"I hated the gym... now I own one!"

Published Friday, Aug 5 2016, 19:00 BST  |  By  |  Add comment
At 16st, Jennie Gadsby, 31, never would have dreamed of going to the gym, but 13 years on she runs her own...

'As I waited outside the Topshop changing rooms in my hometown of Leeds, holding my friend's bags, I felt so fat and frumpy.

A size 22, there was no way I'd fit into any high-street clothes like her, or any of my mates for that matter... it was so humiliating for me.

At 22, I was smoking 20 a day and my idea of exercise was walking to the lift to avoid taking the stairs!

Jennie now, after joining Weight Watchers

© Weight Watchers

Now she's quit smoking and OWNS a gym

Truth be told, I'd always been overweight. Growing up, my portions had always been huge and I could never say no to pudding. So a few weeks later, when my friend Rachel asked me if I wanted to join the local Weight Watchers group with her, I knew I couldn't say no.

"Are you asking me because I'm your only fat friend?" I joked.

At the first session I was weighed and discovered I was 16st 3lb. I'd never stepped on the scales before, though, so had no inkling what that meant in terms of my size.

It was only later I realised I was double what I should've been for my 5ft 5in frame. With Weight Watchers, I soon realised I could still factor in things I loved by choosing smaller veggie pizzas over huge meat feasts, and a gin and slimline tonic rather than a sugary alcopop.

But the big difference came six months later when I started to think about exercising for the first time.

Going to the gym was out of the question, though - it would be like asking me to get up on stage naked and sing karaoke.

Instead, I decided to walk for 10 minutes, three days a week. I didn't even own a pair of trainers or jogging bottoms... I just wore whatever shoes or clothes I happened to have on.

My 10-minute walks soon became 20, three nights became four, and then five. Before long, I was looking forward to my walks as they gave me time to clear my head.

A few months later, I walked past a local pay-as-you-go gym in the middle of the day and saw that it was empty. Feeling brave, and having lost just over 2st by this point, I bought my first pair of trainers and nervously went for an induction. Some of the equipment looked like torture devices, and at first I only used the bike and treadmill.

Gradually, I increased the speed – the first time I ran for a full minute I actually burst into tears.

One day, after chatting to an instructor, I got roped into a boxing class. I forced myself to go and was surprised how much I loved it. There was nothing to be scared of after all. Before long, I was getting a real buzz from working out... and the pounds were slipping off, too.

The excess skin on my tummy and arms had got less noticeable and I loved my new toned and healthy physique.

Jennie Gadsby before

© Reader's own

Soon, friends and family were asking me for help and advice and I loved supporting them and sharing my tips.

When I got to my goal weight of 9st 3lb in 2009, I stopped going to Weight Watchers meetings because I didn't feel I needed it any more. But it wasn't long before I started to notice my size 10 jeans were getting tighter.

I'd begun snacking, too, believing the amount of exercise I was doing would compensate. But it didn't. I started trying silly shakes and pills and would lose 10lb very quickly. But then I'd put 12lb back on and be back to square one.

I became obsessed about food and what i was eating, worrying about having meals out with my girlfriends and avoiding things I loved, such as cake.

Once I'd reached nearly 11st, I decided to rejoin Weight Watchers.

Yet again, the group support in the meetings was so invaluable. It's a roomful of people who make mistakes and love food the same as I do, and make me feel normal... and one of the reasons I eventually became a leader myself.

After throwing myself back into Weight Watchers and training, I was back down to 10st 7lb and a size 10.

In 2012 I decided to do a personal training qualification because I was keen to learn more about health and fitness. Afterwards, some of my friends wanted me to train them, so I agreed to do a few one-on-one sessions. After all, it kept me on track, too.

It was only meant to be a part-time hobby at first, but I loved it so much and it grew so quickly that it's not become my full-time job.

Jennie now

© Weight Watchers

I decided to start a gym for people who feel unconfident in regular gyms, so I spent my life savings on a few basic pieces of equipment and set up my own fitness studio called Set U Free.

Ever since, I've loved helping people to enjoy and exercise and do it safely. My classes are so popular because I understand what it feels like when you're overweight and trying to exercise. I know which bits chafe and which bits jiggle when you're heavy.

Thirteen years ago, if anyone had told me that I'd end up running my own gym and having a toned tummy, I'd have laughed and probably lit up another cigarette.

Now, I'm happier and healthier than ever.'

By Laura Hinton

For more info on Jennie's Set U Free gym, visit setufree.co.uk

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