In her early days, Jane Curnow would tip the scales at 55kg, but it was never enough for her then self-obsessed pursuit for the “perfect female form”.
The now 54-year-old who weighs a healthy 65kg, was borderline anorexic (for her height of 175cm), suffered from depression and abused alcohol and prescription drugs — until she discovered bodybuilding.
Her transformation, which was sparked by injury in 2012, wasn’t just about the physical form, but a mental one too where she had overcame adversity in changing her “punishing” thoughts.
“Having been a group exercise, cardio addict all my adult life, fuelled by self-punishment, vanity and my desperation to stay skinny, I suffered a hip injury at 45,” Ms Curnow told news.com.au
“It was caused by excessive high impact cardio over a 20-year period, long days in high heel shoes and a malnourished body.”
Ms Curnow had then discovered strength training which she said formed a major part of her recovery and transformation.
“It wasn’t long before I realised that this is the kind of training fitness models do,” she said.
And so it triggered a career she never expected — bodybuilding and fitness modelling.
However, while Ms Curnow said the journey to her now incredibly fit physique, washboard abs and mental transition didn’t come easy, the challenges helped shaped who she is today — a mindset and lifestyle coach, author and mentor.
DRUG, ALCOHOL ABUSE AND BINGE EATING:
“People would say to me, ‘You are so pretty you have everything going for you!’ Really? I have the ticket to happiness? And I would slink away beating myself up even more,” Ms Curnow said.
By her mid 30s she was divorced twice — at 21 and 32.
She explained how she felt “worthless” as she pressured herself to achieve the “white picket fence dream”.
“Once again I was separated and divorced within 12 months,” she confessed.
It was during her 30s when she discovered she had a binge/starve eating disorder, refusing to eat from Sunday through to Thursday.
“I also did three to five exercise classes on these days; always back to back classes on Mondays to punish myself for the weekend binge,” she said.
“Fridays and Saturdays were generally the binge days and calorie overload to prepare for the drinking session at night which generally was junk food.”
Her alcohol abuse would start at about 5pm on both days and would carry on to the next day.
After being diagnosed with clinical depression, she then found herself becoming addicted to four different types of prescription medications including codeine and ibuprofen and had attempted suicide twice.
“The alcohol and drug abuse was to dull the pain, distract me from my misery, give me the confidence to even be out in sleazy bars and bury the woman who clearly was the reason for my misery.”
Ms Curnow said during that time she avoided the mirror as she couldn’t bear look at her reflection.
“It only reminded me of my ageing skin, a body I hated, a woman who was a complete failure at life.”
Having never partied in her twenties, she took the chance to live the wild life she had missed out on but it was taking a toll on her mental state.
Ms Curnow explained how she also became terrified of losing her looks which triggered another obsession — Botox — “and part of the driving force that I would not live to see 50 if my life circumstances didn’t change”.
At 35 she attempted to take her life for the first time and again in her 40s after several days in a psychiatric ward and several failed rounds of IVF as she attempted to become a mother on her own.
“I spent the next five odd years partying harder than ever,” she said, and it wasn’t until she discovered bodybuilding in 2012 that she finally began to turn her life around.
BODYBUILDING AND FITNESS MODELLING CHANGED HER LIFE
She had been addicted to cardio exercise for years in an attempt to stay slim, but when an injury forced her to change her workouts, the then-45-year-old found a new purpose in weightlifting.
“I honestly believed that achieving the perfect body and strutting around on stage was going to resolve my depression and emotional issues,” she said.
“Seems comical to me now but I truly believed this was the ticket to happiness as too many women do.”
But, the irony is that bodybuilding is an aesthetic sport and yet Ms Curnow said it literally saved her life.
She threw herself into the training and started working on her nutrition and saw her body begin to change for the better for the first time in years — learning how to love herself again.
“Yes, I achieved the body but this was not the only cause of my recovery as many think.”
In her book, Finding Myself From The Outside In: Beating Depression and Debuting, Ms Curnow talks about how starting “backwards” helped her transformation.
“Every self-help guru (including myself) will tell you happiness is an inside job first. I wouldn’t recommend going to the extremes I did to work this out and you really don’t need to which is why I coach everyday women in mindset and lifestyle to facilitate their own transformation.”
CHALLENGES DURING TRANSFORMATION
Training was for Ms Curnow was easy, however finding the strength to get up on stage was the hardest part.
“I even managed to adjust my diet and lifestyle. Although I went back to my drunken, party girl ways every Saturday night (which was cheat night) for nearly 12 months into my bodybuilding journey,” she said.
“Looking back now I can’t believe I committed to competing given how shy, introverted, depressed and broken I was.”
But she backed herself into a corner and not wanting to let her coach down, she managed to transform herself from a self-described drunken, depressed, pill popping party girl at 40, into a confident, empowered, bursting with health, bad a** fitness model at 50 years young.
In 2016, Ms Curnow competed in a bodybuilding competition on her 50th birthday and declared herself “fully recovered” from the demons that had haunted her for years.
“If you had told me 10 years ago I was going to end up a fitness model I would have thought you were hallucinating,” Ms Curnow said.
“It never entered my mind. All I wanted was the man, kids and white picket fence dream. I seriously have to pinch myself that I have ended up where I am today.”
FITNESS ROUTINE AND DAY ON A PLATE NOW
When she is shredding for a bodybuilding competition or photo shoot, Ms Curnow is at the gym doing five weights sessions a week with increasing cardio sessions and decreasing calories.
She has six to eight meals a day however the calories can fluctuate.
“I am currently on 2,600 calories. Every meal contains 200 grams of protein, carbs are strategically placed for maximum muscle growth, good fats and unlimited veggies.”
Ms Curnow is now allergic to most alcohols where she can develop chronic hay fever from the preservatives — she is also prescription meds free for three years.
“Get a coach! The support I received and continue to receive from my mentors and coaches is a crucial part of my journey and achieving my goals. Clean up your diet and lifestyle and exercise,” she said.
“Incorporate mindset techniques every single day.”
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au. In an emergency, call triple-0
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