I felt great in my Supergirl costume at my friend’s fancy dress party – until I saw the photos…
By Debra Rodgers, 29, from Blackpool
Debra Rodgers felt confident in her costume when she dressed up as Supergirl for her best friend’s 30th birthday party. But the next day, when the photos were uploaded onto Facebook, Debra felt less than super.
The 29-year-old had lost two stone in the previous five months and was feeling good about her new shape, but when confronted with the photos, her heart sunk.
The mum-of-five from Blackpool says: ‘I felt rubbish when I saw the photos the next day. After losing a bit of weight I’d felt quite good about myself but I realised then the camera never lies.
‘I still looked really big. I especially hated my arms, crammed into those long, blue sleeves. It was a real blow, but if anything, it spurred me on.’
Debra began gaining weight aged 12. Gorging on junk food, including sugar sandwiches, her weight soon crept up. She was a curvy size 14 by the time she was 13 and she quickly became a target for cruel school bullies.
She says: ‘I just felt so much bigger than everyone else in my class. I felt huge and like the other kids were in my shadow.
‘Already, eating had become something of an addiction. I just got into the routine of it, it was almost obsessive.
‘Bullies would pick on me because of my size but then I’d eat junk food to feel better. It was a vicious circle.’
Debra’s issues continued into adulthood and when she went on to have her brood of five children, motherhood took its toll on her body.
Debra says: ‘My first daughter, Elsie-Louise, now 11, was a hefty 8lbs 12oz when she was born. I was huge during that pregnancy. The skin on my belly was stretched beyond belief, it was horrible.’
The following year, in 2006, Debra’s second daughter, Willow, now nine, came along. She was quickly followed by three boys – Jack, now eight, born in 2007, Oliver, now seven, born in 2009 and her youngest, Robin, four, born in 2011.
She says: ‘Five pregnancies really took their toll on my body. I actually lost three stone during my last pregnancy with Robin because I was so ill with morning sickness.
‘I just couldn’t keep anything down. But I was still overweight and after four C-sections my body – and my stomach in particular – was a mess.’
After completing her family, Debra tried hard to diet, but if she lost any weight she would always pile it back on again – plus more.
But when she saw a photo of herself at a family trip to Disney on Ice in 2014, something inside her snapped.
‘It wasn’t even a full length photo,’ Debra says. ‘It was just my face. My cheeks, my chin, they were huge. I genuinely didn’t recognise myself, it was like I’d been inflated.
‘I knew then I had to act. I had to shape up, for my kids.’
So in January 2015, Debra started a healthier regime, changing her diet and taking up exercise. By the time of the fancy dress birthday party, five months later, she had shed two stone.
She says: ‘In June, my friend, Dean, invited me to his 30th birthday party. A bunch of us headed to The Blue Room in Blackpool, where we started a pub crawl.
‘There was no particular theme to the night, it was just fancy dress, and after losing a couple of stone in the run-up to the party, I felt pretty good in my Supergirl outfit.
‘My heart really sank the next day when I saw the pictures on Facebook though. I certainly wasn’t feeling so super after that.
‘It could have broken me and made me give up, but if anything it spurred me on. Those pictures made me more determined than ever to keep going. I wanted to prove to everyone – including myself – that I could do it.’
So Debra really upped the ante, putting in a super-heroic effort in the gym, as well as restricting her diet further.
She says: ‘Before, I’d been allowing myself the occasional ‘treat day’, but I cut all of that out. I’d already started walking rather than taking the car everywhere but then, I took up hiking.
‘Exercising outside was much better for me, but I was careful to keep a balance of gym work too, lifting weights and using the treadmill there.
‘I saw results quite quickly then, losing as much as three or four pounds a week. Each Wednesday I’d get on the scales at the gym for my big weigh-in.
‘At first I was anxious, worried that I’d stayed the same or maybe even put on weight, but gradually, as the pounds slipped off I knew in myself if I’d had a good week. I wouldn’t even need to step on the scales. It was all the motivation I needed to stick at it.’
And Debra’s hard work and determination has paid off, as she’s shrunk from 17 stone in January 2015 to a trim 11st 10lbs today.
Debra says: ‘I’d like to lose another stone or so but I’m so proud of my achievement. I wanted to do it for my kids.
‘Being a mum of five requires a lot of energy, you need to be on the ball all the time. And of course, I want to be around for as long as possible to see them grow up.
‘My diet is completely different now but I’m quite relaxed around what the children eat. Of course I make sure they have healthy, balanced meals at home but I don’t ban certain foods.
‘I don’t want them to end up craving junk food and then gorging on it when they can’t have it. I’m conscious that they’re growing and it’s about everything in moderation.
‘It was really hard at first. For the first three or four days, after you cut out junk food, your body experiences withdrawal symptoms.
‘It’s like going cold turkey from any drug. I had headaches and nausea and felt like I wanted to eat everything. But you just have to keep going and work through it.’
Debra is now happily in a relationship with charity worker, Ed, 31, who she first met when they were teenagers.
She says: ‘We were just friends back then but we kept in touch over the years via Facebook. When we both became single at the same time, we agreed to meet up.
‘Actually, the night Ed first came to meet me for a drink was the night of the fancy dress birthday party. Ed quite liked the Supergirl costume – but I won’t wear it for him now!’
Debra now plans to go to university in September to study for a degree in sports coaching and exercise.
‘I never thought I’d say this, but I really enjoy exercise now,’ she says. ‘I go to the gym four times a week and I really love it. I’d love to open my own gym one day but first I need to study.
‘After losing over five stone, I feel happier and healthier than I’ve done in a long time. I may not be Supergirl, but I’m proud of my super-slimming achievement!’