At only 37 years of age, Caraldine Nolan has suffered more trauma than most people do in a lifetime.
Yet her positive attitude and outlook is inspiring. Living in Dublin, she is originally from Portlaoise, brought to the big city by marriage. With a cheeky smile she tells us that she only shook hands with Declan Nolan once and she knew she had met her husband. That was in 2004 and now the couple have three children, Laoise (16), Dylan (12) and Declan (10).
“I went home and told my mother, ‘I met my husband’. We had Laoise a year later, got married in 2007 and then that’s when the trauma started.”
Caraldine describes it is “a series of traumatic events” having become ill after the birth of her youngest son:
“Declan was sick, but I was also sick.”
A rocky start
Caraldine’s children were all born premature, the boys with complications. After the birth of her last son, he spent time in the Coombe and then went straight to Crumlin. At one point, she says it very stressful.
“I didn’t get a chance to take care of myself and as a result I ended up needing a sub-total hysterectomy.
“We were involved with a lot of services such as Enable Ireland, Dyspraxia Ireland and Jack and Jill.”
As a result of a lot of trauma Caraldine suffered a nervous breakdown.
“I was always very nervous about telling people about this event in my life, as I felt I would be viewed as always having this characteristic. But in fact it was the making of me.
“It may never ever happen to me again in my whole entire life, as it was the result of a series of traumatic events, but I will always suffer anxiety as a side effect.
“I was admitted to Tallaght Hospital and did my care plan mostly with services outside the hospital. It was very hard at times as I felt it was easier to stay that way. Seeing the wood from the trees seemed like a long hard process. I was on medication and gained five stone weight in five months.
“Your mindset doesn’t just come back as soon as you start taking medication. I had to start working on myself.
“Although you know about the side effect of the weight gain when you start the medication, I never let the thought leave me; I would rather be overweight and mentally well, than healthy body mass index (BMI) and sick. It’s very important if you suffer and are prescribed medication, that you follow the advice of your GP.”
Caraldine recommends going to a weight consultant or class if you find yourself in this situation; “If I had followed Weight Watchers (WW), I would not have had a five-stone gain. What that medication does is make you eat, sleep and breathe food. You’re thinking about tomorrow’s dinner and you are only eating today’s breakfast.”
Journey back to a healthy weight
On a family day out, an effort to climb what seemed to Caraldine like a mountain but was only a small hill, was a turning point.
“My flip flop had given away, I was totally out of breath, my heart was palpitating, it was really tough. That was it. I was 15 stone 10 pounds at five feet tall and that was a defining moment. I went to WW then (2017) and achieved my goal weight by the end of 2018 before going on to become a leader myself.”
As a further challenge, that same year a cyst grew on her ovary, sticking to her bowel which led to Caraldine getting an ileostomy bag when her bowel was about to perforate.
With her upbeat attitude, she reflects: “I suffered all my life with my bowel and this fixed it. I used to be really sick all the time, hospital admissions, pains, adhesions, surgeries and the minute I got the bag, it all stopped. My life changed.”
Now as the voluntary Dublin co-ordinator for the Ostomy Association of Ireland, she helps to organise nurses and provides advice and support and help to others with a colostomy or ileostomy bag. Caraldine is also a co-ordinator for a small support group for children with ostomys. During COVID-19, Caraldine organised the Great Mammy Bake raising €3,750 for The Buzz Club Tallaght (Dyspraxia Ireland).
With her own weight-loss goal achieved she became a coach in 2019, winning newcomer of the year in 2020, but it was not just Caradlines goals that were achieved she explains.
“In my process of becoming well, my journey and that of my sons intertwined. What happened was I was trying to lose weight and I was trying to get Declan to orally feed and I was trying to get Dylan to read from a book so he wouldn’t have to attend a special school, because he wasn’t able to read. I really wanted him to stay in a mainstream primary school with the help of his resource teachers.
“What happened was that mommy created the recipes, Dylan read the recipe and Declan ate the food! So, it was a win-win for all of us.”
Declan is off his peg since the age of eight and Dylan is in sixth class in mainstream school. Their teenage sister Laoise loves baking.
Caraldine first became a coach to encourage her to leave the house as a hobbie. At first it was as a physical workshop coach, but with COVID-19 her classes moved online. During the pandemic, what she created was a vibrant online community of women and men keen to lose weight but also to eat and live a healthy balanced lifestyle.
In relation to the closure of the Irish WW franchise, just before Christmas, Caraldine is keen to acknowledge that she would not be where she is today without them, she has made some fantastic friends and has a great support network. That said, however the announcement on 18 December 2021 was devastating for her and the other coaches.
The communication – or lack of it – from WW Ireland was particularly badly managed, she says.
“I was extremely upset that we were advised at 2pm and only by e-mail that we had lost our jobs with our members informed at 4pm that same day. To say I was absolutely devastated is an understatement.”
Inundated with support over the following days, and despite several panic attacks, Caraldine thought: “I couldn’t let the community I had built up go” and decided by the following Monday to go out on her own.
“I didn’t want to go back down the road of my mental health being affected having lived such a positive life for the last number of years. I wanted to be resilient and decided to set up Caraldine’s Weigh-less Wonders. I designed a plan, had it passed by a nutritionist and as I had already just completed a weight consultancy course with ITEC, I was ready.”
“Once a lady rang me and told me that her washing machine was broken and she had gained three pounds. I laughed and said it doesn’t cook your food but afterwards, it really made me think: was it that there were clothes everywhere and she was stressed or she couldn’t afford to get it fixed and her mindset was wrong to eat right?
My aim is to continue being Caraldine, to keep being positiv
“My programme is a whole mind-body programme, exercise and food budgeting and mindfulness sessions. When people are struggling at any end, we want to have that covered in the community. I understand better than anyone how important that is and these are all covered in your payment option.
“My aim is to continue being Caraldine, to keep being positive, creating and recreating foods and showing the world that no matter what life throws at you – you can fall many times, but you can dust yourself off and keep going. And most of all do it with a smile.”
On the veganuary campaign, Caraldine says: “If anyone jumps into anything like veganuary, it’s important they really look into what they’re doing.
Her advice? “Complete a meal plan first and make sure that you are getting the correct nutrients and vitamins. It’s about finding balance, that’s the most important thing. People jump into these things without properly educating themselves and can sometimes end up anaemic and exhausted or ill.
30g self-raising flour
½ tsp of baking powder
1 tbsp of 0% fat Greek yoghurt
Low-calorie spray oil
Makes six scones
170g self-raising flour
3 heaped tbsp 0% fat-free Greek-style yoghurt
1 tsp of baking powder
Handful of blueberries (optional)
5g of sweetener/xyteriol
1 tsp vanilla extract
Sticky pineapple chicken
2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 slices of Brennan’s Be Good bread
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp lemon pepper
For the sticky pineapple:
Veg of choice
3 chopped pineapple rings & 30ml of pineapple juice from the tin
2 tbsp of white wine vinegar
1 tbsp sweetener
1 tbsp passata
2 tbsp of maple syrup
Makes one loaf
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp nutmeg
20g light brown sugar
Tin of chickpeas, blitzed
2 bananas, mashed, plus 1 banana chopped for topping
2g sesame seeds to sprinkle on top