As my bike glided around the bend, I pushed down harder on the pedals and started picking up speed. I was more than halfway through a 100-mile cycling event and I still felt full of energy as I whizzed down the road. I couldn’t have imagined feeling that way two years ago, when I was 6st heavier and fighting to turn my health around.
I’d started gaining weight when I swapped an active warehouse job for a desk-based role, where I found it hard to resist the biscuits and chocolates on offer in the office. That, combined with my diet of regular takeaways, meant that by the time I was 55, I weighed over 18st and I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without gasping for breath.
A short while later, I started finding painful cuts and lesions on my legs. A vascular surgeon diagnosed me with a blocked artery in my right leg and a varicose vein in my left.
He warned me that if I didn’t have surgery, I could risk losing my limb entirely… or my life.
‘You’ll need to lose weight before we can do the operation, though,’ he said. So I joined a Slimming World group run by my friend, Nicky.
I’d never cooked before – I didn’t even know how the knobs on the oven worked! So I started with recipes I recognised, like chicken saag, which I found on the Slimming World website.
Having been told being more active would support my weight loss, I decided to cycle the two miles to my local gym. I just about made it, but I didn’t have the puff to cycle back again. I kept at it, though, and gradually biked further distances, until I took part in a 45-mile charity cycling event. Although the ride was a slog, I felt euphoric when I finally crossed the finish line. I quickly signed up for longer rides, only stopping when I’d lost 3st 11lbs and had the surgery on my leg in January 2018 – and even then, I kept going to the gym to work on my upper body. Then, last year, I completed my first 125-mile ride.
I’ve been at target for over a year now and I still can’t quite believe how much my life has changed. My legs are completely healed, and I’ve started doing a 5K Parkrun every Saturday with a few friends from group. As for the cycling, I’m setting my sights on conquering even greater distances. I feel unstoppable.