My weight loss isn't something I've really touched upon much on my blog, yet as it's briefly mentioned in my sidebar it is a question I get asked from time to time and it's a subject I very much enjoy talking about as I'm so proud of my story.
Today marks a very important anniversary - two years ago today I reached my goal weight, and was in my healthy BMI for the first time in memory. When I started on my journey a lot of people warned me that those losing a lot of weight tend to struggle to keep it off when they return to "normal life". Well I'd like to stand up and say that I am not one of those people, I am still at my healthy weight today and am living proof that anyone can do it.
Before I continue, I should rewind to the start.
I don't really remember a time when I wasn't larger than everyone else. I had two sisters who were both smaller than me and therefore, to me, seemed beautiful, slim and popular. My Mum spotted my love of food when I was a child and as I was growing up tried to keep a close eye on my weight. I remember coming home from school and telling her exactly what I'd had for lunch - I always told her "ham salad" but in reality I'd quite often had sausage, beans and chips and a chocolate brownie for afters.
Thanks to my Mum's efforts I remained a healthy weight during my childhood, but as I got older and more independent the weight started piling on. I remember quite often having to lie on the bed whilst she attempted to zip me into my jeans.
As a kid I loved my food and given half a chance would cram as much food on my plate as I could!
I loved my High School years and had lovely friends, but was very aware that I was large and awkward compared to them. I never had a boyfriend and remember a brief stint of getting bullied by a girl who nicknamed me "bus". At one point I felt so low I was too scared to leave the house at weekends in case I bumped into her.
I hated PE with a passion, there's nothing more embarrassing than being forced to wear a tiny PE skirt when you're larger than all the other girls in the class. I also remember being terrified of being asked to describe myself in French class in year 7. We'd learnt the word for "fat" and I didn't want to have to stand in front of the class and announce "my name is Chloe, I'm 11 years old, I have ginger hair and I'm fat".
My first day of High School, already gaining weight and looking bigger than the other girls
Through High School I started gaining a stone in weight for each year of my life and by the time I left school at 16 I was 16 stone.
In the back of my head I knew I had a problem but never wanted to admit it or would make excuses. I'd see someone on the street who looked larger than me and therefore I could justify the way that I was. My family warned me of the dangers and that diabetes ran in the family but at the time nothing could give me in the incentive to change.
I remained this way all through my 20s, growing larger and larger by the day.
My first day of work aged 20 and struggling to find office clothes that fit comfortably
I'd reached a fairly unhappy place by my late 20s and decided to move to London to "find myself". By this time I had problems that I never would have admitted to anyone - the bottoms of my feet were so sore from carrying extra weight that I struggled to get out of bed in the morning, my periods had become irregular, I was secretly stuffing myself with sugary foods every evening and then crying myself to sleep and I was struggling to make it the short walk down to the tube station without getting very out of puff.
Greek Holiday in 2010, I felt large and very uncomfortable in the heat
In 2011 I decided I had to make a change. I'd just had my 30th birthday party and was horrified by the pictures of myself. I'd reached a size 20, none of my size 18 clothes fitted and I was having to go to work in leggings. I was beginning to really hate myself and was on self destruct. As an added incentive my little sister's wedding was planned for the Spring of 2012 and I did not want to be the largest bridesmaid.
My 30th Birthday Party in 2011 and one of the photos that was to change my life
I decided to give Weight Watchers a try!
I had no idea how a weight loss programme really worked or how I'd be able to adapt it to my life. I remember so clearly the weekend before I started. I ate myself silly, like I was never going to be allowed to eat ever again. I went to an England match at Wembley with my friend and we had a fry up for breakfast, alcohol for lunch and Pizza Hut for dinner. I ate until I made myself feel sick!
The last weekend before I joined Weight Watchers
I walked into my first Weight Watchers meeting before work one Monday in June 2011 with no idea of how much I weighed. I was so nervous getting on the scales and when it flashed back at me 19 stone 7 lbs I was horrified. I walked to work, sat at my desk and cried. How had I let things get so out of control?
And that was it, my moment, I had to change and I was going to do it.
I was rather cautious of the plan to start with, I knew that any foods were allowed if you pointed them correctly yet I still didn't understand how going anywhere near chocolate or cake would allow me to lose weight. I'd very much grown up under the influence of the media, thinking that the best way to lose weight was to never touch nice foods, avoid carbs and live on a diet of lean meat and greens.
I dropped half a stone in the first few weeks and soon realised that I could allow myself treats, the plan gave me weekly points which I used to enable me to go out and continue to enjoy London life - afternoon teas, the odd latte and dinner with friends. I learnt that the key to weight loss was to change my mentality and attitude towards food and control my portions. Yes I could meet a friend for cake in the afternoon, if I was sensible with my meal choices the rest of the day.
Weight Watchers appealed to the geeky side of my personality - I loved adding up my points and using them in the best possible way to get a good balance of healthy foods and tasty treats.
A trip to Edinburgh with friends in August 2011. I'd been doing Weight Watchers for 2 months and could finally fit back into my size 18 jeans. I felt amazing!
At times it was frustrating, I worked and worked and worked at it for months, losing well over a stone and was so annoyed that I was still stuck in size 18 clothes. I went to Coast to try on a bridesmaid dress for my sister's wedding, I proudly took a size 16 and 18 into the changing room. I couldn't get into either of them. I was so upset, and it would have been very easy for me to give up at that point and think "why am I bothering"? I walked home past a supermarket and the urge to walk in and buy chocolate to binge on was overwhelming. But I was strong and walked past, and I think that's probably one of the proudest moments of my life. I think if I had given up at that point it all would have come crashing down.
I'd never enjoyed PE at school, preferring more academic subjects like English and Languages. As soon as I started to lose weight though I knew it was important to get myself moving so I began with very small steps, sticking to exercise I was confident with. I took myself out for hour long power walks every lunchtime, walking over Tower Bridge, along the river and back over London Bridge.
Finally in October of 2011 I decided it was time to be brave and join a gym. I'd never stepped inside one before and I was so scared at my induction I felt myself feeling very emotional, I had tears in my eyes. I soon realised that gyms are for everyone - as I saw people of all ages, fitness levels and sizes working out I began to relax. I was still a little nervous about people looking at me so I spent my workouts walking on the treadmill fast up an incline that I gradually increased and increased. I really enjoyed my sessions but it still took me a further 5 months of walking up hills to finally have the courage to try out a run. I remember the day, it was on my 31st birthday in March 2012, I was in a small gym at a hotel and realising I was there on my own I decided to up the speed and try out a run, and I ran and I ran and I ran. I was so happy you literally couldn't wipe the smile off my face. It was the most incredible feeling.
I worked hard in secret for the first 6 months, losing a nice steady amount of weight every week. I'd purposely not gone home to Norwich to see my family in that time and had kept my weight loss a secret from them, it was hard work but I really wanted to see their faces when they saw me for the first time at Christmas. I will never forget the look on my Dad's face when I met him at Norwich train station on Christmas Eve in 2011, I'd slimmed down to a size 16 he didn't recognise me and looked straight past me. I had to go up to him and say "Dad!" and all he could say was "BLOODY HELL!" It made my Christmas.
Going home for a Size 16 in my new dress
I set myself goals as my journey continued, little things to motivate me along the way. It was easier to keep focussed that way rather than to think about all the stones I had to lose. My first challenge was to fit into a coat that I'd never been able to fit into. It was a gorgeous red coat that my Mum had bought me years earlier. It was a size 18, but it had always been very tight round the arms and I'd never been able to do up the buttons. It was an amazing feeling the first time I got it buttoned up and soon I was wearing it all the time, a daily reminder of how far I'd come.
Finally fitting into the size 18 coat my Mum had bought me years before.
There were times I felt very frustrated and demotivated. It hurt when friends who hadn't seen me for months didn't compliment me on my new figure, and to this day many of my closest friends have never acknowledged my achievement. I've cried a few silly tears over it before realising that there's more to life.
From the beginning of my journey I started writing a blog, it really helped being able to talk to others about what I was going through, to share my struggles and achievements and read inspirational stories from people who had got to goal. I'd always loved writing so wrote my thoughts and feelings every day that I weighed in. If anyone is interested in reading my entire weight loss story you can read the blog even if you're not a WW member here.
I soon got up a little following of readers who were all very supportive and encouraging. One in particular stood out - a northern lad called Simon who had joined Weight Watchers around the same time. Like me he'd struggled with his weight for many years. We got on straight away, reading and commenting on each others blogs. Getting a comment from him on a post always made my day. After a while we began chatting on Facebook before eventually swapping numbers.
Yes that's right, I'm talking about my Simon.
A few months after we started talking he got a National Express coach all the way from Newcastle to London to take me out on a date and that was the start of something really special.
My confidence had taken years of bashing and I'd always felt ugly. Simon was wonderful in helping me to regain my confidence. He told me every day how beautiful I was and how he couldn't believe his luck that he was with me. To start with I found the compliments hard to accept but after a while I began to listen and then slowly I started to believe in myself. Weight Watchers might have helped me lose the weight but it was Simon that taught me how to love myself again.
Weight Watchers quickly caught on to our relationship and before we knew it we'd been invited to a gorgeous house in Surrey for a photo shoot. It was an amazing day, we got to try on lots of clothes and were interviewed about our experience. They liked us so much we ended up being used in lots of promotional material. You can see our "Success Story" on the Weight Watchers site here and if you want a laugh there's even a video here!
Weight Watchers Photo Shoot
Just under a year after starting I finally reached my goal weight after losing just over 8 stone. For the first time in my life I was slim, healthy and wearing a size 10. I'd been saving money up to buy a new wardrobe when I hit goal and being able to walk into any shop that I wanted and fit into beautiful clothes was so surreal. I'd never taken much pride in my appearance before but I suddenly found myself with an interest in fashion.
I continued losing a bit of weight until my body settled at around 10 lbs under my goal which is where I continue to be to this day. I've had a total weight loss of just under 9 stone.
Getting to goal - the new me with my old size 18 jeans that had been too small for me when I started!
I'm not going to pretend that all my problems were solved overnight, it took quite a while for my head to catch up with my body. Whilst I could feel that I was slimmer I couldn't always see it in the mirror and was always amazed when I saw photos of myself. Also whilst I look slim with my clothes on my body is a bit of a mess underneath, but I've learnt not to care, my damaged body tells a wonderful story and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Dressing up for a friend's wedding in October 2012, a healthy size 10 and feeling amazing
Every day I still wake up thankful that I made the change and succeeded, I don't think there'll ever be a day that I take it for granted. Losing weight has given me not only a new start in life, but has also lead me to Simon. I never could have imagined that taking that brave step to my first meeting would lead me to him and my new life in Newcastle.