'I'd always been "the big one". Throughout school, then uni, I was always heavier than my friends. I never questioned it – all of my family were bigger, that was just the way we were. I just assumed some people were born to be slim and I wasn't.
I never let anyone see that my weight bothered me. I was the big girl with the big personality, always ready with a joke to make her friends laugh. But looking back now, I can see I was never really happy. Yes, I really wanted to be the bright, bubbly girl I pretended to be, but there was always something holding me back – my weight.
When I was 21, I went travelling with friends and we arranged to go skydiving. We couldn't wait. But when I read the information, I realised the weight limit was 100kg [15st 10lb] – I was too heavy.
Mortified, I made an excuse about being scared and watched them have the time of their lives.
Similarly, shopping was another no-go area. All my friends were a slender size 10 and I couldn't bear for them to see me rifling through the back of the racks for a size 20.
But it wasn't until New Year's Day 2011 that I realised just how bad things were. I'd had my hair and nails done for a night out and, instead of sticking to my usual uniform of black trousers, I'd splashed out on a red dress. All evening, I'd felt uber-glamorous.
But the next day, when I was tagged in a photo on Facebook, I was devastated. The shiny dress showed off all my lumps and bumps. I wasn't the sassy woman sashaying around the dancefloor I'd imagined. I just looked fat. I felt ridiculous for even trying to look good.
"Now's the time," I told myself, wiping away my tears. "New year, new start."
So, after seeing a notice at work, I joined my local Slimming World group. Stepping on the scales for the first time, I was horrified to discover that I weighed 15st 12lb. Even at 5ft 11in tall, it was far too big.
But my consultant knew how to spur me on. "That's the last time you'll see that figure on the scales," she promised. I went home with her words ringing in my ears.
I'd always thought I'd eaten healthily but as I examined the Slimming World guidelines, I realised my meals were packed with calories and fat.
So instead of having toast and a big bowl of muesli topped up with nuts for breakfast, I opted for fruit and fat-free yogurt instead.
I swapped lunchtime sandwiches for jacket potatoes with beans. And for dinner, I started experimenting with recipes for low-fat curries and pasta sauces. At weekends I still allowed myself a fry-up, but now I knew how to make it healthily, using a low-calorie spray oil.
In my first week, I lost three pounds. It wasn't a huge amount but it was a start. And what's more, I kept it up. Every week, I steadily lost one or two pounds.
At the office, where I work as a council planning officer, my colleagues started complimenting my new look as I came in wearing new – smaller – clothes. And for the first time, I felt the difference too.
In April 2012, I went shopping for jeans, picking out sizes 14 and 12. In the changing room, I tried on the size 12 – amazingly, they fitted. I took them off, double-checked the size, then pulled them on again. As they slipped easily over my hips, I burst into tears. Worried, the sales assistant asked if I was OK. I explained that I'd lost four stone and she gave me a round of applause!
I felt so proud – and even prouder when a local paper ran a story about my weight loss. A boutique clothing shop in the area even got in touch to ask me to do some catwalk modelling for them.
Now I'm 11st 8lb, a size 10 and so much happier than I ever thought I could be. I'd never had compliments before – no one ever seemed to notice me in that way.
But recently I was helping a friend pick out a wedding dress and the sales assistant was talking about different shapes and sizes.
"Of course, everyone would love a figure like yours," she commented, gesturing to me.
And now finally, looking in the mirror, I'm actually beginning to believe her.'