Christmas is usually a time to eat, drink and be merry. But when I saw a festive photo of myself I realised I had a big, fat problem…
By Emma Smith, 31, from Thamesmead, London
I groaned as I opened my fridge and surveyed the contents.
“There’s no food here again,” I muttered, closing the door and grabbing my purse. My stomach rumbled expectantly as I called out to my kids Lillie, seven, and Lacey, three.
“Come on kids, we’re going to the shop to get some pizza for tea,” I shouted, opening the front door. The kids came running down the stairs, and we set off on the short walk to the local supermarket.
It was only a ten minute walk, but it took me much longer to waddle my way down the road. By the time we got there I felt out of breath and dizzy. I quickly grabbed a pizza and a packet of oven chips and handed the cashier some money.
Back at home, I cooked dinner and put the girls to bed. Once they were sound asleep, I pulled out a family-sized bar of chocolate, which I had bought earlier when they weren’t looking.
As I watched the soaps on television, I made my way through the entire bar – by myself. After that, I grabbed a packet of crisps and polished that off too.
I’ve always struggled with my weight. Even as I kid I was the chubby one in my class and things only got worse as I grew into adulthood. I piled on the pounds after I had the girls, and always failed miserably at every diet I tried.
My mum died when I was just 14 years old so I never really learned to cook. I made sure I gave the kids fruit and vegetables, but I hated cooking healthy meals for myself.
Often I would wait until they were in bed, before picking up the phone and ordering in a takeaway for one. I’d order in a huge pizza, or a kebab with all the trimmings.
But my lonely evening binges only helped me feel good for about half an hour, and then I was back to feeling lethargic and depressed. It was a vicious cycle.
After an unhealthy weekend, I would always promise myself I would start losing weight the following Monday, but it never happened.
Soon, I tipped the scales at 16 stone and wore a hulking size 22. I struggled to keep up with my girls and would come up with countless excuses to avoid taking them to the park.
“Mummy’s tired,” I would say whenever Lillie nagged me to go out and play with her.
Shopping for clothes was soul destroying. I could never find anything to fit me, so I was resigned to going to the plus-sized stores. Even then, I covered up my flabby frame in dark, baggy clothing which hid my lumps and bumps, but I still looked the size of a house.
My health suffered too – I had been diagnosed with lupus – an illness which causes joint pain, fatigue and an angry rash – years previously, and every now and again I would get a horrible flare up which would leave me bed bound for days.
My girls kept me occupied, so I always managed to distract myself from how big I had become.
In December 2014, I was getting ready for Lacey’s first ever Christmas. I was so excited. I hung up loads of sparkly decorations all over the house and spent hours carefully choosing presents for the kids and wrapping them up.
I placed them all underneath our huge Christmas tree, which had been decorated with hundreds of bright fairy lights.
The festive season had always been my favourite part of the year, I loved everything about it – most of all the abundance of delicious food! And I couldn’t wait to celebrate it with my two girls.
A few weeks before the big day, I took Lacey to see Santa at his grotto in Bluewater Shopping Centre.
Lots of excitable kids gathered around, waiting to see the big man himself, and soon it was our turn. I couldn’t wait to get a snap of Lacey’s first meeting with Father Christmas.
I plonked myself down next to him, pulled Lacey onto my lap and smiled for the camera. Lacey was thrilled, but when I was handed the festive photo by one of Santa’s helpers, my eyes bulged in shock.
I blushed crimson with shame. My thighs looked massive – talk about stocking fillers! I couldn’t believe how huge I looked, even next to Santa. I was so big his arm could barely stretch around me.
Tears filled my eyes as I grabbed Lacey and quickly scurried away. I was completely horrified – what should have been a lovely picture of me and my daughter at Christmas time had been ruined.
When I got home, I reached for the biscuit jar in a desperate attempt to cheer myself up. But something stopped me in my tracks.
That picture had shown me just how big I had become – and I didn’t like it. I vowed there and then to change my ways – for good.
I threw out as much unhealthy food as I could from my cupboards and tried not to eat too much on Christmas Day.
A few days afterwards, I joined my local Slimming World group. I was really nervous at first, but everyone was so nice and friendly, I immediately felt right at home.
My consultant Sylvia was really welcoming, and I had a good chat to all of the members who were on similar weight loss journeys. When I left, I felt like we had all been friends for years.
I found the plan surprisingly easy to follow and I started swapping my takeaways for healthy homecooked meals, like exotic curries and sticky chicken with cauliflower rice.
I was amazed how easy the recipes were and for the first time in my life, I was cooking up a storm in the kitchen!
The kids approved too.
“This is nice, Mummy,” Lillie said, spooning spaghetti bolognaise into her mouth. My heart swelled with pride.
A week later, I returned to my group and nervously stepped on the scales.
“You’ve lost eight pounds,” smiled Sylvia. “Well done.”
I was amazed, I had cooked more in one week than I had ever done in my life, and it had paid off. I was thrilled that I had managed to lose more than half a stone in such a short amount of time.
My loss motivated me to keep going, but just in case, I kept that turkey of a Christmas picture on my mobile phone. That way, it was close to hand whenever I felt like falling off the wagon.
A quick glance at the picture was all I needed to keep me on track, and I took time to learn loads of new healthy recipes so I would never get bored with my meals.
It worked. As the pounds fell away, my confidence soared. Soon, I was able to enter a clothes shop without feeling sick.
Shopping became fun again as I was able to try on sexy new outfits – things I would have never dreamed of wearing before.
“You look lovely now you’re not big anymore,” Lillie beamed at me from outside the changing room. I almost cried with joy.
I blushed as they told me how fabulous I looked. In one year I had gone from looking bigger than Santa to feeling slim and sexy – I was over the moon!
Losing weight also helped me to be a better mum to my girls. Now I don’t hesitate if the girls want to go to the park or out for a long walk.
In fact, I encourage us to get out and about more now, being active and enjoying our time together.
I was mortified at the time but that photo of me looking more stuffed than the turkey was the best Christmas present Santa has ever given me – it was just the kick I needed to lose weight!