I was on a dream holiday to Thailand when I saw this nightmare photo…
By Liz Knight, 42, from Norwich
Slouched in front of the television and covered in crumbs, I reached over for another biscuit to ram into my mouth.
Every evening was the same. I’d order a huge takeaway and gorge on snacks until late at night, not caring what it was doing to my body.
After I escaped a violent relationship with my son, Owen, now 16, in tow, I was forced to flee to a women’s refuge for my safety. I started comfort eating to deal with my emotions and food quickly became my best friend.
I’d start my day by scoffing a fry-up, followed by a couple of sandwiches, crisps and chocolate for lunch. Dinner was often a whole pizza, followed by a packet of biscuits or a big slab of chocolate.
Soon enough, I tipped the scales at almost 30 stone and wore a colossal dress size 40. My joints ached under my bulk and I found it difficult to walk, so had to get taxis everywhere.
Clothes shopping was a nightmare and I was forced to wear tent-like baggy clothes to cover up my hulking frame. And although I painted a smile on my face for Owen’s sake, inside I was insecure and miserable.
I tried diet after diet but nothing ever stuck. I always gave up at the first hurdle, convincing myself that looks didn’t matter and that I didn’t care about my size. And when doctors warned me of the danger I was doing to my body, I didn’t listen. I loved my food too much to care.
After years of suffering at the hands of my ex boyfriend, I came out of that relationship and slowly realised that I was gay.
I’d lost all hope of ever finding someone to love me for who I was, but in October 2012, I met Jo, 40, and everything changed.
We met through a mutual friend on Facebook, and had become inseparable ever since. Kind, charming and warm, she restored my faith in relationships and I soon fell in love with her.
Jo didn’t care about my weight – she loved me for the person I was and we spent hours together, giggling about life and not taking ourselves too seriously.
But although I was in love, I still felt the odd twinge of embarrassment when Jo had to wait for me to walk, panting behind her, or when I got out of breath just walking up a flight of stairs with her.
My feet were constantly swollen due to the excess weight I was forcing upon my joints, and I’d have to stop every five minutes as we pushed our trolley around the supermarket aisles.
‘Come on slow coach,’ Jo would smile at me. ‘We’ve got loads more to get.’ I grinned back at her, but inside I was mortified.
‘What can you possibly see in a woman like me?’ I asked her that night, when we were snuggled up watching television. ‘I’m huge.’
‘Well there’s more of you to love,’ Jo shrugged, and then laughed. ‘Plus, I love you, you silly thing. I’m going to marry you one day.’
‘Yeah right,’ I laughed. Jo always knew what to say to make me feel better.
To prove her point, Jo proposed while she was away on holiday in December 2012 by writing ‘Will you marry me?’ in the sand and sending me a photograph of it. I was over the moon.
So in October 2013, we got married in a civil partnership ceremony. I was on cloud nine that day, but instead of a traditional white gown, I wore a baggy purple dress as that’s all that would fit me and I spent the day feeling fat and frumpy.
‘You look beautiful,’ Jo whispered as we signed the register. I smiled weakly back at her, but I didn’t feel beautiful.
The following year, in December 2014, we went to Thailand for a holiday of a lifetime. We’d saved really hard for the trip, foregoing all sorts of treats in the meantime.
I couldn’t wait to get away, but trawling my massive bulk around in the oppressive heat was really hard. I had to stop and catch my breath more than usual, while Jo waited patiently for me.
When we went to an elephant refuge, I smiled as I proudly posed next to one of the huge creatures. But then a horrible thought crossed my mind.
I’m almost as big as this guy.
I hoped that nobody else would have the same thought, but as I struggled to get on the giant animal for a ride, I felt red hot embarrassment burning my face.
Later that day, I had a photograph taken with a baby elephant.
‘I’m bigger than this little fella,’ I joked with Jo, but inside I was crushed. I probably weighed more than him too – a baby elephant!
I tried to shake off my embarrassment, but I was relieved to finally get on the plane home.
But as I went to sit down, I winced with horror.
‘What’s wrong?’ asked Jo when she caught sight of my expression.
‘I’m stuck,’ I replied, blushing bright red. ‘I can’t sit down.’
My bum was wedged between the two armrests on my seat, and no matter how hard I pushed, I couldn’t squish myself between them to sit down.
Somehow, I must have gained even more weight during the holiday. There was nothing I could do, so I had to get up and ask the stewardess if she could move me to another seat.
She was lovely and quickly agreed to help, but I still ended up squished up against a single armrest for the 11 hour flight.
I spent the whole flight uncomfortable and mortified. When we finally landed on UK soil, I was exhausted, and my confidence had hit rock bottom.
By November 2015 I’d finally had enough of the elephant in the room, so I decided to join Slimming World.
Determined to finally shift the bulge, I marched down to my first local meeting, hand in hand with Jo. I was so nervous, I paced around for a few minutes before I could pluck up the courage to walk through the doors.
‘I’ll go in first love,’ Jo soothed. ‘You just follow behind me.’
As we walked in, I looked around and realised I was easily the biggest one there. But everyone there was so friendly, I soon put my worries to the back of my mind. I came out feeling positive and when I lost 9lbs in my first week, I was thrilled.
Jo and I found we enjoyed cooking healthy homemade meals rather than relying on takeaways, and she supported me endlessly.
Just 18 months later, I stepped on the scales to find I had lost an incredible 14 stone.
‘Are you sure?’ I gasped as the number on the scale finally settled.
My leader beamed at me. ‘That’s right,’ she said. ‘14 stone gone forever – congratulations!’
As I was awarded with a certificate for my amazing achievement, I felt on top of the world. I looked over at Jo to find her beaming at me.
I ran straight over to hug my wonderful wife, who couldn’t stop telling me how proud she was of me.
I’ve now shrunk to a size 18 and I feel fantastic. I still want to lose another stone, but I look and feel like a different person.
They say elephants never forget – well I’ll never forget how I felt that day. I still cringe when I look at my holiday photos – I’ve got more junk in my trunk than an elephant – but I’m glad I was shamed into action!
Liz was mortified when she saw her Nelly Belly in her holiday photos but it was the motivation she needed to lose weight. We helped her share her slimming success with a newspaper and a magazine, selling Liz’s story to Real People and Daily Star Sunday, inspiring a huge number of readers. If you want to tell your weight loss story, fill in the form on the right and we’ll give you a bell to tell you how it works.