Sitting down on the bed, my daughters, Faye, now six, and Alice, now three, snuggled up next to me. I opened their careworn copy of The Gruffalo and began to read. My husband Guy, now 37, watched on. But what should have been a happy time of family bonding was over by the time I got to page three.
At 5ft3, I weighed 22 stone 11Ibs and was a size 30. My extreme obesity meant even reading left me breathless and I couldn’t get the words out. I’d expelled all my energy just getting up the stairs and helping the kids into the pjs.
‘Here, let me take over,’ Guy said. Handing him the book, tears welled in my eyes. How had I let myself get too fat to read?
Looking back, I’d always struggled with my weight. By the time I left school at 17 I weighed 19 stone. Over the years I’d settled at a size 26, decided that was just how I was made. I’d piled on more weight when I got pregnant with Alice and hadn’t been able to shift it. It didn’t help that I constantly made the wrong food choices.
I love takeaways, would cook myself two chicken kievs instead of one, serve chilli con carne with load of garlic bread and stuffed my jacket potatoes with copious amounts cheese and beans. Even when I made meals for the girls I’d cook an extra fish finger or two just for me.
Over the years I’d tried various diets but soon tired of them and gave up. Although Guy could see my excess weight was affecting my health, he never commented and made me feel loved no matter what my size. But despite this I felt incredibly insecure. I couldn’t buy the clothes I wanted, shied away from going on nights out with him and his friends. Something had to change – and fast.
My brother Richard’s long-term girlfriend, Sam, had recently become a Cambridge consultant so I plucked up my courage and texted her about signing up to a weight-loss plan. The hardest part was revealing my weight to her but she was so supportive and lovely that I became determined this was going to be the diet that worked. I started the plan in May 2016, replacing all my meals with diet bars and shakes.
It seemed easier to take food out of the equation, though I still had to cook for the family, which was really hard. But in the first week I lost an incredible 13Ibs – nearly a stone. By the end of the first month I’d shed two stone.
My dress size dropped and people soon started noticing the difference. This spurred me on to stick to the plan and even when we were invited to summer BBQs I’d sit there with my shake and a glass of water watching everyone else eating burgers and drinking cider.
Sam followed my progress and eventually I introduced proper meals into my diet. If I was going on a night out with friends we’d go through the restaurant menu together online. Sam would advise me on the healthier choices.
Less than a year on I reached by target weight of 11 stone 11Ibs and have shed a whopping 11 stone. I’m now a size 14 and love going shopping. For my work’s Christmas do I was able to wear a dress for the first time since my wedding. And during the day I wear nothing but skinny jeans.
People no longer recognise me when I pass them in the street and I have to tell them they know me!
Best of all, though, I can now read Alice and Faye a bedtime story all the way through to the end. Not only that, I have the energy to do the actions and voices too. The girls love it.
Going to a soft play centre with them used to be something I dreaded too, but now I get stuck in and join in the fun. I no longer have to worry about getting stuck in one of the tubes. My confidence has soared and I’m more than happy to accompany Guy on a night out.
Just like in one of the children’s books I didn’t use to be able to read, I’ve found my happy ending.