to make the decision.

I went to a couple of different seminars and looked into it and then it took about a year because I was scared to do it. But then over that year I put on more and more weight. So, yeah, it was sort of by then it was crunch time. I needed to do something.

Felicity Cohen: So let’s just delve into some of those things.

Things that create fear around having surgery, that attitude of feeling scared or fearful or not wanting to take that first step, I think is really common. What does being scared look like? And what were, some of the things that you were actually scared of?

Fiona Swadling:I was scared of changing a lifestyle that you’ve lived in for so many years.

You know, being able to eat anything that you chose to eat and how much of it. I loved food, I like to drink, so giving up bubbles and things like that was, another big decision. Couldn’t have champagne and couldn’t go to social events and have, you know, what you thought would be in a social setting, but you just changed it.

] It was a mindset that afterwards, I realised I shouldn’t have put that fear in because it hasn’t changed my life completely. I’ve just had to adapt and change very small things to make it work. So being fearful before, now I look back and go, I wasted a year that I could have actually have gone forward much sooner.

Felicity Cohen: So what were some of the things that you felt were negatively impacting your life that led to that decision making process right at the outset?

Fiona Swadling: I was, I was fairly active. I thought I was fairly active until now. But I wasn’t a lazy, big person. I just ate a lot of food, so my meals were really big. I didn’t eat considerably unhealthy.

But my meals were really big. So, the impact, I suppose now, the difference is I still eat the same types of food, but much, much smaller portions. And I don’t feel the need to have to keep eating like I did before. If I enjoyed something I’d want to keep going back and back and back.

So plus, you know, I had a partner that is, you know, a new relationship. He used to bring home all the goodies and the chocolates and the ice creams. And, you know, so that’s when I really started noticing the weight going on. Because when I was by myself, I never, never bought any of that into the house.

Beause I knew I’d eat it.

Felicity Cohen: So I know that we’ve talked a little bit about how that relationship impacted your weight before, and I’ve heard you refer to your partner as a feeder.

Fiona Swadling: Yeah.

Felicity Cohen: Yeah, tell us a little bit about that. And how, and when did you actually identify that as being just an incredible trigger for you that you needed to deal with?

What did that all look like for you?

Fiona Swadling: Well, we actually, it’s funny because he’s probably listening. He will be.

So he, we joke about it now because, I think he showed his love through giving food and, being he’s such a caring person and generous person that, that was how he showed us his love in the beginning.

It certainly was to bring home all the niceties and all the nice foods and things like that. So we’ve actually had to change. He came on the journey with me, which was really positive because it’s such a big impact, not just to you, but to your family, to your partner, to everything. And it’s, it’s a really, it’s not just your journey if you’re with somebody because they have to be a part of it as well.

So he actually came on the pre-op diet with me, lost quite a, quite a bit of weight. Yeah, I think he actually lost more than I did in the beginning. And then he’s sort of maintained, as well, through my journey. So he hasn’t lost quite as much as I have. But, he certainly managed to maintain at a point now, but he’s still working on his, but his change in the way that he presented his love, I suppose, was different.

Because he couldn’t do that anymore. I couldn’t have him bringing that into the house. So it was a big change in both of our relationships.

Felicity Cohen: I think that’s fascinating. And you’ve kind of just touched on where my next question was leading to in terms of your love language. And I think it’s so common that, in relationships that food does become how we treat each other, spoiling each other, celebrate, commiserate, you know, whatever that looks like.

And in so many different cultures, where food and quantity has become a symbol or of love and affection that, that does impact and change your relationship and how that love language has to change.

Fiona Swadling: Absolutely. Yeah.

Felicity Cohen: I think it’s awesome to talk to you and to hear how you, identify it, but also how that level language between you has changed as a couple?

Fiona Swadling: Yeah, definitely.

Felicity Cohen: Which is a fabulous, positive, and a great testimonial to that relationship strength.

Fiona Swadling: And, it hasn’t come without battles because when, when you lose weight or like when I lost weight, you increase in, you know, confidence and, the way that you present yourself, you can dress better. Or I feel like you can dress better. There’s more selection of clothing when you’re, you know, half the size.

So that changed because even though I felt like I was the same person, my confidence was different. So that created a slightly different persona. That I was putting out, I suppose. So for my partner, it was a little bit of adjustment there as well, working around my confidence and my growth in confidence.

So, yeah, it’s been, it has in the relationship side, it’s definitely had an impact, but how you deal with that through your journey is I suppose, testament to how strong you can come out the other side of it. So yeah.

Felicity Cohen: Definitely. I think from your story angle, it’s interesting to identify what a feeder actually looked like for you.

And I think in many relationships, it’s a really important point to make that sometimes that can be such a negative influence that can be used as control. And we often see relationships actually go the other way. So I think for you, it’s such a great testimonial to how you’ve actually been able, not just to identify it, but to move forward in your relationships.

So really well done. Just touching on your self confidence and your physical appearance, and I know that sometimes, you know, we’re conditioned not to highlight the physical beauty and how that evolves in someone through weight loss, because it’s often considered to be a discriminating kind of conversation.

Fiona Swadling: Yeah, yeah.

Felicity Cohen: If I can just talk about what that looks like for me, when I see your journey. I really do see that you’ve evolved into this, your actual beauty, your physical beauty shines through, through your weight loss. And I hope that’s a fair and, acceptable kind of judgment call to make, but I just think it’s such a lovely part of the story to see, like, I think you’ve really embraced that, the physical part of the journey.

You know, that you can dress so beautifully, that you can do your hair. I’ve seen pictures of you looking glamorous and gorgeous and look at you and activewear, you look absolutely stunning. And for those of you listening, I’m talking to Fiona and seeing her here in active wear today, she absolutely looks sensational. So I love that.

And probably really interesting that you probably wouldn’t have been going out and about in active wear if you take yourself back two years ago.

Fiona Swadling: Oh my God, no. I’ve become that terrible meme of, you know, I’m dressed at corporate during the week. And then on the weekends, I’m active wear, active wear at the shops, active wear everywhere.

It’s comfortable and it’s suitable for every occasion. So yeah, no, and then I don’t have to change when I go for a walk in the afternoon, so yeah, no, I love it.

Felicity Cohen: But also going to the gym.

So that’s something that’s new, that’s been new part of the journey.

Fiona Swadling: Yeah. And I still, I still struggle. I don’t know if anybody else has, when they’re bigger, walking into a gym was so daunting and so overwhelming when you’re bigger and you don’t feel like you should be there. Even though you’re there for the same purpose as everybody else, is to get fit.

But I honestly, I felt, and I still have that a little bit when I walk in and I shouldn’t because I look normal in my, you know, to everybody else, but, and I don’t look upon anybody else in that way, but I still have that feeling that I used to have walking into a gym. So it does take a lot of effort for me to actually go to a gym on my own.

I’m much better if I have somebody there with me or meeting somebody there because I don’t have that feeling of, you know, I shouldn’t be there, but there should be no reason for me to feel like that anymore, but you know, your mind still plays those tricks on you.

Is that, what is it? The body morphea or something that it’s called.

So yeah, but once I’m there, I don’t have a problem. It’s that anxiety of getting there and feeling like I shouldn’t be there, like I used to feel if I did try and go. So now it’s good. I can sort of, I get there and I’m okay once I’m there, but yeah. Would never have ever considered, you know, the lifestyle that I have now.

Felicity Cohen: So what other impact do you feel that this has had on your family? You’ve got children. How do you think this has impacted your own family dynamics, your children’s lifestyle – have you seen changes in


Fiona Swadling: We were quite active anyway on the weekends. We’d always go and do things and bike ride when they were younger.

My youngest is now 19 and my eldest is 21. So, I think having the family genetics of, you know, most of my family has been overweight and, they’ve got that gene as well, I suppose. So them seeing me more active, I think is, you know, impacting on them, my eldest is, goes to gym and, works out.

My youngest will get there one day. She’s still hasn’t picked up on the bug yet, but you know, I’m working on it.

Felicity Cohen: I think that’s a beautiful story with parenting, too, that as a role model, that changes throughout the course of your children’s lives, you know what you’ve actually modeled for them as young children, but you can still actually have an impact on them as young adults, that’s going to impact their lives, well in to the future.

I think that’s really, really important that you’re consistently having that impact as a parent, no matter what age your children.

Fiona Swadling: That’s Right.

Felicity Cohen: Did you have any health concerns before surgery?

Fiona Swadling: Only really my feet. For a good couple of years, as the weight went on and I used to always, you know, shake my head at the doctor’s going, “Yeah. It’s not because I’m overweight because I did step ups when I was trying to start doing personal training and I was bigger.” .

And, but I had plantar fasciitis for quite a few years and in both feet alternating, and heel spurs in both feet alternating as well. So, you know, had to wear the daggy shoes of, you know, the orthotics and every day.

But, that as soon as I started losing weight, that stopped. Didn’t have the foot pain at all. That was, that was incredible. So that’s when I went “yeah, the doctors kind of knew what they were talking about.”

I think that’s so important to highlight because I don’t know that you can possibly imagine the number of people who I would speak to every day who have plantar fasciitis.

And I know, the pain associated with that, the discomfort.

Excruciating pain.

Felicity Cohen: And it is absolutely a hundred percent definitely related to weight bearing. And if we can take the weight off and, you know, impact joints, joint pain, whether it’s back pain, knee pain, hips, and especially with plantar fasciitis in your situation, that impact is huge and it is life changing because you know, living with pain is never going to be fun.

Fiona Swadling: No, Knee knee pain as well, joint, joint pain that’s eased. Because I work out and work with weights. I do end up sore majority of my week. I think I have one day where I’m not sore, but that’s more muscular. Yeah, it’s good pain. I know I’ve worked out if I’m in pain, but as joints, nothing like I did.

Yeah. Yep.

Felicity Cohen: We know that inflammatory type diseases, whether it’s just impacting your body, your functional fitness, your movement. But also things like arthritis and fibromyalgia and other forms, various forms of arthritis. They’re so impacted by excess weight and just that weight loss is just, it is so life changing.

So, I love that part of the story as well. I think it’s really important. You probably would never have turned into a runner, if you haven’t got rid of the plantar fasciitis.

Fiona Swadling: No. There’s no way. It was harder, harder walking up a hill, with my feet and it was terrible and you can’t stay off your feet for long, to rest them.

So you just had to keep pushing through. Yeah.

Felicity Cohen: So tell us a little bit about your Gold Coast Marathon journey. I’ve personally had the pleasure of watching that transformation over two consecutive years of being involved.

Fiona Swadling: Yes. I saw registrations are open I’m like, when do we register?

Felicity Cohen: ] Team 2020 off we go. So tell us about the last two years.

What does the training look like? How did you set goals? What’s that story look like for you?

Fiona Swadling:The first one I did the 5.7 (kms) and I thought I looked pretty good until I looked back on those videos, you know, how you progressively lose weight and you’re, and then you look back, well, you know, each time it’s looked better and I was able to run better.

But the training beforehand was great. The park training, the interval training, and then this one I really liked with the, mixing it up between high intensity, as well as the learning how to run. I really liked that. And it was, enjoyable as well, getting out in the sunshine on those days.

So when I did the 5.7, I thought I was absolutely crazy. The thought of even running any kind of distance still at that point, and that was maybe about nine months, I think, into, my weight loss and, yeah, that journey and getting to the end was incredible.

And I did it with a close friend of mine, we actually went through the surgery together. So we’ve done a lot of milestones together, over the course of the two years. So we actually just celebrated our two years, on the weekend.

Felicity Cohen: Congratulations! How did you celebrate?

Fiona Swadling: We just went down to, we went down to the park for a walk, no champagne! And we sat there and went, oh my gosh, I can’t believe we’ve met, you know, done two years. I’ve been nearly a year at the same weight. So I’m, below my goal weight.

But yeah, getting back to the, and then doing the 10k the, the following year, that was, that was insane. Definitely not going half a marathon or anything like that.

I’m just going to try and beat my time for the 10k this year. Considering the weather was awful last year. Let’s hope, fingers crossed for better weather.

Felicity Cohen: That’s rare. I’ve been doing events at the Gold Coast Marathon since about 2001, 2002 every year something, and it’s the first year I’ve seen that kind of treachourous, downpour wind.

Fiona Swadling: Oh, that wind on that home run was terrible.

Felicity Cohen: That sense of self satisfaction. The achievement when you cross that line.

Fiona Swadling: Yeah, that was incredible.

Felicity Cohen: It’s fabulous, isn’t it.

So, yeah, congratulations for, you know, setting your goals every year. And I think that’s fantastic that we, you can keep setting new goals, that goal post moves.

Fiona Swadling: It does.

Felicity Cohen: Setting new goals and parameters for yourself and new challenges.

Fiona Swadling: I think it’s really important to set those goals and to set those targets as well because you can slip quite easily back into old habits. When you’ve been doing this for, you know, two years in, I do every now and again, have to kick myself and wake up, you know, that that’s not how it is anymore. But to have those targets and have those goals, for whether it’s just another 5k park run every week, or, you know, the next marathon.

That you try to do, it keeps you motivated, keeps you working towards something all the time, instead of just slipping back into habitual sort of behaviors that you would have, you know, in your everyday life. Because it’s easy to fall out of pattern. If you stopped going to the gym for a couple of weeks, it’s very easy to get into that whole life routine of, “it’s just easy not to go”. But you need something to keep you driving and keeping up moving forward.

Felicity Cohen: Is that a strategy for you to have a goal so that you don’t fall back into bad habits, again? What else do you actually try and put into place when it comes to your own personal strategies for not slipping back?

What do you do?

Fiona Swadling: Coming here. I still, I had my gallbladder out as well, so I’ve had diet issues and I was able to come back and see the dietitian again, even after this length of time, to just help get back on track. And just, even if it’s just talking through, the things that you’re doing to see that you’re doing the right things. So coming back here and checking in, I have found really helpful.

Felicity Cohen: Let’s just talk about the gallbladder, because I think for people who maybe are not yet in the space where they’re looking at this as a solution. That can happen. It’s symptomatic, obviously of it can be quite significant or drastic weight loss that patients can develop gallstones.

And there’s a certain percentage that we know who will need to have gallbladder removal.

Unfortunately, you were one of them. So, you know, tolerating, the surgery is not the, not the worst part, but having touch points where you’re consistently working with the dietitians and modifying behaviors so that you are on track.

Fiona Swadling: Yeah, and just being aware of the intake that you’re, you know, putting into your mouth. After the gallbladder came out, it did change a lot of things because I was quite high keto diet, and low carbs, but because all the fats weren’t processing the same way, once the gallbladder came out, that was problematic.

And you know, I’d get upset stomachs every time I ate anything with any amount of fats in. It is settling, and they do say that it settles. So on the weekends I tend to try different things. So stick with the things that I know work, during the week and on the weekends, I try different things, to see whether it’s improving.

Felicity Cohen: Yeah. How has food changed for you? What’s your approach to food? What, what’s your go to? What do you love? What do you hate? What’s changed?

Fiona Swadling: Ah, well, it took me a good year or so to even like chocolate. It’s so sweet. It’s so sweet still, I don’t, I don’t like to eat the normal chocolate.

I still go for the dark chocolate, cause it’s not as sweet. I think that anything with any amount of sugar in really was like, “Whoa, it’s, it’s just too sweet now”.

It changed. Cakes? Just don’t enjoy them. Savoury things, I still enjoy, but I juggle. So if I’m out and I’m having a few glasses of wine I’ll or, whatever it is that I’m having, I can’t eat, too close to drinking, so I’ll have a couple of glasses, then I’ll eat my meal. And then I don’t need anything else after that because I just, I can’t fit it in. So I juggle, food and water and things like that. But my, I still enjoy everything.

I actually, in the beginning when it was a little bit, little bit tough, with foods and intake and not tolerating a lot of foods because it just, it was sitting really heavy. Water was difficult, intake with water. So I tried lots of different things with that, cordials and, the protein waters and things.

But the managing to find the balance between the food and the water intake was really important.

Felicity Cohen: Yeah, absolutely. So we actually, haven’t mentioned that you did have a sleeve gastrectomy that, that was your primary procedure. So what’s your total weight loss since you actually had your surgery?

Fiona Swadling: I lost 60 kilos.

Felicity Cohen: That is phenomenal. Wow. Big number and massive congratulations just on that achievement in itself is just huge, so you really must feel like a different person.

Fiona Swadling:Totally. Half the person.

Felicity Cohen: Things like travel have changed?

Fiona Swadling:Yeah. Yeah. That’s incredible. Just sitting in a seat without your shoulders, sticking out the sides and, you know, having a belt without the fear of having to ask for an extender belt, which was my biggest fear.

] I did travel to UK when I was at my biggest. And you know, that length of trip was not, not comfortable. But I was so fearful of having to ask for an extender belt, but I didn’t, didn’t have to. But traveling since has been awesome. I’ve only done small trips since, but our next big trip is New Zealand and then, Chicago in a couple of years.

Felicity Cohen: Fantastic.

And I think it makes a huge difference to, you know, what you can actually achieve when you’re traveling as well as you get older. It’s how you move, the kind of activities that you prepare to actually engage in what you’re gonna plan. It can look so different from where you might’ve been two

years ago. So that vision of your future changes a lot in so many different aspects of life. Do you agree with that?

Fiona Swadling: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Felicity Cohen: So I’d like to talk a little bit about your professional career and how it’s impacted, not just your work, but your role. You’re very, obviously, it’s a significant role where your, as a leader, you’re a school principal.

Fiona Swadling: Deputy principal.

Felicity Cohen: Deputy principal. So, you know, eyes on you every single day. Has that, what have you seen in terms of perception of you in your role in your workplace? How has that changed for you?

Fiona Swadling: I would never have, gone for a position like this. So I have become deputy since losing the weight. And I would never have had the confidence to actually do it, even though other people didn’t see me in the same light that I saw myself.

Because my confidence increased, my confidence, my ability increased, then I felt like I could go for those roles. So, I did and I got one and it’s been terrific. But, you know, I hated public speaking, hated standing up in front of people, because of the way that I felt about myself. But I have to do it every day in my job now.

And I’m getting better at it.

Felicity Cohen: You’re getting better at it. Look, I think as a deputy principal in that kind of role, obviously an important leadership type role, but it’s a very visual role from a whole school cohort who see you every day in that role. So it’s an incredibly influential type role as well, just from how people perceive you.

So when we’re talking about weight in, our childhood population, which is one of my passions. So here at WeightLoss Solutions Australia, we’ve just recently presented for the first time, our Project GRIT at a youth and adolescent, pediatric conference in Melbourne. So, GRIT’s all about prevention of obesity in children.

Is that something that, that you think about, you know, in your role, you see children every day, how important is it for us to start developing a model that is going to help prevent children of now, help prevent them becoming the obesity adults of the future?

Fiona Swadling:Oh, it’s for mental health as well. Not just the obesity, like the kids are sitting inside more and more.

The percentage of, mental health issues with children is astounding now compared to what we used to have. And I think that’s because they’re not getting outside as much. They’re not as active. They’re not getting those endorphins going, that kids should have, so.

Felicity Cohen: And that is our significant area of focus, is first and foremost at the moment is the mental health contribution to, as part of this program, is that, you know, kids do report that their self-concept scores increased dramatically through engaging in this program.

So they’re able to actually self report that they’re feeling better, that their self confidence improves. And one of my big goals, with this overall project is to see their, performance in schools improve, and reduce those issues that are related to, you know, mental health complications, whether it’s, bullying, whether it’s just self-esteem.

Fiona Swadling:Self esteem, anxiety, you know, depression, it’s prevalent out there with the kids. It’s sad to see it.

Felicity Cohen: It’s something that you visually are aware of and aware in your school environment every day?

Fiona Swadling: Absolutely. Yeah, we try to do as many active things and getting the kids out. I mean during school, it’s probably easier, it’s when they’re at home. School time is, you know, they’re inside for learning obviously, but outside for play times.

So yeah, the program that you’re running is brilliant.

Felicity Cohen: Do you think there’s enough play time at school for them now?

Fiona Swadling: No.

Felicity Cohen: Yeah, and what do you think has led to that?

Fiona Swadling: Too much pressure on academics, but you know, we have to have it. It’s something that we have to do, but I think they go hand in hand. You can do a lot with academically outside as well as inside.

Felicity Cohen: And I also believe that kids who are physically fit are likely to perform better anyway. So if we focus on a more, I guess well-rounded solution, it needs to involve a lot more physical movement and activity as well. So it’s reduced in school since, I mean, since I was young obviously. But there’s not enough emphasis on sport in schools anymore.

Fiona Swadling: No.

Felicity Cohen: Do you agree? Activity overall.

Fiona Swadling: Activity overall, I think they’re more limited to their classroom walls, whereas I think, you know, years ago, they used to do a lot of, outside work, even just being outside it’s, you know, good for the soul. Not necessarily in this heat. Outside in this heat is not good for anybody’s soul.

So, but yeah, I think it definitely impacts and you can see the students that are more sporty, the way that they perform in classes, you know, can be much higher.

Felicity Cohen: So tell us about the future. Let’s have a little bit of a look into your crystal ball, 5 years from now, 10 years from now and 30 years from now, where do you think you’re going to be having had this weight loss journey now?

And how do you see that as having significant impact on the future of your life?

Fiona Swadling: Oh, mine’s more travel. I just want to travel. I spent, you know, I had my children young, and now is my time and I’m still young enough to do that and far more able to do it now. So yeah, mine’s travel. I just really want to get out there and experience.

Felicity Cohen: Excellent. 10k’s again next year? Have you got a time in mind?

Fiona Swadling:I think I did it in one, one point ten, I think. I think it was around that. So I just, I want to beat that and I think I can, if it’s better weather, we had a terrible head on wind on the way home when it’s, you know, the worst part to have a head on wind.

But and to run the whole thing, I only stopped a few times. So, and it was actually harder to stop and to get going again and probably to keep going. So that’s my aim. Just beat my, beat my hour time.

Felicity Cohen: Fantastic. Look, it’s been fantastic having you in here today.

I know you have to head off to your personal training session.

Wow. Can you imagine if you’d been sitting here two years ago, we would not have been talking about your personal training session.

Fiona Swadling: No, no, definitely not.

Felicity Cohen: That’s a bonus and it’s fabulous and I’ve loved having you here today.

Fiona Swadling:Thank you, I’ve enjoyed it.

Felicity Cohen: And thank you so much for coming in on the podcast and look forward to chatting again soon.

Fiona Swadling: Thanks. Appreciate it.

Thanks everyone.

Felicity Cohen: Thank you for joining the Wellness Warriors Podcast. It’s been a pleasure to have you online with us. If you enjoy the series, please leave your review, subscribe and follow, and we look forward to sharing many more stories with you in the future.

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