'We lost HALF our weight': So how did these women do it And how are they going to avoid putting it all back on
01:31 GMT, 18 May 2012
Michelle Arthur, 45, runs a commercial cleaning business and lives in East Sussex with husband John, 53, a construction company boss, daughter Isobel, 17, and son James, eight. Height: 5ft 10in. Heaviest weight: 22st 8lb. Size 30. Weight now: 11st 4lb. Size 10/12.
LOST 11st 4lb: Michelle Arthur, down from 20st to 10st 7lbs, size now: 10/12
I always worried that my daughter might be teased for having such a big mother. She never said anything, but I hope I wasn’t too much of an embarrassment to her.
My weight problems started early and I remember tipping the scales at more than 13st when I was just 15. My sisters were both slim and neither of my parents was fat.
But whenever I was stressed or anxious I would turn to food and feel briefly better. However, being fat made me feel much worse about myself.
I tried every diet there is but I couldn’t stick with them. I’ve got a strong work ethic and had more energy than most, but everything I did took a lot of effort.
I’d have to climb stairs one at a time and coming down I’d need to walk sideways, holding onto the bannister.
Getting stuck in restaurant chairs was embarrassingly commonplace. I also developed a painful foot condition, caused by being twice the weight I should have been. Nobody ever said anything to me, though. When you’re overweight, people avoid the subject.
Getting stuck in restaurant chairs was embarrassingly commonplace
For me food was definitely an addiction. I’d have normal meals during the day but after 9pm, once the children were in bed, I would eat non-stop. I could polish off four slices of bread and butter, followed by a couple of bowls of cereal and three bags of crisps. I’d eat in the kitchen so my husband wouldn’t notice.
I met John at the age of 21 when we were both working at a holiday camp in Devon. I weighed 15st 7lb so I wasn’t exactly skinny, but I was very outgoing. I gained and lost several stone over the 12 years that followed before our wedding in 1999, when I’d slimmed down to 15st.
My husband never said anything hurtful but I wasn’t daft enough to ask if he thought I was fat. I only needed to look in the mirror for the answer.
I started the Lighter Life programme a year ago. As well as replacing your normal diet with meals, drinks, shakes, bars and soups, you receive counselling to help you work out why you overeat.
I ate when stressed or anxious, so worked on other ways to deal with those emotions. I also started aerobics and Pilates, as well as lots of walking, and the weight fell off. In February, I reached my goal weight, 11st 4lb — meaning I’m exactly half the woman I was. It felt wonderful when I tried on an old pair of jeans and could fit both my legs into one trouser leg.
Now when I see photographs of myself I think: ‘That can’t be me, that’s a slim person.’ My head has not yet caught up with my body.
I intend to keep the weight off by exercising like a loony. I do around ten hours of walking and aerobics classes every week. I also keep portion sizes small and limit the number of carbohydrates I eat. But I’m only human and sometimes do over-indulge.
Occasionally, I catch my husband looking at me and smiling. He would never say he fancies me more than he used to, but who wouldn’t prefer a racehorse to a tired old donkey
Jenny Harkness, 26, a beauty therapist, lives in Staffordshire with partner, Chris Taylor, 32, a parts advisor for Harley Davidson, and their daughter Jasmine, one. Height: 5ft 10in. Heaviest weight: 21st, Size 26. Weight now: 10st 4lb, Size 10.
LOST 10st 10lb: Jenny Harkness, down from 21st to 10st 4lbs, Size: 10
Wherever I went people would stare and snigger as I walked past. I’d pretend I hadn’t noticed, but it really hurt.
Once I was in a Chinese takeaway queue when a male customer said: ‘You really don’t need to be in here, do you’ I was so embarrassed I wanted to disappear into a hole.
It’s wrongly assumed that heavy people are greedy and lazy. But my weight problems began at 11 when my parents divorced and I turned to food for comfort. Cakes, biscuits and crisps briefly made me feel better but the feeling didn’t last.
It affected everything. I was in a relationship with a dreadful man but my self-esteem was so low I didn’t have the confidence to leave.
And, although I’ve always been good at what I do, I struggled to get jobs. Looking back,I realise that employers would take one look at me and assume I must be lazy — and not a great advert for beauty therapy.
I knew I needed to cut back on the huge meals and junk I ate, but it just felt impossible.
Once I was in a Chinese takeaway queue when a male customer said: ‘You really don’t need to be in here, do you’
My epiphany finally came five years ago when I was rushed into hospital with a major asthma attack.
Doctors said my heart was under great strain, my blood pressure too high and they feared I was going to have a stroke. I lay in hospital wearing an oxygen mask thinking: ‘I don’t want to die in my 20s.’
Soon after being discharged I joined Slimming World and over the next 18 months lost 8st 7lb, getting down to 12st 7lb. For years I’d been eating up to 5,000 calories a day. Takeaway pizzas and chips for dinner were often followed by five bags of crisps.
On the Slimming World diet I ate normal, healthy meals — scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast, jacket potato with beans and half-fat cheese for lunch and spaghetti bolognese in the evenings. I also did karate twice a week and the weight fell off.
Then an incredible thing happened: I discovered I was pregnant.
I’d only been dating Chris, who I’d met at a party, for a few months and had previously been told by my GP that my periods were so erratic, due to my weight, that I was likely to have problems conceiving.
Giving birth to our daughter in September 2010 was the best bonus ever. I kept going to Slimming World meetings during my pregnancy and only gained 1st 7lb, which took me to 14st. Since Jasmine’s birth I’ve lost more weight and now weigh 10st 4lb. I no longer have asthma or high blood pressure.
I decided to go back to work when Jasmine was nearly one and found a job in a salon in no time.
My relationship has gone from strength to strength — Chris never tires of praising my new figure. Since getting down to a size 10 I have a new-found passion for lingerie which certainly adds to our love life.
I still attend Slimming World classes and get weighed every week. I have no intention of stopping because I couldn’t bear to be big again. I’m also following their maintenance diet, so I cook from their recipes and if I want to treat myself I eat Snack-a-Jacks instead of crisps or a mini Milky Way, rather than a big Mars Bar.
It feels great being half the woman I was.
Sally Lawrence, 50, a clerical assistant, lives in West Sussex with husband Martin, 55, a site engineer. They have two daughters, Emma, 32, and Katie, 27, and two grandchildren. Height: 5ft 4in. Heaviest weight: 25st. Size 32. Weight now: 11st 12lb. Size 14.
LOST 13st 2lb: Sally Lawrence, down from 25 stone to 11st 12lbs, Size now: 14/16
For most of my adult life I was twice the size I should have been — it was like carrying an extra person around.
I was a chubby teenager and when I got married, aged 18, I already weighed 15st. I’d met my husband when I was just 13. He was the DJ at our local youth club and all the girls fancied him. I was already a big girl and couldn’t believe my luck when he chose me.
He’s a wonderful man. When you’re severely overweight, it’s a cruel world. But whenever I complained about being fat, Martin would always say: ‘Don’t be daft, you look lovely.’
Over the next 30 years the pounds piled on and dieting seemed futile as the weight always went back on.
At 25st I looked like a beached whale, so it was hard to believe Martin was still attracted to me. I’d say: ‘You could get a girl much slimmer than me,’ and he’d say: ‘It’s you I love.’
The main problem was my night-time eating. I was restrained during the day because I couldn’t bear colleagues commenting on how much I ate. Two men in the canteen used to whistle the Laurel and Hardy theme tune whenever I walked by with my slim colleague.
When I was a size 32, the air stewardess told me I had to move from the emergency exit because I was considered disabled
But in the evenings I’d polish off a packet of biscuits with a cup of tea. Before going out for dinner I’d eat a couple of sandwiches. On the way home, I’d stop for a kebab. I even hid how much I ate from Martin and the girls. I was obsessed with food and never felt full.
Travelling to Turkey for a holiday a couple of years ago, when I was a size 32, the air stewardess told me I had to move from the emergency exit because I was considered disabled. It was so humiliating I couldn’t stop crying.
Fourteen months later, in November 2010, I finally took the drastic step of a gastric bypass operation.
My stomach is now the size of an egg, which means I can eat only a fraction of what I used to.
Within a year, I’d lost around 10st. Since then the weight has come off more slowly and even though it would be possible to stretch my stomach through overeating I would never do that. It was such a major operation that I have to take my weight loss very seriously.
The only sweet stuff I allow myself now is two Rich Tea biscuits a day, to curb any sugar cravings, and my portion sizes are smaller than a child’s. I also need to take multi-vitamins to get sufficient nutrients.
I don’t really miss food. I’ve finally reached a stage where my health is more important. I feel reborn.
Martin didn’t want me to have the surgery because he worried about the risk. But he quite literally stuck by me through thick and thin — and is thrilled I’m finally healthy and happy.
We went back to Turkey recently and the flight was so different to the first one that we were both in tears. A passenger asked if we’d lost someone close and we explained that we were actually crying tears of joy. It was a bit like losing that 13st ‘person’ I had been lugging around.
Out shopping this weekend I spotted a friend I haven’t seen in a while. When I said ‘Hello’ she jumped back and said: ‘Oh my lord, I didn’t recognise you, Sally.’
The very best thing about being half the size is that I can now get down on the floor and play with my grandchildren, Alfie, four, and Daisy, two.