Couch Potato To Wonder Woman

Couch Potato To Wonder Woman
Image: Crossland Photography

I can’t run more than 50 metres without stopping. I need help lifting a box of groceries. I can barely touch my toes. I keep eating more cake, and just buying bigger pants.

My body fat percentage is higher than my age. I am 34 years old, and I am not looking after my health. But that’s about to change. By this time next year, I am going to be a real life Wonder Woman.

Couch Potato, to Wonder Woman.

That picture above, dressed as Wonder Woman, is me.

Wonder Woman is a huge role model of mine – her compassion, justice and her strength. When I usually talk about Wonder Woman’s strength, I really mean her inner strength. But now I mean her physical strength, too. Crushing your enemies with your bare thighs kind of strength.

“But Rae,” I hear you say, “Diana Prince is (in some comic arcs, depending on the origin story) an Amazonian warrior gifted with literal powers from the gods. You break a sweat walking up the slight incline to your apartment from the train station. How can you possibly achieve this?”

Aim for the stars, fall on the moon, collect some moondust and pat yourself on the back. Or something like that.

Now you, treasured reader, are welcome to follow me on this journey. But here’s what you’ll need to know before we begin – five things I’ve discovered already.

1. I’m learning – and that means you can too

Ho boy am I by no means an expert in sports stuff. My nickname is school was butter fingers. My legs flick out to the sides when I run. I swim with my head out of the water like a Nanna – all I need is the flower-covered swim cap.

But I really, really want to be able to do cool things before my body decides it’s just too late. I want to be able to run a marathon, swim in the ocean, lift a small car over my head and throw it into a crowd of zombies.

This is why I’ll be engaging the services of experts. Personal trainers, swimming coaches, an impossibly cool martial arts extraordinaire – people who successfully lift heavy stuff and can run a reasonable distance without getting a stitch.

They will be giving us both advice – because when I learn something, I’ll let you know.

I’m also expecting to be learning a lot about myself, my relationship with my body and how I see it. That’s already begun, in a way.

2. Comparing yourself to a bikini model is a bad idea (even when that bikini model is you)

This is me, aged 28. Six short years ago.

A literal bikini model. Do you know how I looked like that? No, really, do you know? I was eating rubbish, never exercising, never giving a second thought to my weight. I was also pretty miserable at the time. As I got happier, my metabolism went trekking in Peru or something, I can only assume. I hope it’s having a great time.

This is me now. Today. This photo was taken minutes ago. This is my official “before” photo.

Image: Lifehacker

This me is so much happier – with great friends, family, career, even a pet turtle. I wouldn’t trade my life now for the one I had in the bikini model picture for anything in the world. Even if I was in body fat percentage bracket not called “obese” which I absolutely am now and oh wow doesn’t that throw my self esteem around a little.

Comparing yourself to a bikini model is a bad idea. Comparing yourself to anyone is a bad idea, even an earlier version of yourself. This about you, your body, right now, with the life you have today. We are all different, unique and a bunch of other words you’d find on an Instagram #inspo post about loving yourself. Because the reality is, I do love my body right now, just the way it is.

But it’s not about that.

3. The most important thing about your body isn’t what it looks like

A lifetime of being told, in every single way a message can be relayed to someone, that the most important thing about your body is how attractive it is to someone else is ridiculously damaging.

Allow me to let you in on a secret. Your body is a machine. A badass, totally magical machine that does some incredible things. Being able bodied is a gift. If your body is physically capable of running – no matter if you are good at it or not – that’s a straight up miracle. And it deserves to be rewarded for what it can do, not chastised for not meeting some kind of visual ideal. Your body is no one’s but your own. Treasure it.

I’m not saying this from a place of enlightenment. I’m saying this from the place of someone who needs to remind themselves of this on pretty much a daily basis. I’ve never really done “mantras”, but this may be the one I start with.

I have not been treasuring my body. I’ve been outright neglecting it. And it deserves better.

4. It’s not about you (them, not you)

As someone with an “Internet presence” (I’m so sorry, I’m not a douche, I promise, but there are 120k people on my Facebook page so I feel like this is a fair statement to make) there is an element of “ownership” complete strangers claim to have over how you look.

As though every image posted is for their personal approval. You are a product they are consuming, and it must meet their specific, personal requirements. And they will tell you straight up when they think you’re too big/small/weak/strong/short/tall/pale/dark/brunette/much of an actual human being as opposed to an ideal they have created in their minds of what you should be at all times.

Of course this happens in the “real world” too.

Apparently well meaning friends and relatives pinching your upper arm and smirking, commenting casually about your size (I used to get “you’re too skinny!” now it’s “look at how fat you’ve gotten”) and the never ending unsolicited advice on how to “get fit” from people who have been sporty their entire lives.

There’s no “winning”. There’s only reclaiming.

Yes, it may sound a little dramatic, but I’m “reclaiming” my own body. It’s about to undergo physical changes. And these criticisms are going to come in thick and fast. I’ve seen it happen with others, and I’m not silly enough to think I’ll be immune to the “but I liked your body better before” and “you’re fine the way you are” comments.

So a reminder to all those out there who feel an element of ownership over my body, and what I do with it, in any way: it’s not about you. It never was, and it never will be. My shield is up.

5. Finding something you love to do is the key (apparently)

This is what I’ve been told, at least. I don’t mind swimming, even if I’m not very good at it. I found spin class boring. Obstacle courses seem pointless. Lifting weights is scary.

But if a change is to be made, it has to start with my attitude. So it’s clean slate time. Throw my pre-conceived notions of what I do and don’t enjoy out the window, and try a bunch of stuff.

I’m talking fitness apps, climbing mountains, running as the sun rises, doing yoga in my PJ’s, deadlifting my body weight, riding my pushbike to work and learning how to karate chop someone in the throat. I still need to have focus, though – which brings me to The Plan.

The Plan

Basically, if I’m going to engage in a complete transformation be a real life wonder woman, there are these things called “pillars of fitness” I’m told are actual things that I will need to focus on. They are:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Endurance
  • Killing a man with my bare hands AKA badassery
  • Eating food that fuels me

Over the next few days I’ll be engaging the services of experts in these fields, gaining a more accurate idea of what my starting point is, and working out some achievable goals.

Step one, of course, was making myself accountable. Here I am. I’ll also be on Instagram, posting with #CouchPotatoToWonderWoman.

I can’t wait to begin.


  • Sounds like a great approach lined up, I’m looking forward to seeing your progress! About 10-15 years ago I went from an obese couch potato to a healthy-weight regular exerciser (lost about 40kg all up) and it was the best thing I’ve ever done. Kickboxing, weights, long-distance running and healthy eating all contributed to the most amazing feelings of confidence, strength and wellness that I’d just never experienced before. Good luck on your journey :).

  • Well done Rae. I lost 29kgs in 2016 and intend to go harder on myself in 2017. I’ve got another 45kgs to go and when I eventually hit that goal, then I want to bulk up a little with muscle. I look forward to following your Instagram this year.

  • Have you decided on which martial arts, unarmed combat etc you are going to try?

    And if you are going to continue with swimming, I highly recommend the Total Immersion technique/method. It was mentioned in Lifehacker earlier this year ( but a triathlon friend recommended it to me year ago.

    Also you need to record your starting “benchmark” before you get going. Get your body fat measured. What can you actually deadlift/squat/benchpress? How many push ups or chin ups can you do? What’s your swim lap time? How flexible are you? etc etc Then at the end, you will be able to see the improvements you’ve made.

    • “Over the next few days I’ll be engaging the services of experts in these fields, gaining a more accurate idea of what my starting point is, and working out some achievable goals.”

      Yep, all the benchmark stuff will be covered by a personal trainer – this will be done properly 🙂

      I haven’t decided on a martial art as yet, I’ll be exploring my options very soon, though.

      Cheers for the TI tip! Looks interesting!

  • Grappling is a great martial art in its own right and is hella good as a full body workout. Requires strength, flexibility, brains, zen and endurance. Ask Spandas.

  • For badassery, I recommend Combining Kick Boxing (stand game) and Brazilian Jui Jitsu(ground game). You’ll then be one badass mixed martial artist!

  • I’ll try and follow your articles! I started something similar in July (Wondy is also a big inspiration for me) and I’ve been going strong since! Working with a great female PT has been huge, as well as taking up ice hockey, so I look forward to seeing what your journey to taking control of your body looks like.

  • Rae, I follow you on Facebook and I always tell you how beautiful you are no matter what. I want to thank you for encouraging me to find my inner superhero. As I am going on 46 years old, I am scared of my weight approaching 200 pounds. Thank you for everything you do & even replying to my feedback sometimes on Facebook. Happy 2017 to you and may God continue to strengthen you & to fulfill your wishes in the future.

  • Rae you still look great, and your face beams of inner and outer beauty. However good on you for wanting to improve your fitness for yourself, and not for others. Thats the main thing. Finding happiness within and being at peace with who you are no matter if you’re short, tall, skinny, heavy, black, white, etc. None of that matters. Wish you the best of luck on your journey. I do believe that having a healthy body is the main thing. The problem is that because of celebrities and fitness freaks, we get mixed messages about what it means to be healthy. I’ve got a bit of a belly and have put on a bit of weight over the years, but am not unhealthy. I get a blood test done every year which shows my iron, sugar, cholesterol levels etc are all perfectly normal. Sure I should be squeezing in some exercise on a regular basis to keep my muscles fit (but I do have two rug rats that kinda help with that, along with a daily 30 minute walk 5 days a week), but otherwise Im happy with how I look and who I am. You’re only competition is you, not a celebrity, a model, or a fitness fanatic. All the best in 2017.

  • Don’t rule out training for an obstacle course like True Grit or Tough Mudder.

    They require all of your fitness goals above. Perhaps not too much of the “killing someone” aspect but the training required to complete some courses in a decent time will make you want to kill your PT.

    Running these courses can be fun. Especially doing it as a team effort where it’s about getting everyone over the line.

    But mostly since they can be a goal or target to aim for. Which will help through the tough bits of your training (sorry, there will/should be quite a few!)

    Good luck

  • Looking forward to seeing results in a year Rae! I myself after a health scare a few years ago have lost 25kgs. I did the Gym for at least 3 days a week for a year (mostly cardio), did more surfing and got back into martial arts again. The biggest factor was a diet/lifestyle change, basically just eat less crap! Do my best to avoid sugar when possible (no soft drinks at all!) and keep fairly high protein and low carbs but most of all limit Junk food to once or twice a month (fast food drive thru and such) Been about 2 years now only been to the Gym and Karate a few times this year, still go surfing (when it is sunny….) Go for a walk along the beach a few times a week and just keep eating good food. Have lost a few more kilos (without trying) this year and much happier, more energy and does help when people I haven’t seen for a few years “Geez your looking good!” Best of luck Rae, looking forward to the new Wonder Woman outfit Dec 2017!

  • I like that you know your thicks and thins. At least, you have an idea what you were before and what you are right now so you can work over it accurately. I really look forward seeing you achieve your desired target soon Rae! Good Luck 🙂

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