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How my work changed my life

Posted by: Julie Meek

Today, Gill Rees describes herself as confident, energetic, focused and on target with her health and well being. However, until recently this corporate executive and mother of two could never have imagined being able to describe herself in this way. 

Born and bred in the UK, Gill’s lifestyle in the famous cold and wet climate was one that involved almost no exercise, high stress levels, erratic sleep habits and a less than ideal diet featuring too much sugar and saturated fat.

At the time, despite Gill rating herself as very resilient, working as an executive for Lloyd’s Banking Group was highly demanding and involved a substantial amount of stress, which impacted negatively on her health and well being.

In 2011, a life-changing opportunity arose to move across the globe to take up her current position as executive general manager of human resources at Bankwest, Western Australia.  

Arriving in Western Australia in the summer months, the contrast in climate could not have been more dramatic for Gill, particularly as she found herself relocated to one of the coastal suburbs of Perth.

It’s hard not to get motivated by the constant stream of people walking, running, cycling and swimming along the coast and Gill found herself drawn to walking along the well-beaten path whilst admiring the breath-taking view of the Indian Ocean.

The fact that the sun was actually shining was the icing on the cake. Moving to Perth had enabled Gill to take stock of her life and health, and with this came the realisation that losing weight and improving her health was not only desirable but essential. It was at this point she decided to get professional help.

Gill’s workplace greatly assisted her motivation to make lifestyle changes.

According to Gill, Bankwest, alongside a growing list of workplaces, believes that improving the health and well being of their team may contribute to increased productivity, improved culture, less absenteeism and a happier workforce.

Not long after Gill arrived, Bankwest’s health and well-being program was launched and to date has included the Global Corporate Challenge (physical activity), Pit Stop Health Checks and mental health initiatives.

With the help of a peak performance specialist and accredited practising dietitian, Gill got to work on overhauling her diet and designing a structured exercise plan. This meant regulating the timing of meals and snacks, significantly increasing her intake of fruit and vegetables, waving goodbye to a regular intake of lollies and reducing her intake of saturated fat.

Just one year down the track, Gill has significantly decreased her weight, waist to hip ratio, body fat levels and blood lipid levels. These results are certainly life changing but there are others just as important. The benefits that Gill ticks off include; improved flexibility, physical strength, stamina and endurance plus feeling happier and younger.

Gill now finds that her brain and body feel sharp and focused throughout the whole day, improving her decision making skills. As a result, Gill believes she has become a better leader for it.  Gill has noticed that her persistence and resilience has been bumped up quite a few notches and with constant travel part of her role, they are essential qualities. 

Gill’s healthier habits alongside her improved physical and mental being have become obvious not just to her team but also to other leaders within and outside of Bankwest. Gill strongly believes that it is never too late to improve your health and has become an inspiration and role model to many others over the past year.

The journey is not without speed bumps and certainly not over yet as Gill is well aware that healthy habits need to be kept in check. Gill is now engaged in a strength and cardio program and plays golf each weekend, an enjoyable routine she couldn’t have predicted a few years ago. As Gill sums up: “With confidence comes courage.”

Want to be like Gill but don't know where to start? For more tips and resources on how your workplace can help you become healthier visit:



About Julie Meek

Accredited practising dietitian, performance specialist, speaker

View all posts by Julie Meek

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