'As soon as my friends mentioned a Christmas fancy dress night out last year, I could have cried.
I knew there was no way I'd find a costume big enough to cover my size 20 curves. Even if I could, there was no way I'd ever wear it. I usually layered up in long sleeves, baggy tops and leggings. I couldn't imagine anything worse than flashing my flesh.
In fact, last year, I was so down I couldn't face Christmas at all. My bulky body meant I wasn't in the mood to celebrate. I'd gone to my work Christmas meal but left before everyone else. And I hadn't enjoyed it. Because I was so big, I hated going out for meals. I was convinced people were talking about me, examining every mouthful I ate and whispering to their friends how greedy I was. So instead of enjoying my food, I'd just push it around my plate and go home hungry.
Although I told my friends I'd join them on their night out, I pulled out at the last minute, feigning a sudden illness. The next day, they told me what a good night it had been, what a giggle they'd had. I hated that I was letting my body stop me having fun.
I'd actually been a skinny child but when I hit my teens and sprouted to 5ft 7in, I also gained weight. Overnight, I became much bigger than my school friends and the bullies called me chubby and laughed as I walked past. Back then, I didn't let it bother me. I just held my head up high and ignored them.
But as my weight crept up, it was harder to keep my confidence. By the time Poppy, my daughter with my ex-partner, was born in April 2012, I weighed 16st 1lb and it had really taken its toll, not just on my body but how I felt too.
I shouldn't have been surprised I'd put on weight. As a new mum, I relied on convenience food. So for breakfast, I'd have a McDonald's, then a hot chicken sandwich for lunch and chips and pizza in the evening. I could easily polish off a tub of ice cream and a couple of chocolate bars after that too.
I tried slimming down by myself but I only managed a couple of pounds. By December 2013, I felt like a right turkey for letting myself get so big.
On Christmas Day, I went out for a meal with my family wearing a red dress. Although it felt slightly snug, I squeezed into it anyway, as it was the most festive thing I owned. I smiled as we snapped pictures and helped Poppy eat her dinner.
But my smile quickly faded as I examined the photos over the next couple of days. With my belly hanging over the belt, I looked huge. I could have cried.
So I made my resolution there and then – I was going to be slim by next Christmas. There was no way I was going to be stuck inside next year when all my friends put on their fancy dress costumes and hit the town.
That January, I joined Weight Watchers. My mum had lost weight with them before and I'd even been a member before I'd fallen pregnant. At my first meeting, I was 15st 4lb. I was disgusted – that was what a 6ft man should weigh, not me.
Shocked into action, I immediately cut out chocolate and ice cream and reduced my massive portions. Instead, I stuck to three healthy meals a day. For breakfast I had porridge, then soup for lunch, followed by a homemade chicken burger or a casserole for dinner. And I only snacked on fruit or Haribo sweets.
I couldn't believe how quickly the weight dropped off me. I had originally only aimed to lose a stone-and-a-half by September but in my first week, I lost five pounds. And after a month, I was 16 pounds down.
By the end of November this year, I weighed a much healthier 11st 4lb. I've dropped four dress sizes, taking me from a size 20 to a size 12, and I feel fantastic.
Best of all, my friends have planned a festive fancy dress night out again and this time, I won't be cancelling at the last minute or at all. In fact, I'm already excited to wear my Mrs Claus outfit.
I've had to buy all new clothes for the festive season, so far from feeling like Scrooge and staying indoors, I'm attending all of the Christmas parties now I can make the most of them. After all, I've got a lot of lost time to make up for.
My friends tell me I look like a right cracker – and for once, I have to agree with them.'
By Lucy Laing and Sarah Whiteley
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