One of my earliest memories is as a 5yr old girl, being taken to see the hospital dietician by my mum. I was walked through the waiting room in my vest and pants, and had my weight written up on a chalkboard for all to see. I quickly learnt that if I lost weight I was a ‘good girl’, and if I put on weight I was a ‘bad girl’.
Growing up I was constantly bullied at school for my extra weight. At the age of 13 I also started with symptoms of PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). I was very quiet, shy, and withdrawn. I left school at 16 and went on to do a Business & Finance Diploma before starting work as a Payroll Assistant and Accountant.
However my self-esteem was so low, I couldn’t hold down a job for much longer than six months at a time. I found binge eating helped me to cope with all the emotions I was feeling: happy, sad, angry, frustrated, scared, excited etc. I didn’t know how to correctly express or deal with the emotions, so just ate and ate.
I graduated with my BA Hons degree in 1998 and moved from Essex to Northamptonshire. I tried many jobs – payroll, admin, bookshop manager – but was still really unhappy, disillusioned, and lonely.
Life had become totally miserable. I moved to South Yorkshire in 2003. When I saw my new endocrinologist, he told me that if I didn’t change my lifestyle I would probably be dead within the next 5yrs. I was shocked, but didn’t know how to change or deal with my emotions other than by bingeing til I felt numb. I felt like no-one understood how I felt.
My weight continued steadily upward year on year. I never dieted – food was my ‘best friend’, why would I give it up?? By the time I was 41 yrs old I weighed 23.5st, had a BMI of 52, and wore size 32 clothes. I suffered with hypertension (on 4 prescription drugs), high cholesterol (1 drugs), insulin resistance (1 drug), hormone imbalances (3 different drugs), and depression (2 drugs).
In summer 2010 a friend told me about Overeaters Anonymous, a 12-step programme based on Alcoholics Anonymous. It took me until the October to pluck up the courage to go to my first meeting! That was my rock-bottom, life-changing moment.
Regularly attending meetings and working with a sponsor, for the first time in my life I started to deal with my emotions – the reasons / root causes why I binged. Over the first year in OA I lost 4.5st, just by talking through issues rather than turning to food – NO dieting!!
In Dec 2011 I took part in a TV programme about PCOS, and following on from this I started working with a Personal Trainer. In this second year, I lost a further 5.5st, taking my total weight loss to 10st. I was now wearing size 18 clothes, had a BMI of 30, and was off all my medications! I felt fantastic and was doing things which I never thought possible.
My life has totally transformed: I am now a self-employed Specialist Personal Trainer encouraging people with long-term health conditions to get more active to improve their health and general well-being. I teach Personal Trainers how to work with chronically ill people, and also speak at conferences & universities – sharing my weight loss journey and encouraging others. I have featured on BBC Horizon programmes and also on radio and in newspaper articles.
Obesity is a hugely complex issue. It is NOT just about ‘Move more, eat less’. I still struggle with my weight and my journey is not over yet. But by seeing the ‘Big Picture’ and using holistic multi-disciplinary approaches, there IS hope for those who suffer with this disease.
I am proud to be an OEN Champion and be given the opportunity to use my skills and personal experience to help others and change the way obesity is viewed & treated.