THROUGHOUT 2008, Melissa Maurer, like any other girl graduating from Year 12, was thinking of the dress she planned to wear on the most anticipated night of the school year.
But at 110kg, the 17-year-old's self esteem was at a record low.
A friend had offered to lend her a dress to wear to her formal, which her mother was going to alter as it was too small for Melissa.
But Melissa made a life-changing decision there and then to take control of her health "not for the world, but for me".
She began a lifestyle overhaul.
It involved a combination of regular exercise, positive thinking and the Annette Sym 4 Week Menu Plan from the Sunshine Coast-based, low-fat cooking queen.
That turning point resulted in Melissa losing half her body weight.
It also earned her a place as a special guest speaker at Annette's latest workshop from May 24-26, Symply Slim and Healthy.
Annette, herself, is no stranger to the weightloss challenge.
After seeing a photo of herself on the beach as an overweight adult, she began her own battle against the bulge, losing a total of 35kg and transforming her life, before going on to produce the highly successful series of six Symply Too Good To Be True cookbooks.
Annette's story hits close to home for Melissa, now aged 21 and weighing a slim 55kg.
Melissa's bubbly demeanour and quiet confidence are a far cry from her high-school persona, which she describes as very shy and constantly aware of her weight issues.
"I'm definitely a lot more confident now and I think it's important to have people around who love you for who you are," Melissa said.
She said a key element in her journey to health had been the support of her family and church group.
"There were heaps of points where I got frustrated or went backwards but you just have to pick yourself up and go on from where you fell off," Melissa said.
By chance, Annette was an acquaintance of the Maurer family and after a few email conversations, she and Melissa met to discuss their weightloss journeys and how they could help others.
Melissa will join Annette at her Symply Slim and Healthy workshop, which runs at Oaks Oasis Caloundra Resort from May 24-26.
"At first, I was just going to write an article, but Annette eventually asked me if I wanted to be a part of the retreat," Melissa said.
Across the three days, workshop participants will take part in low-fat cooking classes, practise goal-setting techniques and have the option of morning workout sessions.
Annette will take attendees to the supermarket to see first hand how easy filling the shopping trolley with healthy, nutritious groceries can be.
Each participant will receive a personalised menu plan.
"It will be good to help as part of the team," Melissa said.
"I haven't been in a situation like this before but I'm excited to share my journey."
MELISSA'S LIFESTYLE TIPS
1. Social exercises such as hiking and team sports are a great way to stay motivated.
2. Nuts are a healthy snack for when you get peckish.
3. It is okay to have a biscuit or "bad" treat every once in a while: everything in moderation.
4. Never give up: find active things that you enjoy and stick to them.
5. Don't make everything about weight or food: get out, have fun, live life.
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