It was an honour being a bridesmaid at my brother’s wedding, but when the pictures came back it turned into a nightmare. I was determined that next time I walked down the aisle I’d be much smaller.
By Nikita Gallagher, 27, from Dublin
I smiled as my phone vibrated and John’s number came up.
My big brother had got engaged a few weeks earlier and he hadn’t stopped talking about it or asking for my opinion on his wedding plans.
But I didn’t mind at all, I was so excited for him and his fiancee, Helena.
I was really close to my brother and it was lovely to see him so happy.
“What can I do for you, John?” I asked answering the phone.
“Helena and I would really love it if you would be one of her bridesmaids at our wedding, what do you reckon?” he said.
I was honoured and I couldn’t wait to be a part of my brother’s special day.
My sister was a bridesmaid too, as well as Helena’s sister, and I knew it would be great fun.
But when the day for dress shopping arrived, I realised there was a big problem – my figure.
Tipping the scales at a whopping 21 stone 6lbs, I knew finding a dress to fit me was not going to be easy.
The other two girls were slimmer than me and my enormous size 26 frame, and it was humiliating seeing them suggest wearing dresses I couldn’t dream of squeezing into.
“I can’t believe I’m the youngest and yet I’m still the biggest,” I told my sister.
“Don’t be silly, you’ll look amazing,” she reassured me.
In the end Helena chose some matching beautiful cream and beige dresses for the three of us, but mine had to be specially altered so it would fit around my folds of flab.
It was mortifying.
I had always struggled with my weight and been curvy for as long as I could remember.
I’d been self conscious of my size all the way through school, but I had really started to balloon when I met my partner and fell pregnant at 17.
By the time I had my first son, Josh, in July 2005, I had reached an enormous size 20.
I told myself it was normal to put on weight when you have a baby, and I let myself get comfortable in the relationship
Sweets were my real downfall and I would scoff several packets of jellies and toffees every single day.
My portion sizes were massive too and I would think nothing of stuffing myself with huge fatty takeaways several times a week.
I hated being so big and I tried all sorts of diets, but I was my own worst critic and if I had one slip up I would lose faith in myself and give up on the whole diet.
Any pounds that I did manage to shift I would end up putting back on, plus extra – I just couldn’t find the motivation to stick at it.
My hulking frame meant that I always avoided the spotlight, but when it came to John’s wedding in August 2010 there was no hiding from it.
There was no way I could avoid the wedding photographer and I was mortified when the pictures came back a few weeks after the big day.
Was that me?!
In every snap that I was in I felt like I was taking up most of the picture – I couldn’t see past my folds of flab and I couldn’t bear to look at the photos..
“I look like a monster,” I sobbed.
I knew I was big, but until that moment I hadn’t realised just how huge I had become.
It was a massive shock.
I vowed to change and lose the weight, but seven months later I fell pregnant again and my feeble attempts to diet went completely out of the window.
I gave birth to another beautiful baby boy, Calvin, in January 2012 and I was totally over the moon – he was perfect.
I loved being a mum and spending time with my boys – but it got more and more difficult as my health started to suffer.
I began to get out of breath doing even the smallest of tasks and it was impossible to keep up with Josh, who was seven by then and a real handful.
My size had always meant I struggled with exercise, but I was also quite used to walking as I didn’t have a car.
I knew something was wrong – even just walking up the stairs left me breathless and clutching my chest.
I visited my GP and I was diagnosed with sarcoidosis of the lungs, which was a condition that was causing inflammation of the tissue in my lungs.
“If you make a real effort to lose weight by eating healthily and exercising then your symptoms should stop,” the doctor told me.
I was horrified as I realised that my gorging was putting my health at risk.
I had two gorgeous little boys and yet I was eating my way to an early grave – I felt so ashamed.
I looked back at those bulging bridesmaid pictures and the shame only got worse. I knew the time for excuses was over.
I decided that I finally needed to take control of my life.
So in March 2012 I joined Weight Watchers and slowly the weight started to fall away.
I wanted to be able to run around and enjoy life with my kids so I also started going on either a walk or a bike ride every single day.
It didn’t matter if it was pouring with rain – I made sure I was out there exercising!
I swapped my sweets and toffees for reduced fat snacks and focused on cooking meals from scratch with lots of lean meat and vegetables.
It was hard to keep going at times, but I kept those bridesmaid pictures on hand to give me an extra kick of motivation when I needed it.
Within nine months my sarcoidosis had vanished and I could breathe easy again, it was such a relief.
By June 2012 I had reached my goal of 10stone 6lbs and shrunk down to a sexy size 10 – I was absolutely ecstatic.
I had managed to shed 11 stone – just over half of my body weight – and it felt amazing when people barely recognised me!
I threw out all of my baggy, size 26 clothes and it felt incredible to restock my wardrobe with slinky dresses and skinny jeans.
But I still kept those bridesmaid pictures to look at to remind me how far I’ve come.
Suddenly I was able to enjoy active days out with my boys that I could never have dreamed of doing before and we were always going out on bike rides as a family.
I had always been terrified of the water but I even managed to conquer my fears and learnt how to swim – my life had totally transformed.
I’ve since kept the weight off and I’m determined to make sure I never go back to the way I was.
So when my sister Melissa announced she was getting married and asked me to be her bridesmaid and maid of honour, I could barely contain my excitement.
“Of course, I can’t wait!” I told her.
It was as if I had a second chance to be the perfect bridesmaid that I should have been at my brother’s wedding.
Gone were the days of needing specially altered gowns and this time I counted down the days until I could try on dresses.
Glamming myself up in a gorgeous, fitted size 12 dress for my sister’s big day in January 2012 was incredible.
This time I actually felt like I deserved to be a part of the day, and I didn’t need to shy away from the camera!
I was able to enjoy my sister’s day without worrying about my folds of flab, and it was the best feeling in the world to know I’d turned a full circle.
I still cringe when I see my brother’s wedding album, but I’m glad I was shamed into action – it has completely transformed my life.
Being a bulging bridesmaid helped me to become a beautiful one!