The hotel in Greece was lovely and the scenery was stunning, but I felt hot and uncomfortable in my too-tight, size-20 dress as I lagged behind my family. My husband, Will, led our children, Otto and Martha, to the hotel concierge to ask about hiring a car. As I reached the desk myself, the receptionist gave me a concerned look. ‘Will it be safe for you, being pregnant?’ she asked. I wanted the ground to swallow me up and all I could muster was, ‘I’ll be fine’.
For the rest of our trip, whenever Will tried to take a photo of me with Otto, then three, and Martha, one, I’d jump out of shot. And, by the last day, I couldn’t wait to fly home.
Afterwards, flicking through the photos, I felt sad. It was as though I hadn’t even been there – I was completely absent from the record of our special family holiday.
I’d lived all my life with that feeling of not wanting to be noticed. As a little girl, I’d always been slightly bigger than my friends, and I’d felt self-conscious about it. Then, when I was 18, I got together with Will, who I’d known since I was a toddler. He loved me just as I was and, suddenly, my size no longer seemed to matter.
In 2012, I discovered that I was pregnant with our first baby. We were unbelievably happy and couldn’t wait to become parents. When I was 24 weeks pregnant, as a last treat to ourselves before our son came along, we booked a holiday to Las Vegas. But two days into our trip, I realised I hadn’t felt our baby kick. Initially, I put it down to just being so busy, but as the evening wore on I started to panic. As soon as we got back to the hotel, I found a local clinic and booked a scan for the following day.
As the sonographer moved the doppler across my tummy, I saw her bright expression change to concern. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she said. ‘I’m afraid I can’t detect a heartbeat.’ In that moment, our world as we knew it fell apart. We had to book the next available flight home so I could be induced in hospital. Then I gave birth to our baby, knowing we would never see him grow or hear his first word. As I held Mylo in my arms, all I could do was promise we would never forget him.
In the weeks that followed, while I tried to come to terms with what had happened, family-size chocolate bars and whole packets of biscuits became a way of comforting myself. Deep down, I was angry at my body for ‘failing’ me, too, and I know now that overeating was a way of punishing it. The two things became tightly intertwined and I started to associate my sudden weight gain with my memory of Mylo. I was convinced that if I lost the weight, our son would somehow be forgotten. It was as though I was scared that if I moved on I’d be leaving Mylo behind.
Eight weeks after we lost Mylo, I fell pregnant again. Although we were thrilled, we were also terrified that history would repeat itself. Thankfully, in August 2013, a healthy baby boy was placed in my arms. And although baby Otto could never erase the pain of losing Mylo, he did give us something to smile about once again.
Stuck in a cycle
It was only when Will and I got engaged that I decided to join Slimming World with my dad. I went on to lose 3st in time for our wedding in Tuscany in June 2014. Soon afterwards, I fell pregnant, and again soothed my fears with crisps and chocolate, not able to feel fully excited about our new arrival until Martha was born safe and healthy.
Looking after a newborn and a toddler was exhausting, and I knew my weight was making things even harder. I found myself getting out of breath chasing Otto around in between looking after his baby sister, and struggled to get up and down off the floor. In my mind I wasn’t the mother my children deserved and, as the weeks passed, I couldn’t stop myself from worrying that my children were going to grow up with an unhealthy and unhappy mum.
Then came the final straw when we went on that family holiday to Greece. In our hotel room, I dressed Otto and Martha in their swimwear, but just the thought of putting on my swimming costume made me anxious. ‘Are you coming, Mummy?’ Otto asked. ‘Maybe tomorrow,’ I answered, looking over at Will for support. ‘Come on, kids,’ he smiled. ‘Mum can watch while you come and splash in the pool with me.’ We’d been through so much together and Will always knew what to do when I was at my most vulnerable.
Back home, I poured out my worries to Will, telling him I wanted to join Slimming World again.
‘You know I’ll support you whatever you do – I just want you to be happy,’ he said. I decided to have a fresh start by going to a different group. As I stood on the scales, weighing 17st 2½lbs and with my new Consultant, Gill, by my side, finally something clicked in my mind. By putting all my focus on becoming a healthier mum and creating a positive legacy for Mylo, I found I could give up the packets of biscuits and family-size bars of chocolate I’d used as a comfort and punishment for years. Instead, food became something that nourished me. I started the day with porridge, had a generous bowl of home-made butternut squash soup for lunch, and made some simple changes to our usual evening meals. We still had a family-friendly chilli or spaghetti bolognese, just cooked using lean beef mince and low-calorie cooking spray instead of oil.
Will was so supportive about the change in our eating habits, complimenting me when I invented a new rice salad recipe, or put together some tasty slimming-friendly chicken kebabs for the barbecue. When I told my family and friends I’d joined Slimming World, they couldn’t have been more delighted that I was being kinder to myself and, most importantly, not feeling guilty for doing it.
I reached my 9st 13lb target in July 2018, the end of a journey not just to a healthy weight, but also to enjoying life again in a way I never thought I could. Now that I had the energy to be active, I loved joining in with any activity my kids wanted to try. I feel like Mylo’s watching over me as I splash around at the local pool with Otto and Martha, spurring me on to be the best mum I can be.
When Slimming World asked the whole family to take part in a photo shoot, I didn’t think twice. I was buzzing with excitement as I stepped out in front of the camera in a red dress, Will by my side, and ran across the sand with Otto and Martha, laughing as they paddled in the waves. This time, I knew we would have a permanent record of our family having a very special time together, and instead of avoiding the camera, I loved posing for every shot. I’m so grateful that losing weight has helped me find the courage to push through my heartbreak and build a better future for my family – it really means the world to me.
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.