As a 20 stone nurse I felt guilty telling patients to lose weight – so I lost nine stone
Indignant looks were all nurse Kelly Foster got from patients if she told them to slim down – as she was a size 24. But thanks to a birthday gift and a healthy diet, she’s now a trim size 12
Nurse Kelly Foster took a deep breath and braced herself for the reaction. “You know, you really should think about losing weight,” she told the patient sitting in front of her.
The woman’s chin dropped and a look of sheer indignation spread across her face. This 20-stone nurse lecturing her clearly didn’t take her own advice.
Kelly burned red with shame. It was the same every time she tried to explain to obese patients on the renal unit about eating healthily.
“A healthy BMI will help ensure your kidney transplant is a success,” she continued. But the patient was too busy eyeing Kelly’s bulk up and down to listen.
Back home that night she broke down in front of her husband Marc.
“It’s so embarrassing having to tell them to lose weight when I’m this big,” she wept.
At a size 24, she was so ashamed of her bulk she even try to hide herself in the hospital canteen as she tucked into greasy chips and chocolate cake at breaks.
But soon the tide was to turn as Kelly found the determination to face up to her misery and put it right.
She asked Marc, 35, to buy her a weight loss course at a gym for her birthday. And Kelly embarked on a diet and fitness plan that transformed her life.
Now she has lost nine stone and is a stunning size 12. Once breathless from walking up the hospital corridor she now runs every day and is finally setting the right example to her patients.
“I feel amazing and I am really proud to be able to show my patients that losing weight really will improve their health and confidence,” she says. “I should know because I’ve done it – and my life has changed beyond recognition.
“It was so embarrassing at my size telling people to lose weight, you could see the shock on their faces to be told by someone who was morbidly obese themselves, but it was my job.
“It feels so good to practise what I preach and I am no longer a big fat hypocrite.”
“I knew I was too big but I used having the children as an excuse,” she says.
Over time, she became more and more self-conscious about her size. “I tried various different diets but the weight came off so slowly I would just lose my motivation,” she recalls.
As the pounds crept back on, her dented confidence would see her seeking comfort in food again.
Kelly would hide her body under baggy clothes, but she couldn’t hide the effects on her health.
Like the patients she advised at her local Stockport NHS Foundation Trust Hospital, she suffered joint pain and poor mobility. “I told myself life was just too busy with three children and two working parents. It was a constant race and for myself I relied on quick and easy food that meant it was often unhealthy.”
She often grabbed a plate of chips in the hospital canteen to save money.
“It was a fraction of the price of buying a turkey salad,” she says.
But as she grew in size, her confidence continued to shrink. Her relationship suffered because she didn’t want to socialise. But in September 2012, when Mark offered to treat her to a night away for her birthday, Kelly instead asked him to pay for her to join a weight loss class.
“I knew I’d have a rubbish time if we went away because I was so ashamed of my size, so what was the point? I needed to change my body more.” This time she was determined not to fail and signed up at her local Life Leisure Gym Inch Loss course.
She started the £100 eight-week programme of thrice-weekly exercises classes – combined with a healthy low-fat eating meal plan – with renewed hope.
“At first I couldn’t last for 10 minutes on the treadmill and felt so ashamed,” she says. But after a few classes Kelly became hooked on the supervised gym workouts and enjoyed cooking meals.
These could have no more than 10g of fat, which meant lean meats or fish with lots of vegetables.
* “I stopped taking money to work for chips and took my own packed salad and low-fat yoghurt, and once the kids were in bed I headed off to the gym leaving Marc to babysit,” she says. She dropped 8lbs in the first week and within six weeks had lost a stone.
As the weight fell off, her confidence and health improved.
She renewed her membership three times, going on to lose a further seven stone over the next two years by continuing with the healthy food, and adding swimming and jogging to her exercise. Soon she was down to 11 stone and a size 12.
And her efforts didn’t go unnoticed at work. “All my patients on the renal unit saw the transformation and were patting me on the back, which was lovely,” she says.
“Because I saw them regularly for treatment they could see the changes in me and were so supportive. And I kept having to get smaller uniforms as I shrank. One day I took my size 24 uniform into the gym and my personal trainer Colette and I could both fit inside it!”
But there was a price to pay for her weight loss. Kelly suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a rare condition that causes skin to stretch and break easily. So she was left with saggy skin on her stomach, arms and back. She says: “Because of my condition my GP said I would never be able to get rid of the skin myself no matter how much weight I lost.”
By now a keen runner, she found the skin became infected and sore when she ran and decided to pay privately to have it removed. “Diet and exercise had given me my health back, but unfortunately the saggy skin was a side effect I hadn’t expected.
“I had worked so hard for so long to finally lose the weight, I knew to make the most of it I would have to get rid of the skin.”
So in April 2014 she had a breast reduction op and last November took out a loan to pay for surgery to remove two stone of excess skin on her stomach and arms.
The operation was painful with a slow recovery, but earlier this year she finally began running again and last month completed the Great North Run half marathon.
“It’s crazy to think I was once so big that even walking down the long hospital corridors left me exhausted. Now I can run 13 miles,” she laughs.
And the milestones keep coming. Kelly wore a bikini on holiday for the first time this year and is now training for the London Marathon next April.
She says: “Now I’m no longer blushing at telling patients to lose weight.”
Weight before: 20st
NOW: 11 st
What Kelly ate before
Lunch: Sandwich and crisps, or plate of chips and a sandwich
Snack: Cake and a chocolate bar
Dinner: Takeaway or home-cooked meal followed by crisps
What she eats now
Lunch: Salad with lean meat or fish
Snack: Fat-free yogurt
Dinner: Vegetables with lean meat