BEACH CONFESSION: I TOLD BEST MATE SHE WAS FAT
At a size 22 Jackie, 39, was desperate to slim down ahead of her beach holiday with her best friend, Leanne, a size 24. But Leanne, 42, was in denial and refused to diet until Jackie told her the harsh truth — that she’d look fat next to her newly slim figure. Leanne finally agreed and the pair lost four stone each for their holiday last year, and seven stone each by this year’s trip to Turkey.
Unwrapping another sweet, I licked my lips and popped the chocolate treat into my mouth. It was December 2009, my favourite time of the year – because of all the festive food.
I pushed the sweet tin across the table towards my colleague, and best friend, Leanne, 42. We were like two peas in a pod, and loved snacking on the same fatty foods.
“Do you fancy a takeaway tonight?” asked Leanne. I looked at the empty sweet wrappers from all the chocolates we’d just eaten and felt guilty.
I was supposed to be watching my weight, after noticing my size 22 jeans were getting a bit tight. But although I was desperate to slim down, I couldn’t resist indulging at Christmas.
Leanne was just as bad as me, and was always encouraging me to join her for a McDonalds on our lunch breaks. She was a size 24, but she wasn’t the kind of woman to worry about her size.
I envied her self-confidence, but I worried about her too. She’d had asthma since she was a child, and it was getting worse because of her weight. But whenever I brought it up she ignored me.
We’d been friends for eight years, after meeting at work, and had so much in common. We did everything together – work, nights out, holidays.
When I first met Leanne, in 2003, I was a size 20. But I hadn’t always been that big…
I was a young mum and fell pregnant aged 16, with Charlotte, now 21. I had an athletic build and managed to maintain my figure even after my second child, Daniel, now 20.
But when I had Jared, now 13, in 1998 I noticed it wasn’t as easy to keep the pounds off. And by time I had Niamh, now 12, a year later I had ballooned to a size 20.
I was a busy mum, and often went all day without eating before crashing on the sofa with a calorie-laden curry.
I told myself I was too busy to cook or eat properly, and I didn’t understand that starving myself wasn’t the way to lose weight.
I tried Slimfast shakes but I was constantly hungry and couldn’t stick to the routine. Then I joined the gym, but I hated going on my own and got bored quickly.
I suffered from low self-esteem and I felt lonely as no-one around me understood what it was like.
So when Leanne started working at Argos with me, I was delighted I’d found someone who was big like me. And she even helped me to laugh at my size.
She was so open. Once, someone asked us if we were sisters. Big mistake!
“Are you just asking us that because we’re fat?” she replied quickly. “We don’t even look alike!”
She made me laugh, and we enjoyed each other’s company. We hit it off straight away, and soon I was seeing her every day – whether we were at work or not.
We did everything together, and when I bought a holiday home in Dalyan, Turkey, I knew just who I was going to invite to stay.
After we booked the flights we spent every waking minute chatting about the holiday. I’d been on hot holidays with my husband and kids before, but Leanne had never been on a proper sunshine break.
“I’m not wearing shorts or anything like that,” she’d said, a few days before our trip.
I laughed. “You’ll have to, it’s sweltering! You can’t walk around in jeans,” I said. But Leanne simply shrugged it off.
When we arrived at the villa the heat was stifling. We were both sweating buckets, and any type of exertion wore us out even more so we spent most of the holiday lying by the pool.
Despite the heat, we loved it there and when we came back home we decided to go back the following year. We always took the kids and made the most of it – despite our size.
But other people did notice our bulging beach bodies. In fact, a group of strangers once laughed at us in our swimsuits on the beach, so we had to move.
And in the evening we were forced to avoid the busy areas, full of young women in skimpy outfits, instead choosing to sit in the dark corners of bars.
So when we booked the flights for our fourth holiday, in December 2009, I decided I’d had enough of being fat.
I wanted to explore Turkey properly, go on bike rides through the city and take long walks on the beach with the kids.
And, as my weight was increasing, I panicked about being too big for the aeroplane seat. I was fed up of overheating and hiding myself on holiday. I’m going to lose weight, I promised myself.
But I couldn’t do it alone. The next day at work I mentioned it to Leanne.
“Will you join Slimming World with me?” I asked, over our lunchtime burger.
“Absolutely not,” she said straightaway, swallowing her mouthful.
I wasn’t going to give up though, and kept asking her. Later that evening I rang her, and begged her to try it.
“But I don’t need to lose weight,” she protested. “I’m happy with my size. Just leave it, Jackie.”
But I refused to give up. There was a Slimming World meeting the next evening, and I spent the whole day bugging Leanne to come with me.
Finally, half an hour before it was due to start I called her one last time.
“Please come with me, just to try it,” I begged over the phone.
“No,” came her flat response. I was so frustrated I found myself blurting out the shocking truth.
“Fine! But if you don’t come with me you’re going to look fat on the beach, and I’ll be a size eight!”
And with that, I slammed the phone down.
I didn’t want to upset Leanne, but someone needed to be honest with her. She had been overweight for so many years no-one dared mention it.
I was her best friend though, I owed her the truth. I waited by the phone. Then she rang me back.
“Ok, I’ll do it,” she said.
Leanne reluctantly agreed to come with me for one meeting – we both weighed in at over 18 stone! But by the second visit she’d lost five pounds which inspired her to carry on.
The following week, the consultant read out her weight: “17st 3lb.”
“Well done,” I beamed. “You’ve nearly lost as much as me!”
Leanne laughed. “I should hope so. I want to beat you!”
The next week though she didn’t lose anything, while I was racing ahead – which only motivated her further.
I didn’t mind though. In fact, I couldn’t have done it without her. If I was having a bad week Leanne was there to get me through it.
“Come on, you have to come tonight,” she’d coax when I was feeling low.
“Now who’s trying to get their friend to a meeting!” I laughed, pulling on my coat and heading out of the door with her.
And when she struggled to stay motivated I helped her stay on track too.
We often shopped together and planned our meals for the week, and we would cook healthy risottos and curries for each other and bring them to work – although I did most of the cooking!
We could still have takeaways too, although we had to choose the healthy version.
Before, our conversation focused on food and holidays, now we couldn’t stop talking about Slimming World!
When we went on holiday five months later, in May 2010, we’d lost four stone each, and for the first time ever we were able to do active things like bike riding, instead of lazing on the beach.
We explored the whole city together, and I relished the chance to run around the beach with my kids without sweating horribly.
I felt more confident too, and didn’t shy away from the camera like I’d used to. Before, Leanne and I didn’t take many photos. And any snaps we did take were subject to strict rules on whether they could be uploaded to Facebook or not!
After the Turkey trip we still had another three stone each to lose, but the holiday photos were just more motivation.
We kept slimming and every week the numbers on the scale went down. Even when Christmas was approaching I managed to stay in control.
Then, in January 2011, I decided to start my own slimming group. I wasn’t quite at my target weight, but I wanted to help other people.
On the first night 92 people signed up – a record for Slimming World! It inspired me to keep going, and by July this year I’d lost a total of seven stone.
That same month Leanne and I went on another holiday to Turkey. We spent the whole trip enjoying our new beach bodies.
We’ve both nearly reached our target weight of 11 stone now, and we look and feel great.
What I said to Leanne may have been harsh but it was true – and I’m so glad I did it. I used to dread going on holiday – now I can’t wait.
Leanne, 42, says: “I’d been overweight for most of my adult life, because of takeaways and convenience foods. I had little confidence, but I put on a front. I was reluctant to lose weight when Jackie asked me, but I decided to give it a go – mostly to support her. When Jackie started racing ahead I was encouraged to carry on because I didn’t want her to beat me. At first I didn’t want to lose weight because I was happy with my size. Everyone who knew me accepted my size. I’m so glad Jackie said what she did though, it was the motivation I needed. I love my new body, and my health is better too. I never thought I’d achieve my perfect bikini body at the age of 42!”
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