SHARON Tal was overweight, miserable and a serial dieter.
But after she had a baby and started tipping the scales at 120kg, she decided to take drastic action.
The Melbourne mother of one began trying to work out where her dieting was going wrong and came to a simple conclusion: it was all in the mind.
After addressing her mental health, she lost 20kg in five months and now shares her methods at her detox and counselling clinic, YouTube channel and radio show.
Sharon cut out sugar, wheat and dairy, and while there is scepticism from the medical profession about elimination diets, she says they work - as long as you fix your emotional issues along the way.
"I'd tried the Atkins diet, lemon diet, protein-only diet, no sugar, I tried everything," the 46-year-old told news.com.au. "I was one step away from diabetes.
"The doctors wanted to put me on [diabetes medication] Metformin, but I said no. I had to figure it out myself.
"I've done millions of therapies and invested thousands of dollars and I've cracked the code."
Sharon, who got her weight down to around 80kg, says she discovered it was her brain holding her back. "I was abused from the age of four to 14," she said. "I've been married and divorced twice. This was nothing to do with foods. It was stress."
She began practising mindfulness, getting more sleep, taking walks and ensuring she was hydrated, and believes these straightforward steps helped her keep the weight off for good.
"The disease is stress," she said. "It's the same problem being presented in different ways.
"When your body is at war all day, 'be on guard, be alert', you come home exhausted. It's essentially basic elementary fear, all your muscles getting tight."
With clients, she first asks about all elements of their lifestyle: how much water they drink, whether they have children, the details of any past trauma like an accident and what their vices are. These can be drugs, alcohol, sugar, salt, fast food, smoking and more, but all come down to the same issue, she says. "It's all trauma in the body," she said. "Breathe, walk in nature, drink water, reflect on where the tension is in your body and why it's there."
Sharon believes there are a few broad personality types - "anxious, plodding along, scaredy-cat and no energy". Her solutions are at heart the same.
"Clear the mind and the rest will follow," she says. "You have to keep it simple."
Sharon has been running her clinic for 15 years and uses kinesiology (the study of body movement for healing), reiki and counselling to help her clients. While many of her techniques are unorthodox, she insists they are effective.
"I had a client whose parents separated, then it was alcohol, party drugs, she didn't stop until she was 33 and saw me," she said. "It's about changing the mindset and the programming of the mind. It comes down to love."
Detoxing is now a huge and popular industry, especially after the excesses of Christmas and January, with many Australians taking part in Feb Fast this month in the hope of making up for all the treats.
The definition of a detox varies, but it typically involves eliminating alcohol, sugar, wheat, dairy and following a "clean diet" of mainly raw vegetables, fruits, juices and water, plus supplements and herbs.
While many health experts advocate taking breaks from alcohol and cutting down on junk food, most agree short-term detoxes are no replacement for a sustainable healthy lifestyle.
Mayo Clinic dietitian Katherine Zeratsky says the reason people report feeling better and more energetic from a detox is in part down to the fact the diet eliminates processed foods that are high in fats and added sugar and low in nutrients.
There is little evidence detoxes eliminate toxins from the body, and in fact, your kidneys and liver already have an effective system for doing this.
Ms Zeratsky says a detox could be a useful jump-start to making healthier food choices every day, but it is not possible to undo years of damage from unhealthy habits in a short time.
"If you're considering a detox diet, get the OK from your doctor first," she says. "It's also important to consider possible side effects. Detox diets that severely limit protein or that require fasting, for example, can result in fatigue.
Long-term fasting can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
"Colon cleansing, which is often recommended as part of a detox plan, can cause cramping, bloating, nausea and vomiting. Dehydration also can be a concern.
"Keep in mind that fad diets aren't a good long-term solution. For lasting results, your best bet is to eat a healthy diet based on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein."
- Sydney is the most expensive city to detox in, at $256.18 p/month. The Gold
- Coast is the least expensive at $208.89.
- Darwin is the most expensive city in which to be unhealthy at a whopping
- $336.12 p/month. Swapping to a healthy lifestyle can save you $116.78 p/month.
- Nike running shoes are most expensive in Cairns ($159.60), compared to Gold Coast ($109.89)
- Joining a gym is most expensive in Sydney ($72.91), compared to Perth ($56.83)
- If you swapped a life of booze, fast food and cigarettes for one of exercise and nutritious food you'd save $524.84 in Sydney and $626.40 in Melbourne.
Source: Numbeo and MyDiscountdeals.com.