‘My approach to eating was always “all or nothing”. At the age of 15, I’d not only shot up to just under 6ft tall, I’d put on 7st in two years, too. Every night, I’d shut myself in my room and eat sweets, crisps and chocolate. Then I’d get up at 5am the following day to do the three paper rounds that paid for it all.
Having gone up to a size 24, I decided to swap my sugary blowouts for a drastic and very unhealthy diet that involved eating little more than apples. My mum had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and wasn’t very well, so nobody was really keeping an eye on what I was eating. My weight loss was never going to be sustainable, of course – even less so when I met Chris in 2006. He’s a chef and he loves to eat!
Chris and I moved in together and it wasn’t long before the slim Emily he met disappeared. I couldn’t quite believe how quickly I regained the weight and, by March 2011, I was back up to 20st.
By then there was another reason for putting on weight – Chris and I were having a baby! It had taken us longer than I expected to conceive and I couldn’t help wondering if my weight had something to do with that. My midwife told me I’d need consultant-led care, as even though I was fit and healthy for the moment, being overweight could lead to complications like dangerously high blood pressure and gestational diabetes.
Despite the scary news, I carried on eating more than ever and was 3st heavier by July, when Chris proposed. The thought of actually walking down the aisle filled me with horror, though. I couldn’t imagine it – not unless I lost lots and lots of weight.
Up until I was around six months pregnant, I was relatively mobile. Then things went downhill. For three months I was confined to the sofa with a pregnancy-related condition called symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), which causes agonising pelvic pain. It was so bad, I couldn’t walk. Although the doctors didn’t say so directly, I knew they thought my weight had made my symptoms considerably worse.
Luckily, the condition cleared up when Lincoln was born in September 2011 and I was able to walk again almost straight away. I didn’t manage to shift any baby weight, though. I felt terrible about myself, so I comforted myself the only way I knew how – with more food.
Breaking the cycle
As Christmas 2012 approached, I had a heart-to-heart with Chris about our relationship. I came to a life-changing decision. Before we tried for a second baby, I was going to tackle my weight problem and this time I’d do it properly.
I looked on the internet and discovered there was a Slimming World group close by. After listening to my Consultant, Hannah, go through the plan and chatting to a few friendly members, I started to feel better.
It was amazing to learn I could still have my favourite meals – I just had to make a few swaps, like using low-fat mince when I made lasagne, and low-calorie cooking spray instead of glugs of olive oil.
The next three weeks were astonishing. I went home, read over the plan and resolved to stick to Food Optimising 100 per cent. Which I did – or at least, I thought I did. So you can imagine my horror when I weighed in the next week to find I’d stayed exactly the same. I burst into tears and felt ready to give up. My Consultant was brilliant, though – she helped me look back at my week to see where I might have gone wrong and persuaded me to give it one more week. I did, and lost 10lbs!
A few weeks later, in March, my mum died. While I knew she was very ill, it was still a horrible shock. What was strange was that, even though I was grieving, I didn’t want to change my new eating habits. I think I realised that chocolate, crisps and biscuits wouldn’t give me any real comfort. Nor did I feel the need to go back to the cigarettes I’d given up when I joined Slimming World. Instead, feeding my family healthy meals – like porridge topped with ground cinnamon and banana, pasta salad, jacket potatoes and home-made curry – and seeing the pounds come off each week helped me feel in control.
The support I found at group during IMAGE Therapy really made a difference to my slimming. Whenever I had a big event coming up, like a restaurant meal or party, I asked advice from other members about what to order. The only time I gained was when we were visiting friends – it was only half a pound, though, and it was off again the next week, along with 4½lbs more.
By the time my brother got married in July 2013, I’d lost nearly 6st. I wore a gorgeous dress that showed off my slimmer figure and, for the first time in years, I felt confident and attractive.
Eight months later, I reached my target of 12st. I’d done it! And through what had been such a tough 15 months, too: as well as losing my mum, we’d lost my granddad and our dog.
Second time lucky
Losing weight worked wonders for my relationship with Chris. It wasn’t really to do with my physical size – it was the fact I became much happier in my own skin. After losing weight I was in a much happier place, and we made the exciting decision to try for a brother or sister for Lincoln.
I conceived almost immediately. When I met my midwife, it turned out she was a member of Slimming World, too, and she was completely happy for me to continue Food Optimising throughout my pregnancy.
One thing I discovered was that the SPD I’d experienced during my first pregnancy hadn’t solely been caused by my weight – it returned with a vengeance when I was 18 weeks pregnant. Now I was so much lighter, though, I could get around on crutches. I had a neat little bump, no swollen ankles and none of the exhaustion that blighted my pregnancy with Lincoln.
I started taking pictures of all my meals and putting them on Instagram (@ylimesalad_slimmingworld), so people could see what Food Optimising looks like and how much you can eat – I’ve got more than 40k followers now!
I only put on a stone or so in the nine months before Archer was born and I ate healthy, filling meals throughout. I also had much more energy post-baby – this time, instead of comfort eating at home, I was happy and active.
Sometimes people don’t believe me when I say I used to be more than twice this size. Chris and I are so much more of a young, engaged couple now, instead of exhausted co-parents. We’re even planning our wedding. The idea of being centre of attention excites me now, rather than filling me with dread. It’s funny. I used to think that eating brought me comfort. In fact, it was a barrier between me and the world. As a slim and confident mum of two, I have choices that the unhappy, overweight me never had.’
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.