‘Gym-goers gawped at my 20 stone body, but I got the last laugh’

weight loss

by take-a-break |
Updated on

Judging stares had chased me out of the gym, but with a challenge set, I was determined not to be intimidated any more. By Zoe Knowles, 40

weight loss
Me before

Glancing at the time, I hurried down the corridor, munching on a bacon butty.

I worked in a care home and hardly had time for a proper break.

Different shift times played havoc with mealtimes too, and I’d resort to takeaway fish and chips, or KFC.

I’d always been big, but the pounds had piled on in my 20s.

I’d tried Slimming World, WW and Rosemary Conley. But I’d soon be back scoffing endless Snickers, biscuits and prawn cocktail crisps.

Now I was too scared to step on the scales, but I was so heavy I couldn’t walk without panting.

‘I’m going to start the gym,’ I vowed to my mum Barbara that evening.

So, the very next day, I went along and climbed on to an exercise bike.

But as I slowly started turning the pedals, I clocked the woman on the bike next to me.

My eyes caught hers and she stared back at me.

She’s probably thinking what a big lump I am, I thought, my cheeks flushing with embarrassment.

Weight loss

I heaved myself off, and headed to the rowing machine on the other side of the gym.

After a few minutes, I was gliding the handles up and down in a steady rhythm.

You’ve got this, lady, I told myself.

But then I caught another pair of eyes staring at me. This time it was a muscly bloke hefting weights.

And it was clear by the horrified look on his face, he thought I looked a state.

Seconds later, shame-faced, I stood up and left.

I tried going again the following week, but when I caught someone else gawping at me, I gave up.

‘I’m not going back,’ I told Mum. ‘I hate people looking at me.’

I was 34, and the thought of going through the rest of my life with people judging me because of my weight sent me spiralling into depression and I was put on medication.

When my weight hit 20st 3lb and I began pushing a size 30, I made a decision.

I saw a doctor, who agreed I could have a gastric band. But there was one thing I had to do first.

‘You’ll need to lose a stone before your operation,’ the doctor explained.

The thought of going back to the gym filled me with dread. Then I remembered that Mum’s cousin Glen was a personal trainer.

Fired up, I got in touch and we agreed to meet at a gym, away from my hometown of Kendal, Cumbria.

‘We’ll do three sessions a week,’ Glen said. ‘And we’ll sort your nutrition, too.’

But after attempting a few sit-ups, I shook my head.

‘Can’t do this,’ I panted.

‘Yes, you can,’ Glen urged, and I managed a few more.

Next session saw me on the bike, then the rowing machine.

‘Ignore any stares and just buckle down,’ Glen insisted.

He encouraged me to eat more protein, and I filled up on lean chicken.

Bacon butties and sausage sandwiches were dumped at breakfast, and I switched to porridge.

In just one month, I’d lost the stone I needed to shift to have the gastric band.

Only now, an idea began to form.

‘Let’s make a deal,’ I said to Glen at our next session. ‘If I can lose two stone in three months, I’ll cancel the operation.’

‘OK, let’s go for it! ‘ he replied, grinning.

So I kept up the exercise and cooked my meals from scratch, making sure to heap plenty of veg on my plate to fill me up.

And, after three months, I didn’t just hit my target — I smashed right through it, losing 2st 7lb.

I felt overjoyed as I called to cancel my operation and over the next 18 months, I lost another two-and-a-half stone.

I’m now down to 15st 3lb, and my mood has improved so much, I’m now off my antidepressants.

For the first time ever, I’m wearing size 16 skinny jeans — and folk can stare at me as much as they like!

5ft 5in

20st 3lb, Size 28-30

15st 3lb Size 16

Total loss
5 stone

Diet before

Breakfast: bacon butty, sausage sandwich

Lunch: meat pie

Dinner: lasagne, spag bol

Snacks: chocolate, crisps, biscuits

Diet now

Breakfast: porridge

Lunch: tuna sandwich, salad

Dinner: stir fry

Snacks: banana

Zoe’s Top tip

To limit your portions, use a cereal bowl for meals.

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