Petrina’s goal was simply to feel strong again.
She had endured a tough few years battling cancer, and the disease had taken a heavy toll on her body and her health.
Petrina, who is married and has a young son, was suffering from constant pain and the blight of chronic illness and autoimmune disease from her cancer treatment.
Her shattered health and failing body had left the perennially-positive Petrina at a low point mentally and physically, feeling hopeless that her health could ever improve.
Starting a transformation at Ultimate Performance Dubai was initially a small step to just feeling better and building back some strength.
But what started with the modest goals of easing her pain and slowly improving her health, has turned into the beginning of a life-changing journey that has seen her become fitter and stronger than ever, again over 12 short weeks.
Almost overnight, Petrina’s painful flair-ups abated with a nutrition plan that was tailored to her body, and she was no longer vomiting after eating.
Her strength increased with every gym session and she has lost 6kg and a third of her body fat along the way.
She has gone from barely being able to walk, to setting sprinting personal bests, mastering chin-ups and training for a half marathon to support a cancer charity close to her heart.
While her health may never be at 100%, her life now has endless exciting possibilities ahead for her to be fit and active, and enjoy family life with her son and husband.
“It’s not overly dramatic to say it’s been life-changing. It absolutely has been.
“My health issues aren’t going to go away but that’s not the objective, the objective is to be able to manage them to a point where I can have the best quality of life possible and the quality of my life has improved dramatically.
“I don’t have the levels of pain and on an ongoing basis that I used to which makes me more energised for my day and being there for my son and husband which is so important to me.
“My son had seen me in a different light because I’m more fun to be around…for a four-year-old there is nothing fun about a mother who is constantly sick as he’s at an age now where he’s conscious of what’s going on with my health.
“On a physical level, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been before, I’m doing things I literally never thought would be possible for someone like me again.
“It’s been a dream of mine to try and run a half marathon for a cancer charity that has supported me so much through my journey and I have never thought it could be a reality until now, because of U.P.”
Here Petrina explains how she transformed her health and her body in just 12 weeks at U.P. Dubai…
What were your motivations for starting a transformation journey?
I have had a difficult couple of years with my health after having cancer, thinking I had a handle on my chronic illnesses, and unfortunately the cancer coming back and my health taking a turn for the worse again.
My husband was training with Chris and said to me that he thought I would enjoy training with him and at U.P.
I thought training would help me and I was desperate to alleviate the constant pain I was in and try and get a bit stronger.
When I initially started, I was adamant that I wasn’t there for anything aesthetic. It was 100% all about my health, staying out of hospital as much as possible and feeling stronger and in less pain.
I was seriously cynical that U.P. did anything other than aesthetic transformations, which just wasn’t where I was at in my journey and what I cared about.
How were you feeling both physically and mentally before starting?
Physically and mentally I’d hit a real low point before I came to U.P. Dealing with my health issues over the last couple of years was wearing me down, I’m a naturally positive person but with new health issues constantly arising and being in pain every single day it was all taking its toll.
I felt like I was sat on the sidelines of my life watching it go by trapped in a body that just didn’t function anymore.
My physical conditions linked to my cancer treatment, autoimmune disease and chronic illnesses were dictating my life.
I was in pain all the time, vomiting after food, scared to leave the house and be solely responsible for my son in case something happened.
All of this was obviously impacting the quality of my life and worse for me that of my husband and son.
I’d lost a lot of faith in my body and consequently myself, my confidence was shattered and I felt that I was failing at everything.
I felt like I was in a black hole and I wasn’t sure I could get myself out of it.
What was your diet and lifestyle like before you started your transformation?
Before I started my transformation my lifestyle was being hindered by my diet. There are a lot of foods that cause flare-ups in my autoimmune condition but I just didn’t have the mental ability to make the switch to eliminate them all.
I also didn’t have the knowledge to plan my diet and it was all just completely overwhelming to me.
So I bounced around from eating nothing, to eating foods that were junk but didn’t have trigger ingredients in them, to just downright eating the food I was meant to avoid.
Unsurprisingly, I was constantly flaring, being sick after I ate and in an enormous amount of pain. When you’re in a state like that you don’t have a good quality lifestyle.
You’re not actively able to participate in your own life. I was training but not consistently and always tempered by what I was able to do because of my health.
It all felt like treading mud or just one step forward and two backwards.
How did your diet and lifestyle change when you started your transformation?
When I started the transformation, my trainer Chris put together a diet plan that was tailored to me and based on what my doctors had been advising I needed to eliminate to try and get more control over my pain levels and flaring.
I had struggled to make any changes myself and was overwhelmed, so instead of giving me macrosnutrients, the plan was specific about what to eat.
It worked for me straight away and clicked with me.
The changes were pretty much within the first couple of days, the constant vomiting after food stopped, my flare-ups started going down and my pain lowered relative to where it was.
All of that had a knock on effect to feeling physically a bit better and a more positive mindset.
What had been the biggest mistake you were making on your diet before and how did you change it at U.P.?
My biggest mistake was the fact that I had been given the information I needed to make the changes to my diet and I just couldn’t.
Psychologically it was a big leap for me. I felt like I’d lost so much through the cancer process that changing my diet was just something I couldn’t do.
My trainer knew my doctor’s advice and had put together a plan which I wasn’t following.
He would always try and talk to me about nutrition both in person and over email, always in contact even when I was travelling. I pretty much ignored him and deleted his emails.
But he was always there in the background, and supportive and encouraging. After a seriously bad flare-up and an enormous amount of pain I realised that I was sabotaging myself, that my trainer was invested and committed to helping me make the diet changes I needed to, and I was stupidly ignoring that to my own detriment.
That support from my trainer and the fact that he could have just given up trying to persuade me (I was such an awkward client!) was what changed the whole process for me. Without that support, I don’t know I had it in me to do it myself.
What was the one most important lifestyle change you made and how did it help achieve your transformation?
Diet, diet, diet. Changing my diet reduced my body inflammation, helped me drop fat, reduced my pain which all helped my performance in the gym and subsequently getting stronger. For me, the diet is the foundation.
What were your results like after your transformation?
Because I wasn’t concerned about an aesthetic transformation I was very focused during the process on how I felt and really tuned into that.
There is no “after” for me, only a beginning and the results of investing in this process were pretty immediate.
My health objectives are long term, I want to stay strong and stay out of the hospital as much as possible and be there as an active member of my family for my husband and son.
What I can say is that it’s gotten to the point where it’s really, really exciting now.
I feel like I walked in the doors of U.P. one version of myself and somewhere throughout this process they’ve optimised my body and shown me what I’m really capable of.
It’s like they’ve given me keys to a Ferrari and all I want to do is drive it and test it out and see what it can do!
I’ve got this new-found strength, I started hitting PBs in my running and sprinting without actually trying, I’m starting training for a half marathon, my endurance has improved, I learned I could do chin-ups without having practiced before, and we found a squat position that I can actually do because it doesn’t cause pain in my hips which are damaged from radiation.
For me, these things are incredible!
To come from a place of not being able to walk at one point to be able to do these things is so incredibly humbling. I’m literally in awe at what my body can do.
What were the most important things you learned during your journey?
You’re a lot more capable than you think you are. Get out of your own way with what you think you can’t do. Just trust the process and roll with it.
There’s a reason these guys are the best at what they do, you’re not always the expert in you.
I thought I knew myself best, but I decided to trust Chris and so turned up, did what he asked in the gym and followed his advice and guidance on my diet.
I let Chris do the thinking for us which completely freed me mentally to actually focus my energy on my life. The transformation happened because of that.
It’s really not very complicated if you break it down. It was only around week 10 I realised I looked different, I really hadn’t noticed because I’d been feeling so amazing.
How are your health issues now?
My health issues won’t be cured or go away permanently.
My objective through U.P. is to try and optimise the management of the conditions, alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, eat a diet that doesn’t trigger flare-ups. All of which we have done.
Throughout the transformation I still had issues. I lost so much blood at one stage I had to have blood and iron transfusions, but my recovery was quicker than it would have been previously.
I still have flare-ups, but my pain levels are less on a day to day basis. I’ve specifically been able to reduce medication related to breaking down fats because of the diet plan in place and I’ve come off antibiotics for my intestines for the first time in months.
It’s worth pointing out that whilst U.P. won’t cure me of these issues it’s given me more confidence in my ability to handle them and the unknown and in terms of quality of life that’s had a massive impact.
Dealing with chronic illnesses is like being a prisoner in your own body. You wake up every day and you’re scared because you don’t know what’s in store for you.
But I don’t wake up scared anymore. Sure things go off the rails sometimes, but I feel I can deal with it.
How has doing this transformation changed you and do you think it will benefit you going forward?
It’s changed everything. I feel stronger than I have done in years both mentally and physically.
I feel more capable of dealing with my health issues and not let them rule my life.
I don’t feel that a decent quality of life is outside the realms of possibility for me anymore and there was a very low point where I really thought my health and well-being was at as good as it was going to get for me.
It’s made me realise that things don’t have to be perfect right away and that they may never be perfect, but it’s the faith and strength in yourself that you discover through this process that is what will ultimately take you through all aspects of life.
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