Success Stories

Meriel Stanger

Exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle, however being a quadriplegic, Meriel is testimony that the Ultra Lite program is not reliant on exercise to lose weight.


That statement ‘Lose weight, gain life’ is such an old cliché, but it is true.  This would have to be my greatest achievement.  I started losing the weight as I knew being overweight revolted James.  I know the ‘feminist movement’ would be very cross with me.  Believe me, when my health started improving I could see the real reason for losing weight.  I had to lose the weight because I couldn’t do anything for myself.  I couldn’t have heaved my huge body onto the shower chair or into the car.  With a big tummy, even picking up things off the floor or doing up my shoelaces were difficult tasks to achieve from a wheelchair.  My life really turned around when I lost the weight and I achieved my goal, while being in a wheelchair.  My weight was something I could control.

My temperature thermostat was haywire after my accident.  When I started coming home on weekends, I really noticed how crazy my temperature gauge was.  It would be freezing cold and I would be busily throwing off blankets saying I was hot.  It was the complete opposite when it would be hot and I would want blankets!  I used to suffer terrible sweats.  Again, I was told that I wouldn’t gain weight and stupidly believed what I was told.  So I made the most of being able to swallow and ate all the things I shouldn’t, like chocolate and ice cream.  Consequently I got fat.  I was then told that gaining weight was just a fact of being in a wheelchair.  I was told such conflicting stories.  You can imagine how depressed I became being over-weight.

I tried being careful what I ate, but it would only last a few days.  Come November 2000, just over five years since the accident, I saw a programme on TV about the Ketogenic diet.  It was portrayed as a Dangerous Diet which I could understand if you didn’t follow all the rules or it was managed by an inexperienced person.  I was very determined to make it work, so I looked for an experienced practitioner. 

Ketogenesis is a process the body uses to lose weight given a number of correct actions.  In other words you reduce the carbohydrates to force the body to use its own fat as food by producing ketones.  This is a great concept however it is extremely important to be assessed and monitored by a health care professional who is trained or who has experience in such processes.  With all the other diets exercises were involved. 

With this Ketogenic diet (Ultra Lite), I was supervised by my naturopath who tailored it to me.  Everything had to be weighed and measured out. 

What impressed me was the diet was not reliant on exercise.  Being a quadriplegic, I couldn’t exercise in the traditional sense.  I met with my naturopath weekly and with his encouragement and belief in me I started the diet January 2001.  I successfully lost 77 lbs in 26 weeks.  I went on a maintenance diet for another twelve weeks, toned up and lost a further 11 lbs.  

My metabolism was re-set.  It was definitely a team effort, my naturopath and staff, my mum and my girls.  I couldn’t have done it without them.

I saw on TV about people who lost heaps of weight but were left with saggy skin and I didn’t want that to happen.  On the Ultra Lite program, saggy skin is minimised.  

My very dear friend, Shay has put together an exercise programme for me.  She would come to sit with me and talk for hours when I was at Royal Brisbane Hospital.  I think with me being in a coma, people felt as though they could tell me anything.  She was such a tower of strength for James.  Because much of my muscle tone has gone into atrophy, she has recommended I do light weights as part of my exercise programme.  I do the weight exercises in front of the mirror, because as soon as my left arm is out of vision, the first thing I notice is a weight hitting me in the head!  At least if I do it in front of a mirror, I can see where my left arm is.  My control over my left arm and leg is not so easy.   I send them messages to do something but it doesn’t always get through.

There were moments when I wished that I did have the PEG feed put in.  I used to look at the patients who had a PEG feed in place and they looked so slim.  These thoughts were short-lived.  At least I could enjoy the taste of fattening food!  It is well known fact that nursing staff find it easier to put someone on a PEG feed, rather than spend the time teaching the patient how to swallow.  I remember a young girl at the Head Injury Unit wanting to get rid of her PEG feed as she wanted to be able to enjoy the food at her wedding.  There are some people who have successfully got off the PEG feed merry go round.  It takes a lot of determination on the behalf of the patient and people around them.

I was referred to an orthopaedic surgeon September 1998, three and a half years after my accident, to have surgery on my right leg.  He couldn’t give me any guarantee of success about the operation for as long as I carried the extra weight.  I was a bit miffed at the time.  Since I have lost the weight, I can do so much more for myself, that the surgery is not required any more.

I wanted to lose the weight as it was really putting a strain on my heart.  After 10 minutes of exercise I would be huffing and puffing like an old steam train.  I knew I would be a candidate for diabetes being overweight.  I didn’t need to add that to my problems.

It is quite common for a head injured person to eat for the sake of eating not because they are hungry.  Be aware of a head injured person’s ability to understand that their compulsive eating is no good for their health.  It is such a fine line to know when to encourage and empower the disabled individual.

I used to call myself a ‘fat cripple’.  It is a very derogatory term.  It was a stage when my depression hit rock bottom.  Losing the weight not only saved my life, it gave me life.  My speech has really improved with the weight loss.  Before I had to think ‘take a big enough breath to be able to say what I wanted to say, out’.  Now I’m finding I don’t have to think about it, it comes naturally.  No more staccato speech.

I drink two litres of water a day.  I leave a jug out on the kitchen bench so it is easily accessible.  Routine is very important.  My family will see me falling asleep in front of television and say to me ‘Go to bed’.  They think I am mad, because I’ll say ‘I can’t because I’ll be out of routine’.  If I finish my two litres at 8.30pm, I then go to the toilet at 10.30pm and off to bed for an uninterrupted sleep.  If I go to bed sooner, out of my routine, I find myself waking up at 2.00am needing to go to the toilet.  I guess it was remembering the days in the past when someone had to help me get out of bed.  I just want an uninterrupted night’s sleep and I know sticking to my routine creates that.  Besides, drinking two litres of water is very good for you.

Since I’ve lost the weight, my whole attitude to life has changed.  Another rather amazing fact is I have also lost that ‘fear’ that was holding me back.  I start to ‘push the envelope out’ and to really stretch myself.  Just the fact I can shower myself and not have to wait around for someone to help me is wonderful.  It means I can plan my day.  I can’t stress enough the importance of your attitude.    Lose weight for you.  Don’t be angry; forgive yourself and others.  Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself.  I am grateful for every day.