THE PROBLEM: STRESS
Penny R., 55, from Hawarden, Cheshire, is a teacher. She’s married to Colin, and has three daughters, Amy, Fay, and Joy, who are all in their twenties.
I’m permanently on the go at work. If I’m not teaching, I’m marking assignments, planning the next lesson or coaching children at break times and in the lunch hour. I never seemed to have any time – or energy – left to take care of myself, so I ate what I could, when I could. I’d grab something to eat from the staff room – usually a piece of cake, a handful of biscuits or a chocolate bar that one of my pupils had given me as a thank you for helping them. Sweets and chocolate were my comfort. But while the sugar rush endorphins were a great stress reliever in the short term, I’d feel disgusted with myself for succumbing again. Soon my weight snowballed: at only 5ft 4in, I weighed 16st 10lb and wore a size 22. I felt pathetic for letting myself get to this weight, but I had to satisfy my sweet cravings just to get through the day. Then, when my daughter Amy announced that she was getting married, I knew I had to do something. Normally I could avoid having my photograph taken, but at her wedding there would be nowhere to hide. I started taking healthy lunches and snacks into school and I found the buzz from knowing I was staying on track was just as good as the one I’d get from a sugar hit. I had more energy, too, which meant I didn’t feel as stressed by the amount of work I had to do. Standing in front of the changing room mirror in the bridal shop knowing I looked great in my motherof-the-bride outft – a slinky animal print dress that I’d never have even considered buying before – was the best feeling in the world. I now weigh 10st 1lb and I’ve got much more confidence… and that’s worth more than any amount of chocolate.
THE PROBLEM: TEMPTATION
Carol L., 44, from Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, runs her family’s go-kart business. She’s married to Philip, 47, and is mum to Robert, 16, and Harry, 14. I was a window dresser before I started working from home and I was always running about, crouching down and reaching up high, but when I quit the weight crept on. Running our go-kart business was much less physical and being so close to the kitchen all day meant the temptation to eat was constant. I’d start the day with a huge bowl of cereal, then plough my way through a packet of biscuits with endless cups of sugary tea as I went through my emails. Whenever I looked up from my desk, I’d remember the plate of leftovers in the fridge or the multi-pack of crisps in the cupboard. Half the time I wasn’t even hungry, but I still gave in to my cravings. Because I was working from home, I felt there was no reason to look good. When my clothes started to feel tight, I’d pull on my husband’s jeans instead. If I did buy anything, I’d just go to a cheap shop and pick up the frst thing I could fnd – each time the size creeping up, frst to a 14, then a 16 and, eventually, to a size 22. I would experience a crushing feeling of shame as I realised I’d got even bigger and leave the shop with my mind racing with thoughts of how I’d let it come to this. But when a male friend innocently asked me if I wanted to join his local rugby team, it was like a punch in the stomach. I jumped straight on the scales and was horrifed to fnd I weighed 14st 4lb. For someone who is only 5ft 3in, I was hugely overweight. I lost a stone and a half just by cutting down on the amount of food I was eating and introducing some exercise, but then I couldn’t lose any more. So I went on the Lemon Detox diet, replacing my evening meal with the syrup drink for two weeks. It worked wonders and whenever I’m feeling sluggish now or I fnd the weight is creeping back on again, I go back to it. I’m down to 10st 2lb and although the temptation is still there, I now reach for the healthy snacks in my fridge instead of fatty foods and leave the biscuits for the boys.
THE PROBLEM: BOREDOM
Clarissa B., 45, from Christchurch, Dorset, lives with her son Michael, 19, and daughter Carly, 14. She works at New You Boot Camp in Poole. You’d think working for a company specialising in weight loss and ftness boot camps meant I’d practise what we preach, but that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, I spent all day at a computer dealing with clients’ queries and used food as a way to pass the time, rewarding myself with a biscuit if I fnished a particularly arduous task. At lunchtime I’d grab something to eat back at my desk – usually a calorie-laden sandwich smothered in full-fat mayonnaise, followed by a bag of crisps and some chocolate. But I hated being the only chubby one in the offce. If someone walked in when I was stuffng my face, my cheeks would burn with shame. Eventually my weight crept up to 14st 8lb – I’m 5ft 6in – and with every extra pound I gained, I felt even more of a failure. But the more depressed I got about my lack of willpower, the more I ate. It was a cycle I couldn’t break. When I hit 40, I had a health check and discovered my blood pressure and cholesterol were sky high. My eyes pricked with tears as I got the results. I thought about my father who’d died from a heart attack at the age of 50 and I imagined my children losing me the way I’d lost him – I knew I had to change. My boss offered me a place on one of our boot camps, but it had been so long since I’d done a scrap of exercise, I was terrifed I’d be the most unft person there. However, I needn’t have worried: everyone was in the same position. We spent a week doing eight to ten hours of exercise a day from cardio training to core stability, but it was the nutritionist who really opened my eyes to all my bad habits. I came away with my own food plan to give me an alternative to the junk I’d been eating and felt re-educated and empowered. I’m now 10st 2lb and for the frst time in ages I feel happy in myself, not just physically, but mentally, too. It’s given me back my sense of self-worth.
THE PROBLEM: CONVENIENCE
Eve H., 35, is a business manager at McDonald’s. She lives in Cumbria with husband Tony, and children Jack, 5, and Maxie May, 2. For most people a McDonald’s meal is a bit of a naughty treat, but for me it was my staple diet. I’ve worked there for 17 years and one of the perks of the job is the free meal on every shift. The daily burger, fries and full-fat Coke weren’t a problem when I was younger, but after having my son I noticed the weight creeping on. Not having to worry about preparing lunch every day was a godsend. At frst I managed to convince myself that the weight gain wasn’t a problem, as long as when I went out shopping I could fnd nice clothes that ftted me and looked good. However, all I seemed to end up buying was stretchy leggings, long tops and oversized cardis. I was getting bigger and bigger, but I was in complete denial and just pretended it wasn’t happening. Eventually, after having my daughter, I started to feel miserable about the way I’d let myself go. I was weighing in at 15st 11lb and I was buying a size 18. On a friend’s hen do, I shared a room with a woman I’d always thought of as being the same size as me. As we moaned about needing to lose some weight, I realised she was talking about losing about a stone, whereas I needed to lose four times as much! It was only when I joined my local Weight Watchers group and saw what I should actually be eating, that I fnally realised what I’d been doing to myself. So, straightaway, I cut down on the burgers, chips, soft drinks and ice cream, and the weight slowly started to come off. Nowadays, I get up a bit earlier each day to make myself a packed lunch, so the burgers or fries no longer tempt me. I’m now 11st and size 12. I never want to go back to how I was.