As I flicked through the photos of my only daughter Aimee’s third birthday party, my eyes filled with tears. But it wasn’t because she looked so happy, or because she was growing up so fast… no, it was because next to her, I looked like a beached whale. I’d struggled with my weight as long as I could remember. All through primary school I’d been bullied because of my size. ‘Fatso!’ the boys shouted as I lumbered around the playground, too fat to join in the girls’ skipping. At secondary school the insults got worse, the looks from my classmates more sneering. So when I was 14, I decided to do something about it. I started a food diary and cut out the crisps and chocolates I constantly snacked on. It worked, too. I left school for the summer holidays a size 16 and the following September returned a size 8. Now people were looking at me for a different reason. And it felt good. Only trouble was, back at school I started back on the junk food. And so began years of crash dieting and yo-yoing weight loss. Then, at the age of 18, I fell pregnant. I saw it as a green light to eat what I liked. It didn’t take long for my 11 stone frame to expand. I saw the shock on people’s faces when the enquired when I was due and I still said six months. By the time my daughter Aimee was born, a perfect 7lb 11oz, I was almost 15 stone. A busy new mum, flitting between nappy changes and bottle feeds, I lost three stone in three months. But as time passed, I found that instead of losing the rest, I was actually putting weight on. With a young baby to look after it was easier to turn to convenience food than it was to cook meals for one from scratch. I got locked in a cycle of eating junk and then comfort eating more because I felt bad and wanted to cheer myself up by treating myself to a family-size bag of crisps and a bar of chocolate. When Aimee was one, I started a beauty therapy course in the evenings. Soon, I was bringing home takeaways every night. ‘I need to have a hot meal in the evening,’ I told myself as I bit into a greasy pizza dripping with melted cheese. I suppose deep down I knew my bottom was spreading over two cushions on the settee, but pulling on a pair of stretchy leggings and a baggy jersey top every day, it was easy to kid myself that I hadn’t gone up a dress size. ‘Hang on, I might just weigh myself,’ I said to my mate Kerry out shopping one morning when Aimee was two-and-a-half. When I saw the scales stop at 15 stone 2oz, I burst into tears. I had no idea I was that heavy. Too upset to carry on shopping, I went straight home. I’d no idea I’d got so big. That afternoon, as Aimee played with her toys, I looked down at myself. My leggings were a size 18, my top a 20. I was only 5ft 2in, who was I kidding? I wasn’t just overweight, I was morbidly obese. Ashamed I’d crept back up to more than I weighed when I was 9 months pregnant, I began avoiding going out. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone looking at me. ‘Come on!’ my friends cajoled. ‘You haven’t been out with us in ages.’ ‘Can’t get a babysitter,’ I shrugged. I knew if I said I was skint they’d insist on paying for me. As the weeks passed, the thought of leaving the house and people looking at me and laughing would trigger a panic attack. No, I told myself, it was easier to just stay in and hide away at home. Shut away with only Aimee for company, the depression and anxiety got worse. It became so bad that I couldn’t even go to the shops and had to get my groceries delivered. As I put away yet another home shop, stuffing the multipacks of crisps and chocolate biscuits into the cupboards and piling high the frozen pizzas, I thought how crazy it was. I hated the way I looked yet here I was seeking comfort in junk food… My weight crept up even further to 16 stone. Walking upstairs left me out of breath; even trying to bend over to shave my legs was painful. Over the next six months I only left the house just a handful of times. But each time my heart would race and paIms sweat. I knew I was suffering with agoraphobia. But I did my best to ensure Aimee went out with family and had lots of fun at home with me but I still felt like a bad mum. She deserved better. ‘Why don’t you come to the gym with me?’ Mum said gently one afternoon as she brought Aimee home. ‘I really think it would make you feel better.’ Reluctantly, I forced myself along a few times but my joints ached and again I started making up excuses. When I saw the worry in Mum’s eyes, I felt terrible. I couldn’t believe that I’d let myself get like this. But I still couldn’t cope with leaving the house alone. The next time I left the house was for Aimee’s third birthday party. Although they quickly composed themselves, I saw the look of shock on my family’s faces when I walked into the party. ‘Right, let’s have some photos,’ Mum said, grabbing her camera and pointing it at myself and Aimee. I froze. I’d always done everything I could to avoid having my photo taken. But this time, how could I refuse? What doting Granny doesn’t want a photo for her mantelpiece? And now, looking at the results, I felt sick. Aimee’s happy face was swamped by my bloated one next to hers, grinning widely even though inside I was dying. I decided I had to do something. Eating as little as possible that net week I managed to drop half a stone. But it was so hard trying to do it in on my own…I knew I’d soon be back tucking into a Double Pepperoni. So the next day I signed up to the Cambridge Plan, a meal replacement diet. It was drastic but my relationship with food was so unhealthy I knew I had to take it out of the picture all together. The first four days were horrendous. For the first time in years I actually felt hungry. Ravenous, in fact. I’d forgotten how that felt. The hardest thing was making Aimee’s food. Fishfingers, baked beans, sausages… the familiar, comforting smells were torture. Stick at it, I told myself and she’ll have a mummy she can be proud of not one who can’t push her on the swings. My determination paid off, too. That first week, I lost nine pounds, followed by five the week after.Yes there were moments of weakness but I was adamant I would get there. And I did. By October, I’d lost an amazing five-and-a-half stone, taking me down to 9 stone 9 pounds once again found the confidence to enjoy taking her daughter to the park and swimming. But I knew if I wanted to keep it off I’d have start exercising. Determined to maintain it I decided to start training at the gym too. Bored with the cardio equipment, I decided to start lifting weights. I was hooked straight away. Within weeks my arms looked strong and firm, and my bum looked rounder and perkier. I started to realise that I had the power to change my body whichever way I wanted. As my shape changed I began posting before-and-after pictures on my Instagram account. Soon people began following me. Some of the girls who’d bullied me at school even began sending me messages saying how great I looked and how had I managed to lose the weight. So I began adding some gym photos and high-protein recipes too. As I began posting several times a day I couldn’t believe I had the confidence to show pictures of my size eight, 9st 12lb figure to thousands of strangers when I once wept with shame when I looked at photos of myself. Now, I weigh 9st 12lb and have over 10,000 admiring followers. If you’d told me all this a year ago I’d have said you were mad. But I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved and hope posting my pictures helps other women to get the body of their dreams too. If I can do it, anyone can.
*Disclaimer: Results May Vary From Person To Person.