I was in denial about my size, until a holiday snap gave me the hump…
By Michelle Cottam, 31, from Neath
The hot sun shone brightly as we made our way across the gravelly path to the camels.
The animals sat in huddles at the base of the large black rock with seats hung over each of their humps.
‘Oh my goodness,’ I said with a huge grin on my face. ‘They are lovely!’
I’d never seen a camel in real life before and immediately got my husband Gary, 53, to take a snap of me beside the big beasts.
This will be one for the photo album, I thought to myself.
I was wearing a pretty, frilly vest top and although I’d been struggling with my weight, I felt good.
We were in Lanzarote with our one-year-old son, Sam, and counting calories couldn’t have been further from my mind.
I’d stuffed some lovely but baggy size 20 outfits into my suitcase and thought nothing more of it.
We even had a private pool which meant I could happily swim with my baby – something I would never attempt at home. I didn’t want people sneering at my rolls of flab in a bathing costume.
I hadn’t always been big. I’d been slim until my late teens when my lifestyle suddenly changed. I started partying with friends and on boozy nights out, I’d down bottles of sugary alcopops before grabbing a greasy kebab on the way home.
Then during the day, I’d binge on convenience foods like pizza before feasting on a Chinese takeaway after a busy day at work.
I was a sucker for special fried rice and I loved tucking into a huge portion of duck in plum sauce. I couldn’t get enough.
But although my junk food diet had taken its toll on my frame, in truth, I took no notice. By the time Sam came along in March 2011, my diet had taken a backseat to life as a busy mum.
However as my weight soared to a giant 18 stone, my confidence plummeted. I loved playing with my little boy but I refused to join a mother and toddler group for fear of being judged and I dreaded Sam starting school.
I hated the thought of being the fat mummy at the school gates. I vowed to slim by the time Sam was school age – but there was plenty of time for that…
Then one day, shortly after our holiday in the Canary Islands, I was browsing through our sunshine snaps when I came across the camel picture.
I immediately got the hump. I looked enormous!
My cheeks burned red with shame as I realised I had more lumps and bumps than the camel. I was horrified.
I’d been in denial about my size until then, but that unflattering photo was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
‘I had no idea I was that big!’ I said to Gary, ashamed. ‘How can anyone look big next to a camel?’
‘I love you no matter what,’ Gary replied, as he wrapped me up in a reassuring hug. ‘You’re beautiful to me.’
I replied: ‘But I’m not beautiful to me.’
I had to change, and fast. I looked into diet plans and decided to kickstart my weight loss by swapping two meals a day for health shakes.
I was surprised how easy it was to substitute processed junk foods with the vitamin-filled drinks. They were so filling, I didn’t even miss my old habits.
The pounds fell off and within 18 months I’d shed an incredible seven-and-a-half stones.
‘You know I don’t care what size you are but you look amazing,’ Gary said to me one evening, eyeing me up in a beautiful maxi dress.
I blushed. I could only have dreamed of wearing a tight, floor-length gown before my weight loss.
I used to try and hide my flabby frame under unshapely clothes but now I enjoy flattering my 10-and-a-half stone, size 12 body in skinny jeans and slinky dresses.
My life has completely changed and my confidence has soared.
Sam is now four and when he starts school in September I’ll have no concerns about picking him up at the school gates. I’ve gone from a ten-ton mum to a yummy mummy.
That horror holiday snap may have given me the hump but I owe an awful lot to that camel!