“I’ve lost around 20 kilos. Kokoda is literally scaring me into shape.”

Jarrod Stackelroth is a magazine editor. A sedentary desk job, coupled with study, stress and comfort eating, had seen him stack on tens of kilos in the past couple of years.

“When I heard about Kokoda it was something I really wanted to do. I had talked with my siblings about doing it together at some point but when it came to this trip, I was worried that physically I couldn’t handle it. Last year I really didn’t look after myself. Stress was high and self-care went out the window. Kokoda coming up fast has helped to change that.”

According to Jarrod, changes had to happen and not just for Kokoda.

“My wife Lyna and I have been married since 2011 but we’ve not been able to fall pregnant,” he says.

Lyna has PCOS, a condition that makes it harder but not impossible to conceive.

“We started seeking treatment in the past year or so and Lyna was told she has to lose up to 30 kilos first.”

Another complication came at the end of the year.

“We had to put the treatment on hold because Lyna found out she was pre-diabetic. Basically, all of her family have Type 2 Diabetes. The doctors said we had to get that under control before we could continue any other treatments.”

It was time for a change. They decided they needed to do it together, through exercise and diet.

The most significant thing the couple did was to switch to a completely plant-based diet. “It’s unbelievable how much more energy I have. There is less soreness after workouts. Overall we’re both feeling great.”

Together, the couple have lost almost 40 kilograms combined. Lyna has shocked her doctors by returning non-diabetic blood test readings and also coming off her medication for high blood pressure.

Lyna has also battled mental health problems but the couple say since switching to the new lifestyle, her resilience has increased and she is feeling more positive.

How did they achieve such massive results?

“They didn’t know about our journey but right at the start of the year, Lyna’s family started this 12 week weight loss challenge. We’re both competitive so that helped to push us for a set time! It came at just the right time for us.”

The couple ate well and increased their activity, both together and separately. They took out the top prizes in the weight loss competition but they are not stopping there. Their larger goals are pregnancy and conquering Kokoda.

Jarrod has been walking at lunch time on the bush track behind his office, going the gym and is planning several longer walks in the lead up to Kokoda in July.

“This whole thing is changing our lives. We look forward to seeing the money that is raised change lives of pacific islanders, like our family, throughout the South Pacific.”

As the trek gets closer, Jarrod says he still has some goals to tick off but is much happier (and more confident) about completing the track.

“I’ve been putting in the work, now I’m seeing the results of the work and my fear is turning into excitement. I’m excited to be walking with my brother and Mum. I think as a family it will really bring us closer together and give us an amazing shared experience to reflect on in years to come.”