"I lost 12st – now I"m proud to show my body"

Published Sunday, May 1 2016, 12:00 BST  |  By  |  Add comment
"For most of my life, I have dreaded going on holiday."

Unlike most girls, the idea of sun, sand and sea didn't excite me – it filled me with fear and shame.The thought of lying on a beach next to my friends with their gorgeous bodies, while I desperately tried to hide my rolls, was mortifying.

But this year is different. This summer, I can't wait to jet away and hit the beach – because after shedding 12st, I'm finally proud to show off my body.

For a long time, I felt like I stood out from the crowd for all the wrong reasons. Even as a child, I was overweight and, by the time I was 15, I was 
5ft 11in and a dress size 18.

In 2013 Amber was 24st 4lb

© Caters / Ester Segarra

In 2013 Amber was 24st 4lb

I was part of the netball and lacrosse teams and my parents cooked healthy meals, but I became a secret eater. At school, I would binge on carbs like pasta, bread and fatty foods, as well as snacking on chocolate all day.

The pounds piled on as I got older and, while my friends couldn't wait to go on holiday, I was filled with complete dread. I went on girlie trips to Italy, Majorca and Spain, but before I even boarded the flight, I felt fear and embarrassment.

A huge part of the excitement is getting on the plane, but at a size 20, I always had to pay for two seats. My shame was intensified further when I'd have to ask the flight attendant for a seatbelt extender. On the beach, I'd cover up my rolls in a swimsuit, while my friends showed off their slim figures in bikinis. I felt like everyone was staring at me, but not for the right reasons.

At times, I'd vow to lose some weight, but I could never stick to a diet and I just got bigger and bigger. Then, one day, in March 2013, when I was 21, a friend uploaded a photo of me to Facebook – when I looked at myself standing in front of a buffet table at a party, I felt sick to the stomach. I looked gigantic. Finally I could see how out of control my weight had become, and I knew I needed to make some drastic changes.

There was nothing healthy about my diet – for breakfast most days I ate greasy pastries or a bacon roll. Lunch was often a cheese panini and crisps, and at night, I loved Chinese takeaways, or I'd cook creamy carbonara pasta. Throughout the day, I'd munch on biscuits and a sharing-size bag of Maltesers. I knew I couldn"t carry on like that any longer.

Amber now wears her cozzie with confidence

© Caters / Ester Segarra

Amber now wears her cozzie with confidence

So, two days later, I joined my local Weight Watchers group in London, weighing 24st 4lb and being a size 28. I ditched takeaways and, instead, had fresh home-cooked food like grilled salmon with sweet potato and vegetables, and swapped my favourite chocolate snacks for healthy slimming bars. At my first weigh-in a week later, I'd lost 9lb. I felt incredible.

Within a couple of months, I'd lost a stone, and felt so proud to have reached that milestone. But, that weekend, I was out with friends when a stranger asked me how many months pregnant I was. He held his hand to my tummy and, overcome with embarrassment, I brushed it away and ran to the toilet.

I spent the rest of the night sobbing in the bathroom, but it only made me more determined. I took up exercising – going for walks and working out in the gym.

As my weight dropped off and my body toned up, there was only one thing I wasn't happy with – my tummy. I'd been left with unsightly excess skin, and even though I did up to 12 exercise classes each week, it made no difference to my stomach. I felt self-conscious and heavy, even though I was constantly losing weight.

So I decided to start saving for a tummy tuck, telling myself the £8,000 was worth it. I'd worked so hard, I deserved to be happy with my body.

By November last year, I weighed around 13st and went in for the operation. The surgeon at a local private hospital removed 8lb of excess skin from around my stomach.

Now 12st 6lb

© Caters / Ester Segarra

Now 12st 6lb

It took a few weeks for the swelling to go down, but the results were instant – I finally had the flat tummy I'd worked so hard to get!

Now, I weigh 12st 6lb and am a size 10-12. I no longer feel like I stand out of the crowd for all the wrong reasons. This year, I have three holidays planned and I can't wait to get on the plane – not only will I be able to fit on one seat but, for the first time, I'll be proudly wearing a swimsuit.

It's something I never imagined I'd have the confidence to do, but after losing 12st, it'll be a great way to showcase all I've achieved."

Paige Haydon & Gemma Wilcock

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