I couldn’t wait for my big day, but unfortunately I had a big problem to deal with…
By Rebecca-Ruth Rice, 25, Belfast
“That’s it! I give up!” I said, throwing my arms in the air and plonking myself down on a nearby chair.
“This is far too stressful. Nothing fits me and I don’t like any of the dresses which do fit,” I added grumpily.
Wedding dress shopping was not going well, in fact, it was turning into a pretty horrible experience. At a hulking size 26, every bridal shop my mother and I visited had limited stock of dresses in my size. What was supposed to be a great day out was quickly turning into a nightmare.
Eventually, we found a dress which fitted. The princess style dress had a corset with a lace up back which pulled in my bulging waistline, and a full skirt which skimmed over my lumps and bumps.
“I’ll take it,” I said, handing over my credit card.
It was such a relief – with the dress was out of the way it meant I could focus on the rest of the wedding planning.
I can’t remember a time when I haven’t struggled with my weight. As a kid, I was on steroid medication for chronic asthma, so even then I was chubby.
As I got older, my love of junk food did nothing to help the situation. I didn’t know how to cook, so I would snack on chocolate and crisps all day, before scoffing a huge takeaway pizza or Chinese every night.
I wouldn’t touch vegetables and not one piece of fruit ever passed my lips. I believed I was being healthy if I cooked an oven pizza instead of ordering one in.
I eventually tipped the scales at 19st 8lbs, and although I painted on a smile when I was with my family and friends, inside I was very insecure.
I always felt like the ‘fat friend’ when I was out with the girls, and I would hide in the background rather than talk to men. If a guy did pay me attention, I used to think he was making fun of me.
Clothes shopping was a nightmare, too. I would beg my mum to come shopping with me, but I was limited to plus-size shops like Evans.
Even there, I could never find clothes which suited me. In the end, I always opted for frumpy, baggy clothes which kept my flabby frame hidden from view.
My mum and dad often nagged me to lose the weight, but I just didn’t have the motivation to do anything about it. It was far too easy to slouch on the sofa and watch television every night than attempt to go for a walk. I used my asthma as an excuse not to exercise, and eventually even climbing a few stairs would leave me struggling for breath.
As time went on, my confidence only became worse and I started staying indoors more and more. Eventually, I became so insecure I wouldn’t even go out alone, because I was too paranoid that people were looking at me.
At least I knew my boyfriend, Simon, 26, loved me for who I was, he didn’t mind that I was big and would often happily stay in with me and watch a film.
After six months together, Simon and I got engaged and excitedly booked the wedding for June 2012. I couldn’t wait to be a blushing bride, and once I put the trauma of the wedding dress shopping to the back of my mind, I started to countdown the days.
I had planned to lose a little weight before my big day, but a few weeks before the wedding, I went for my final dress fitting. I couldn’t wait to see it but as I slipped it on, I felt it tighten around my bulging waistline.
“It’s no good,” the seamstress wheezed. “I just can’t lace it up – it won’t fit.”
Panic consumed me as the awful realisation hit – I’d burst out of my size 26 wedding dress. My mum looked at me in horror and I was so upset I immediately burst into tears.
“Can anything be done?” I sobbed. “I don’t have time to find a new dress – I’m getting married in a month!”
“I can sew a panel into the back,” the seamstress replied. “It’s not going to look amazing, because you won’t get the full effect. But it should do the trick.”
“Do whatever it takes,” I replied grimly, and she set to work. I cringed as she was forced to sew a huge extra panel of fabric in the back, completely ruining the laced-up look I wanted.
Once the alterations had been made, the dress fitted around my tubby tummy a little easier. But every time I looked at the back of the gown I thought it looked really obvious.
The image of me waddling down the aisle wearing a makeshift wedding dress seemed too much to bear, and as I wriggled out of it, I couldn’t help but wish I would never have to put it on again.
A month later, our big day arrived. As excited as I was that I was getting married, I couldn’t help but dread putting on my dress.
As I walked down the aisle I tried to suck in my jelly belly but I could barely breathe. It should have been the happiest day of my life, but I had to remind myself to smile.
I tried to put the embarrassing incident to the back of my mind, until a year later, in July 2013, when my mum nagged me to go to a Slimming World group meeting with her.
“I want to lose a few stone and I just need some support,” she said. “Why don’t you join with me?”
The memory of me spilling out of my wedding dress immediately popped into my head, so I agreed to go along.
“If you don’t like it, we can leave,” my mum promised as we walked in.
To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed my first group meeting. I met loads of women who were in exactly the same boat as me, and I vowed to try my hardest to stay on track.
I went home and taught myself how to cook healthy meals, and gave up my trusty takeaways.
With my mum’s support I managed to stay motivated and I lost an amazing 9lbs in my first week. By November 2014 I’d shed an incredible 10st 1lbs, weighing in at 9st 7lbs.
As my waistline shrank, my confidence grew. Sadly, Simon and I split after we grew apart, but now I’m seeing somebody new.
I’ve also become a Slimming World consultant, which I love. I still cringe when I see my wedding album.
I can’t believe I ballooned so much I burst out of my dress. It was the ultimate wake-up call. I’ve gone from bulging bride to size 10 beauty!