'I discovered my ex was having an affair, so I took the ultimate revenge and lost 15 STONE!'
I walked through the doors of Topshop and started wandering past the rails of clothes, wondering what would suit me. After a few minutes, an assistant came over and looked me up and down.
‘Nothing in here will fit you,’ she said.
As she turned away my cheeks flushed with embarrassment and my eyes filled with tears.
I quickly left the shop and went into one that sold plus-size clothing instead.
As a child I was always bigger than my friends. But what started off as puppy fat turned into solid weight gain. The problem was, I never felt full.
I had good intentions when I dished up lunch or dinner and made myself a normal-sized portion, but it would never be enough. I’d end up visiting the fridge and cupboard multiple times to scoff chocolate and crisps until I finally felt satisfied.
Back home from my humiliating shopping trip, I told my partner Paul* what had happened.
‘You look great,’ he said.
I sighed. I could have been twice the size and he still would have said I looked fine.
‘Shall we get a Chinese?’ he asked.
‘Yeah why not,’ I said.
I planned to drown my sorrows in sweet and sour chicken balls, egg fried rice and curry sauce.
Whereas Paul could eat what he liked and not gain a pound, our love for takeaways and fast food caused my weight to increase at a rapid rate.
Soon I was 26st 7lbs and wore a size 26.
I got sweaty and tired just from walking and was so big that my weight caused me to stop breathing at night. I had the sleep disorder sleep apnea and had to wear an oxygen mask in bed, to try and prevent my throat closing.
Every night I pulled it on and started the machine.
‘Sorry it’s so noisy,’ I said to Paul.
But he was already asleep.
It wasn’t just noisy though, wearing a mask was uncomfortable and humiliating. I kept it a secret from everyone except Paul and would often sit up in bed crying, upset that I’d got myself into such a state.
One night, I woke with a start.
At first, I thought I’d had a bad dream. But then I realised that the dread I felt in the pit of my stomach was very real.
He’s cheating on me, I thought.
I’d never had any suspicions about Paul before and I told myself I was going mad as I crept around to his side of the bed. Then I silently picked up his phone.
I locked myself in the bathroom and searched through it until I found what I’d been looking for. Dirty messages from another woman.
I stormed into the bedroom and threw the phone at Paul.
‘I’ve seen the messages,’ I said. ‘You’ve been having an affair!’
Instead of arguing back, Paul got out of bed and got dressed without saying a word.
‘Am I not good enough for you?’ I said.
Then he was gone.
I slumped to the floor sobbing. His betrayal had broken me. I felt worthless, fat and uglier than ever.
In that moment, I realised I needed to change.
My size had been making me feel miserable for years. It had mapped out my life and I was desperate to be happy again. I had to lose weight and get healthy.
I visited my GP and asked for a gastric bypass.
Luckily, I suited the criteria. I had a BMI of over 50 and an obesity-related condition, sleep apnea. I had also tried every diet under the sun, but it only lasted so long. And all the weight I’d lost piled back on and some.
I was put on the waiting list and in that time, I tried to eat better and cut down my portion sizes. It wasn’t easy but in three years I lost two stone.
Then it was time for the op.
My palms were sweating as I was wheeled into theatre, and when I woke up I was relieved it was over.
The first time I ate, I noticed a difference straightaway. After two weeks of being on a liquid diet, I had some yoghurt but could only manage a teaspoon before I felt full.
Every week I stepped on the scales and watched the numbers fall. Within six months I’d lost eight stone and I replaced all my tent-like t-shirts and massive leggings with new, slim-fitting tops and skirts.
In time, I met a new man and fell pregnant. Then, just a few weeks in, I suffered a miscarriage.
It was crushing but months later, I fell pregnant again and this time a scan showed the baby was doing well.
It was such a relief but as my bump got bigger, so did the rest of me. Being pregnant seemed to stretch my stomach and I was able to eat more.
By the end of the nine months I had gained four stone and felt enormous.
At the right time, I gave birth to a girl, Evie. Just holding her to my chest made all the weight gained worth it.
Back home, I was so happy to be a mother. But things weren’t working out with her dad and we separated. I was distraught.
Thankfully Evie kept me distracted and together with the gastric bypass and heartbreak I felt, I quickly lost my baby weight – plus a whole lot more.
But there was a problem. I was left with a large apron of skin hanging where my stomach was.
Every morning when I got dressed I stuffed it into my knickers. I hated the sight of it and wished it would just disappear. My confidence was at an all-time low.
One day, I was moaning about my saggy skin to my colleagues at the hospital where I worked.
‘I wish I could have a tummy tuck,’ I said.
Moments later, an agency nurse pulled me aside. She had heard me complaining.
‘I’ve just had one,’ she said. ‘I can give you the clinic’s details if you like?’
‘Yes please,’ I said.
I couldn’t believe my luck when the overseas company agreed to give me a tummy tuck for free in exchange for me appearing in a video blog.
‘Are you sure it’s a good idea?’ my mum Angela asked.
‘Don’t worry, I’ve done my research,’ I said.
Mum said she would look after Evie while I was gone, and I hugged them both goodbye before setting off for the airport to catch my flight to Poland.
The surgery went smoothly and when I looked in the mirror for the first time, I couldn’t stop grinning. Even with a bandage across my stomach it was a massive improvement.
As soon as I got back home, I went shopping and returned home laden with bags full of size 10 clothes.
I relished wearing the slinky dresses, skinny jeans, leather leggings and hot pants.
At the age of 36 I was sure I looked like mutton dressed as lamb, but I didn’t care. I was wearing the clothes I’d been dreaming of wearing since I was a teenager.
Now I’m 11 stone and I couldn’t have got the body I have without the bypass, but it’s not a cure. I still have to watch what I eat.
For me, eating is an addiction. If you want to stop smoking or drinking, it’s your choice. But you have to eat to survive, so every time I put food in my mouth I have to fight a mental battle.
After losing 15 and a half stone, I am less than half the size I was, yet I still feel fat. To everyone else I might be a slim size 10 but in my head I’ll always be obese.
As for Evie, six, she can’t believe I was ever big and when I show her photos of me before, she thinks it’s someone else.
I can’t help worrying about my daughter and her weight. People say being big isn’t hereditary, but I’m not so sure. Her weight fluctuates with the seasons but I’m careful to watch what she eats, and we get outdoors for a run around as much as we can.
If she ever wanted weight loss surgery in the future, I would fully support her.
Despite my worries, I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been. It’s a shame it took my partner being unfaithful for me to make a change, but I want everyone to know that I’m proud of how far I’ve come. If only I could find the Topshop assistant who shamed me that day. She might not recognise me, but I’d be happy to remind her exactly who I was!
*Paul’s name has been changed.