Even as a child, I was the ‘fat one’ of the family. My mum prepared the same meals for me as she did my two older brothers and younger sister, but I was the one who piled on the pounds.

By 20, I was a size 20 and weighed around 15 stone 7Ibs, which was far too big for my 5ft6 height. Back then, you couldn’t buy fashionable clothes for larger ladies, so I often felt frumpy – as if I was dressing older than my years. No one mentioned my size, but I always felt different.

At 29, I got together with my now husband, Ian, 52 (53 in July). I’d known him for years, as one of my friends was married to his brother, but it was only after we went for a drink a few times on our own that I began to see him in a romantic light. He was my first serious boyfriend. Months later I turned 30 and weighing 14stone 7lbs I looked frumpy much older. I vowed to lose some pounds for our wedding a few months later in May 1997. I managed to lose a stone for the big day and despite still being overweight Ian made sure I felt beautiful in my long, ivory wedding dress. But after the excitement of tying the knot died down, I soon piled back on the weight I had lost and more.

My downfall was partly to do with my love of dessert. I liked to have them after every meal and loved the old-fashioned ones, such as crumbles and steamed puddings. Snacking wasn’t a problem for me but my giant portion sizes made up for that!
In my late 30s I decided to have another crack at slimming down and signed up to a Rosemary Conley diet plan. When I started the plan I weighed 16 stone 10Ibs and through a combination of careful eating and exercise I got down to 11 stone 7Ibs. I was delighted with my new size 12 frame and began to imagine I would be slim on my 40th the following year…

Then the dreaded complacency set in and I stopped being so strict with myself over portion sizes and puddings. By the day of my actual 40th birthday, I’d gone back up to more than 13. 7 stone and a size 16. Ian and I booked a holiday to Canada as a way of celebrating my big day and we enjoyed dining out and eating and drinking what we wanted. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop when we came home and over the next decade the pounds piled on with a vengeance. By late 2015, I weighed almost 20 stone and was an unhealthy size 22. As well as not being able to wear the clothes I wanted to, I was beginning to have trouble with my knees and lower back. When Ian and I went for a walk I struggled to match his pace. I went for a check-up at the doctor’s, hoping the GP would shock me into going on a diet. But remarkably, my blood pressure and cholesterol levels were normal. Even so, when I thought about being fat at 50, I shuddered inside a little, remembering how my mum used to say how weight loss gets harder as you get older. I thought back to how miserable I had felt at not managing to keep the weight off for my 40th birthday and vowed to give it one last shot. When I thought back to all of my big birthdays – my 20th, 30th and 40th – I’d not been happy with how I looked on any of them. This was my last chance…

So, in February 2016, with 13 months to go before my 50th birthday, I signed up to the Cambridge Weight Plan after spotting a leaflet in my local beauty salon. Rather than trying to cut down on food, I gave up on it completely – at least to start with. Instead, I dined on the plan’s meal replacement products like porridge, soup, shakes and snack bars. For my evening meal I had one of their packet spaghetti bologneses or macaroni cheeses, which came in powder form that you just added water too. In the first week I lost 4Ibs and shed a steady 3–4Ibs a week after that. If I got hungry I’d have a glass of water or a black tea or coffee and although it was hard at first, seeing the results spurred me on to keep going. My target weight was 11 stone 1Ibs, which would give me a healthy BMI of 25, but as Christmas 2016 approached, a weigh-in showed me to be 10 stone 13Ibs, so I changed my target to 10 stone 7Ibs! By February 8, I’d reached that goal and was down to a size 10. I’d halved my body weight and couldn’t remember ever being a size 10 in my life. Now I could ditch the baggy clothes and buy the jeans, leggings and fitted dresses I’d always coveted. Although Ian has never said anything negative about my size, he told me how proud he was that I’d achieved my goal. For my 50th birthday, my best friend Barbara and her husband David came to stay and we went out for a meal and then had a proper afternoon tea the next day – I let myself off the careful eating for a couple of days! As I posed for a snap I had to admit I had never felt or looked better in my while life.

Ian and I are also going on holiday to celebrate my milestone birthday and our 20th wedding anniversary combined. In May, we are travelling to Mauritius and Dubai for 11 nights and I can’t wait to put on a bikini with pride for the first time ever and walk around rather than hiding under a towel or in the water.

Learning to accept compliments from people at the age of 50 has been a novelty, as I’ve never really had them before. People say the diet has taken years off me and it’s true. My diet has worked like a time machine meaning I look and feel younger than I did decades ago.
I’m now a consultant for the Cambridge Weight Plan and on my associated webpage I’ve included before and after photos. Ian and I don’t have children, but one lady said my before and after resembles a mum and daughter!
I’m back to eating normal food now but I keep some meal replacements to hand in case I over indulge and need to go on a mini diet for a couple of days. Altogether I’ve lost a total of 57 inches from my body and have no trouble keeping up with Ian when we go for a walk.

It’s never too late to change your life and I truly feel fab at 50!
When I look back at my birthday photos over the years it makes me proud to see how much younger and fitter I look now. Finally at 50 I have the body I have always wanted. There’s no better birthday present I could have wished for and it’s all thanks to losing weight.