One of Australia's Most Popular Podcasts with Hundreds of 5 Star Reviews

Grab your FREE Ebook copy now!

Have you struggled to lose weight and keep it off?

Start your journey to boost metabolism and transform your body into a fat-burning powerhouse.

Episode 203:
Show Notes 


In this episode, Dr Lucy Burns engages in a candid and insightful conversation with Donna Freeman, a member of Real Life Medicine for two years, who shares her remarkable journey of real health and weight loss. Donna's story is one marked by unexpected twists and profound resilience, offering valuable insights into the transformative power of holistic wellness practices and the importance of community support.

Community Support: Donna emphasises the supportive environment of the Real Life Medicine community as pivotal in her journey. She reflects on how the understanding and camaraderie within the community provided her with a sense of belonging and encouragement, essential elements on her path to wellness. The shared experiences and mutual support fostered by the community helped Donna navigate challenges and celebrate victories along the way.

Resilience Amidst Challenges: Facing a breast cancer diagnosis was a profound test of Donna's resilience. However, she acknowledges that her prior focus on metabolic health through Real Life Medicine's guidance equipped her with the mental and physical resilience necessary to confront the challenges with fortitude and determination. Donna's journey serves as a testament to the empowering effects of holistic health practices in preparing individuals for life's unexpected hurdles.

Metaphors of Transformation: Dr Lucy introduces a compelling metaphor likening Donna's health journey to that of an athlete in training, unaware of the ultimate event they are preparing for—a cancer diagnosis. This analogy beautifully captures the notion that consistent dedication to one's health prepares individuals to navigate unforeseen challenges with strength and resilience. Additionally, Donna offers her own metaphor of planting a tree to illustrate the transformative nature of health journeys. She describes how, like planting a seed, consistent self-care efforts may initially seem small but ultimately yield unexpected benefits and growth in various aspects of life.

Holistic Wellness Practices: Donna's journey underscores the importance of holistic wellness practices in achieving sustainable health outcomes. Beyond focusing solely on physical health, Donna highlights the significance of nurturing emotional and psychological well-being. She emphasises the need for individuals to cultivate a holistic approach to their health, recognising the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit in achieving overall well-being.

 Join the waitlist for the 12 Week Mind Body Rebalance and snaffle up extra bonuses when you sign up:

For more information about Real Life Medicine and our programs and special offers:

Episode 203: 


Dr Mary Barson (0:04) Hello, my lovely friends. I am Dr Mary Barson.

Dr Lucy Burns (0:09) And I'm Dr Lucy Burns. We are doctors and weight management and metabolic health experts.

Both (0:16) And this is the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast!

Dr Lucy Burns (0:23)  Good morning lovely friends, Dr Lucy here. How are you? I am without Dr Mary today. But I have an extra special guest for you today, I'm sure that many of you will relate to Donna's story. Donna is one of our members and she has kindly come along to share her story and her journey of real health and weight loss which involves some ups and downs, and I think that is what makes it all the more real. Donna, welcome to the podcast.

Donna Freeman (0:48)  Thank you. 

Dr Lucy Burns (0:50)  Good. So I thought my lovely, we could just start by perhaps just introducing yourself and telling listeners a little bit about who you are and where you started and we'll just evolve as the chat goes on. 

Donna Freeman (1:03)  Sure. Okay. So my name is Donna. I have been a low-carbaterian for about four years now and I've been a Real Life Medicine follower for two years, about that. And who am I? I'm in a lovely partnership with a gorgeous man. We live in the Dandenong Mountains in Victoria and we have lots of fur babies and lots of beautiful native plants around. I just wish I could spend my entire life with my plants and my animals. But I also work as a social worker. 

Dr Lucy Burns (1:42)  Aha! yes, yes, it's pesky when work gets in the way of you know, skipping through the plants and the pets. 

Donna Freeman (1:49)  Exactly! I wish we didn't need money or our money tree would bear some fruit.

Dr Lucy Burns (1:54)  Indeed, indeed, I think we all wish that. So, gorgeous one, tell us where did you start your journey? Like what was your impetus to make some changes for your health?

Donna Freeman (2:05)  My start with low carb came very unexpectedly because I wasn't actually looking to do anything about my weight, despite the fact that I had struggled with my weight my entire life, or at least as long as I can remember. But it started when I went to go and see a GP who was just kind of figuring out whether I thought he was the right GP for me. I went to go and see him about something completely unrelated and in the appointment, he asked me how I was feeling about my weight and I told him my way, it's always been an issue. He introduced me to low carb. So that's where that journey started. I was very keen to do something about my weight. But where I got really, really serious was about, I don't know, maybe a year to 18 months after that, I discovered that I had a bit of an issue with blood pressure. I was taught by this wonderful GP that I could actually adjust the blood pressure issue by losing weight and not have to go on to any medication. I landed up having a fall in my backyard and if anybody knows the den in the gardens, they are really steep. I fell four meters, rearranged my face on every plant on the way down, broke my fall with my forehead on our wooden deck and they ended up in the hospital. And the first thing they did in the hospital was they put me on blood pressure medication. That was the absolute turning point, I was determined to get off this blood pressure medication and my goal was my 50th birthday present to myself is to get off this blood pressure medication.

Dr Lucy Burns (3:57)  Oh, I love the way that you've framed that as a gift to yourself that getting off medication is a gift.

Donna Freeman (4:04)  Yes and it really is. Wow. Is it ever? Is it ever? Yeah. And I knew that for me and probably for most people, the issues with food and issues with eating are not nutritional or it's not about energy or nutrition. It's about psychological stuff, you know, and I've now said that I recognise 80% of what we put in our mouth is for psychology and 10% is for fuel initiation. Yeah. And I knew I needed to address the psychological aspect of it and went looking and that's how I found Real Life Medicine.

Dr Lucy Burns (4:41)   Oh, yeah, yeah, yay! Well, as you know, that's something we love. You know, what you eat is important. Absolutely and what you eat can change, absolutely change your health. You know, we always talk about food as medicine. But why you eat is actually the determinant if you understand why you eat then you can change what you eat.

Donna Freeman (5:00)  If getting on top of my health, and my weight was about just changing what I eat, then I could have done it easily with my GP, Laplanche or I could have done it with Weight Watchers, or I could have done it with the Lemon Detox Diet, or I could have done it with any of the other things that I tried. But I knew, as a counselor myself, that you can't be your own counselor, can't be your own therapist, and I needed to address the psychological side of things. 

Dr Lucy Burns (5:29)  Ah, amazing! Amazing. So do you think that tipping point then was the medication though the getting put on blood pressure meds? 

Donna Freeman (5:38)  Getting put on blood pressure medication was absolutely the tipping point and that's what made me get serious about losing weight. 

Dr Lucy Burns (5:47  And what was the worry? Like what were you worried about with the blood pressure?

Donna Freeman (5:51)  Well, I thoguht I'm only 49 and I'm now on blood pressure medication. I'm so heavy and so overweight that I can't sit with my legs crossed like a lady because my thighs are too fat, and I'm uncomfortable. I put off going for a walk with friends because I'm embarrassed about how much huffing and puffing I'm doing. So yeah, realise, you know, just finding myself in hospital with this absolutely swollen face. My eyes were swollen shut with contact lenses in them. I had to pull my eyes open to get the lenses out after two days. Yeah, I guess it was a health crisis. It was a fall and it was a fall because of a loose rock. It wasn't, you know, a heart attack or a stroke or, or anything like that. But yeah, it’s you know, emergency doctors and being worked on to medication immediately. Yeah, it was a big fraud. I was only 49. I felt like I've got a lot of years ahead of me, and my life is already pretty shit physically, and I really wanted to turn that around.

Dr Lucy Burns (7:06)  Yeah, that's interesting. I mean, we often describe that there's a trigger, like people will, you know, cruise along kind of knowing that they probably need to do something, but you know, maybe they want to or maybe feel like it's going to be too hard, or maybe kind of keep putting it off till you know, the times more perfect. And then there's a trigger something that goes you know what, it's time I've got to do something. 

Donna Freeman (7:29)  You're the one who says when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of making a change, that's when you'll make the change. And to all those friends of mine, I'm talking to you. I wish you would just take on board what I've learned and make some changes. But obviously, you haven't reached that pain threshold yet, because you haven't made the change. But yeah, yeah, you know, you wish others could learn from your mistakes. They can't, they can learn from their own. 

Dr Lucy Burns (8:02)  Yeah, but it's interesting because so many people once they make the change and realise that it wasn't actually as hard as they thought it was going to be often say I wish I'd done it earlier. I wish I'd done this five years earlier. I wish I'd done it 10 years earlier. So I think sometimes we think it's going to be much harder than it is. So yeah, I think that can be another way to look at it. And I always say to people, nobody ever, I don't have anyone who comes to me and goes, I'm glad I waited 10 years to make this change. But no, no one says that, oh, no one ever comes and says –Gee, I wish I'd waited later. Like I wish I'd waited another 10 years. No one says that. So it's always interesting to note that when your brain goes I'll do it later. Or I'll think about it or it's all too hard. Nobody ever regrets making the change. 

Donna Freeman (8:52)  Nobody, regrets making this change. But change is really frightening entering into a new anything is really frightening and for me personally, I know that I am very competitive against myself. And if I am going to do something then I have to do it. I have to excel I have to do it perfectly. I won't do it and or I won't do it at all if I don't think that I can do it perfectly. 

Dr Lucy Burns (9:24)  Yeah, it's so it's interesting because we often find people have you know, challenges when wanting to make changes. They are worried as you mentioned, scared even. It feels particularly and you sound a lot like me, Donna you know the lemon, the lemon water diet, the soup diet, the cabbage diet Weight Watchers, Pritikin, Israeli army diet was my first one in Scarsdale, all of those and it just feels like you're going to make it you're just going to do another diet and fail again.

Donna Freeman (9:57)  I suppose being a counselor, having had been in the industry for nearly 30 years when I started, I knew that I needed my support crew, needed to be a bunch who I absolutely trusted, and who I thought was smarter than me. But who were not going to preach at me or dictate anything to me and who would respect me and gees I hit the jackpot! 

Donna Freeman (10:34)  Awwe! Aren’t you gorgeous! Thank you!

Donna Freeman (10:38)  And I did actually, you know, start this, this journey with a different group helping me and I worked out pretty quickly that no, you're not the right group for me and it's for those reasons that I think it was that you guys have got the simple background of good old fashioned GP, but also women who had struggled. So yeah I think that was the greatest challenge for me, the challenge for me was, I am a counselor, and I see through everybody's bullshit, and I needed people who could see through me, but who would not be the superior professionals. Yeah, that was my biggest challenge and I needed the right coaches and you and Mary have been unbelievable in that regard.

Dr Lucy Burns (11:29)  Thank you! Thank you. And I think you're right, look, I'm a bit the same. If I have somebody I trust, I will basically just do what they say like if they told me to do something, and I think they've got good knowledge, and they've got good education, and they've been walked the walk, then I will follow them. But if there's somebody who tries to boss you around, and you don't trust them, I just ran away.

Donna Freeman (11:54)  I think there was a bit of an epiphany, I can't remember when it was the first time that I heard it, whether it was on a podcast, or whether it was in a Zoom, when I did my first round of the 12 Week Mind Body Rebalance. But it was you who talked about going to the petrol station and having sneaky chocolates in your car and hiding the wrappers. And it's like, Oh, my God, this gorgeous woman with such an unbelievable head on her shoulders, and a medical degree, and that's not easy to get and raise a family and be a woman, she hides chocolates, she stuffs chocolates down her gob, and then hides the wrappers. Or she fishes things out of the bin and like, I'd be mortified admitting any of that, used to be mortified to admit that kind of stuff to anybody. And hearing you are saying that you've done it and I've since heard you say it many times, not that you're bragging about it, but just that, you know, it's not something that accidentally popped out of your mouth in a safe space once upon a time. You know, there's all the science behind what you guys deliver in Real Life Medicine but then there's also just this absolute down-to-earthness of real people who get some of the real stuff. And I still to this day call the petrol station, Lucy's dealer because if there's one thing that I have not been able to master, it's avoiding a bag of chips or chocolate at the petrol station.

Dr Lucy Burns (13:38) Well, I think it's uhm, there's power and vulnerability in recognising that because, you know, one of our other favourite sayings is that shame hates the sunlight. So when we keep things like that sort of behaviour that feels a little shameful, it feels like it's, you know, my old self would have said, Oh, it's weak, it's hopeless, don't tell anyone just scuffed them and quickly and don't get caught. That then becomes a self-perpetuating powerful story that certainly doesn't help me and doesn't help anybody else. When we share stories, like that sort of thing, it normalises it, so that people can feel safe to ask for help for it, rather than feeling like you have to hide or you have to not tell anyone or you have to solve it yourself. So yeah, I think it's, it's hard. And we, you know, we just did a podcast on clothes shopping, Mary and I were talking about how even still, even still, there is some deep-seated stories around you have to be thin, to be able to talk to people about losing weight that you, you know, who are we to be to help people with weight management and health if we're not aesthetically perfect. And then the counter story that runs parallel to that is we are exactly the right people to do that because we know what it's like. We don't have, you know, blessed genetics, where you know you're born lean, and you don't really have to work that hard or you do a little bit of work and you go from looking, you know, average to some sort of supermodel. We don't have that. So therefore, there should be more people who hopefully, share their stories and talk about the fact that they're not aesthetically perfect, but still have skills to teach. And that people can look after themselves in a beautiful nurturing way. And it doesn't have to be had punishing or play into that whole guilt and shame cycle that we've all, you know, fallen into from years of dieting.

Donna Freeman (15:48)  I was raised on grilled chicken breast with a squeeze of lemon juice. As soon as I was earning my own money, my first job was as a waitress at a pizzeria. As soon as I was earning my own money, I was buying my own food, because the food at home was so unsatisfactory and so boring. But my mother's entire sense of value is wrapped up in how she looks and she's just turned 80 and it's still there. Yes, yes, it's, and so that's your race me, that's the woman who raised me, that's the mirror to myself in my younger years. And I talked a bit earlier about that competitiveness in me and if I can't do it perfectly, then I won't do it at all. My mother is very petite and very small. She's short, and she's petite and I've got my dad's bone structure and I'm not particularly tall, but I'm much taller. I'm only five foot three, and I'm much taller than my mother. So you can imagine how tiny she is and so there's a part of me that, you know, if I can never be as dainty and petite and beautiful as she is, then why should I even bother to be thin? And besides eating a tub of ice cream is much more fun, than dieting anyway. So that was my life for a long time. Yeah.

Dr Lucy Burns (17:20)  It's tricky, my mum is from a similar vintage. And I think, you know, again, they were modelled dieting, smallness slimness. When you think about 80 years ago, women weren't working like we were their whole persona was wrapped up in, you know, attracting a husband who would take care of them. And they in you know, they would be small and tiny, as you said, dainty, needing fragile somewhat to be cared for by the very strong man of the house. So then, you know, we’re in the generation where that's changed and it was sort of tricky, because I think in our, you know, my teens, same thing, and now that I'm in my 50s, I'm like, I can't believe that I thought that I thought being small, like petite was something to aim for. Do you know, I used to squish my feet into shoes that were too small, because I was embarrassed about the size of my foot. So for decades, I wore size eight and a half shoes. I'm a nine and a half or a 10 and my poor feet. Yeah, because it felt you know, bad to have big feet when really, they're just your bones. 

Donna Freeman (18:37) We are so silly about how we think these things. Because my five foot three, like you've got bigger feet than me because you've got longer limbs than me and that makes you taller than me and my five foot three frame is envious of your frame because you're so lovely and tall. It's never occurred to me that you would have any shoes, particularly about the size of your feet. You're lucky because you're tall and everybody thinks someone else is lucky or has it better than us. 

Dr Lucy Burns (19:09)  But yeah, fascinating, isn't it? No, I had lots because I was always called big. Oh, you're a big girl, oh you're a big girl. And of course, big was also a euphemism for fat. So my brain forever to say that I was fat. And anyway, I guess, yeah, it's unpacking these stories and recognising them, unpacking them changing them is in the key. 

Donna Freeman (19:37)  Yeah, yeah, I'll just say we've all got baggage, but it just depends on how neatly our baggage is packed into so you need to unpack the stories and then repackage so it's a neater presentation, but you've got a better clip of grip over then than the chaos or the rubbish the stories were before. Yeah.  

Dr Lucy Burns (20:02)  So Donna, tell us about your health now, where are you now?

Donna Freeman (20:05)  That's a really interesting question because thanks to low carb for four years and Real Life Medicine for two years, I thought that I was in the best state of health I had ever been in, or at least have been in the last 20 or 30 years. And I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Yeah. And you know that because you were an amazing support, which really blew me away, because my engagement with Real Life Medicine is about my health, like my weight health and metabolic health. So yeah, the fact that you were so supportive around the cancer was fantastic. So where am I now I am, I'd say 95% over the massive surgery that I had to have and I am 50% have come to terms with the ongoing treatment that my oncologist wants me to have. But I am 100% grateful, aware and grateful that if I had not been in the state of metabolic health that I was in when this diagnosis was made, then I think the whole thing was awful, but it would have been more awful. Probably my recovery from surgery would have been harder, and my support network of professionals would have been different. So where I'm at now I'm on the tail end of this stupid cancer thing. Given the rate of cancer and our lifespans, I'm probably gonna get it again some other kind or a relapse, or well, but I'm definitely a HOTI, yes, I've actually just had my annual blood, with Ron, who's my low carb, GP, who I adore, and everything's fantastic. In regard to all the things you'd like our doctors to measure and I feel fantastic about my future health, the stuff I can, and that, specifically is the stuff I can control, I can't control whether there's already some little part of my DNA that's gone off on its own tangent and is reproducing cells that in five or 10 years time, I'm going to discover and there'll be some health crossroads that I'm gonna have to deal with. I can't do anything about that. But in terms of the things that I can control, and that is the things that are put in my mouth, that then affect how I operate, function and feel for the next hour, 24 hours, I can control all of that and I feel wonderful.

Dr Lucy Burns (23:04)  Most people when they start a program, their weights, not neutral, they're climbing. So a year afterwards, you know, they would have had another couple of kilos on or another couple or five or 10 and so there would be actually not just 10 kilos less than they are now. But often 20 kilos more than they are now if that makes sense.

Donna Freeman (23:27)  I actually don't even know what my starting weight was. And that's a real diet culture term, isn't it?

Dr Lucy Burns (23:34)  Yeah. starting weight, yes, absolutely. 

Donna Freeman (23:37)  Well, I don't know what mine was and the reason I don't know is because I hated myself so much, because of how high it had gotten that I hadn't gotten on for a while and I knew that I was continuing to put on weight because I was continuing to need to buy bigger clothes. I tell you a story that I hope listeners can relate to. I would buy clothes with the aim that if I just lose two or three kilos, they will look better or I will feel more comfortable. So I've gotten you know, these plastic tubs of size 10 stuff, size 12 stuff, size 14 stuff. And I was heading into making a tub of size 16 stuff because that was now in the size 18, and when I went from a 12 to a 14 that was mortifying, and I thought oh my god, well, I'll never get to a 16 Well, I was heading for 20. But the story I want to tell is just recently I pulled all of these tubs out because nothing in my wardrobe fits me it all falls off. It's all too big. What a lovely problem to have. So I pulled out all of these tabs and pulled them up close that I'd forgotten that I bought so many stuff still the tags on that had never been worn but because it's been so many years, I wouldn't wear any of those clothes, even though I do fit in them now, either because they're so dated, but they make me feel old and frumpy, or they just don't suit me anymore. My lifestyle is different. Sometimes I still look at myself in the mirror and I think, you know, I still got a long way to go because my bum is big and then there are other times I think, you know what a bum is big because that's the physique that I've got and I think there are men that love that kind of shapely, yes, yeah. And hopefully, my partner is one of them, because he chose me. And it really doesn't matter. But I just had this massive surgery because of my breast cancer. Part of the surgery involved taking a huge flap of skin from my ability to reconstruct my breasts and it means that I get a tummy tuck. Well, I'd rather not have cancer and therefore not have the tummy tuck. But the number of people who have said to me, Oh, my God, you look fantastic. Look how flat your tummy is. It's like, I've got this new credential of flat tummy. Most women in their 50s unless they have a very athletic build, are not going to have a flat tummy, especially if they have carried babies in their uterus, they are not going to have a flat tummy, so stop telling me that I am now worthy, that you're not telling me I'm worthy. But you're saying to me, I look fantastic. The subtext of that is, you're a better person now because you've got a flat tummy, you know when I've got a flat tummy, but I've also got some massive scars. I've also got some horrible nerve damage. I had to deal with cancer and spend for six weeks on my back because I was so sore. It's like, no, the flat time is not a good thing and then I put on a pair of jeans, and I love my flat tummy.

Dr Lucy Burns (27:05)  Again, it is so it's that little bit that we're stuck in, aren't we're stuck in, you know, you and I women of our generation are stuck in that conditioning that flat tummy is a to be a, you know, something to aspire to. If you've got one, you're better than someone who doesn't have one. If you don't have one, then you know you're not as good as someone who does. And then while our intellectual brain knows that that's rubbish and not true. Our conditioned brain goes, Oh, could be a little bit true, which is what Mary and I were, you know, dealing with when we were shopping for clothes shopping. And so, again, it just comes back to that thing where we go, you know, healthy on the inside HOTIs that is the aim. Because at the end of the day, if you have a flat tummy, but you've got breast cancer, well, it's not, you know, as you said, You'd rather not have your flat tummy, you not have had to deal with breast cancer. It's not a good trade-off. It's interesting still just navigating that little space.

Donna Freeman (28:05)  Those messages are so entrenched in our brains, and for the most part where people are walking around having no idea what the stories in their heads are. And I'm really, really grateful that I found a tribe that I felt safe enough to explore and unpack and get on top of some of those stories and repack my baggage.

Dr Lucy Burns (28:29)  Yeah, absolutely. All right, my gorgeous one, well thank you so much for sharing your story and I think that anybody, you know, cancer is, as I say, cancer is a bugger, it is unfortunately, prevalent. It's devastating. It's hard, the treatment is hard but if we can, you know, the way I like to think about your case, for example, is that you were like an athlete in training, not realising that the event you were training for was a cancer diagnosis. If you hadn't done that training, the way you would have navigated that event would have been much more different.  

Donna Freeman (29:15)  That's a wonderful way. That’s a Lucy metaphor. A Lucy metaphor, right? I use metaphors in my counseling all the time. Maybe that's why I relate to you so much. Yeah, spot on. And I think that's what's anything in life that you think that you're planting a tree because you need the shade, and then you discover that it attracts the birds and you become a bird lover. Yeah. And you had no idea you're a bird lover until the tree attracted the birds and that's what I think overall health is about and yeah, totally. I couldn't be happier. I couldn't be happier with my health at the moment. 

Dr Lucy Burns (29:57)  Awwe! Well darling I'm just happy that the large chunk of your cancer treatment is over and done with, that you've blitzing your way through it that you set yourself up in the best possible way not knowing what was around the corner, but managing it, and that you go on to have decades of a long and happy life. 

Donna Freeman (30:18)  Thank you so much. Lots of luck to you. xoxo

Dr Lucy Burns (30:22)  The information shared on the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast, including show notes and links, provides general information only. It is not a substitute, nor is it intended to provide individualised medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor can it be construed as such. Please consult your doctor for any medical concerns.

DISCLAIMER: This Podcast and any information, advice, opinions or statements within it do not constitute medical, health care or other professional advice, and are provided for general information purposes only. All care is taken in the preparation of the information in this Podcast.  Real Life Medicine does not make any representations or give any warranties about its accuracy, reliability, completeness or suitability for any particular purpose. This Podcast and any information, advice, opinions or statements within it are not to be used as a substitute for professional medical, psychology, psychiatric or other mental health care. Real Life Medicine recommends you seek  the advice of your doctor or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Inform your doctor of any changes you may make to your lifestyle and discuss these with your doctor. Do not disregard medical advice or delay visiting a medical professional because of something you hear in this Podcast. To the extent permissible by law Real Life Medicine will not be liable for any expenses, losses, damages (including indirect or consequential damages) or costs which might be incurred as a result of the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way and for any reason. No part of this Podcast can be reproduced, redistributed, published, copied or duplicated in any form without the prior permission of Real Life Medicine.