Diets gave us the gift of health: Meet the inspirational women who lost 70st between them in 2019 – beating serious health conditions to transform their lives
Within a week or so countless Britons will be putting themselves on a diet to tackle the Christmas excess.
A year ago each woman here resolved to tackle her weight and has now reaped the benefits for their health, too, from banishing chronic back pain and depression, to putting asthma and type 2 diabetes into remission — as well as shedding an amazing 70 stone between them.
As a result each is facing a far healthier, happier future than they were last year. From Christmas puddings to Christmas crackers, here they tell their stories . . .
A year ago each woman here resolved to tackle her weight and has now reaped the benefits for their health, too. Pictured left to right: Debbie Chesters, 51, Kate Mincher, 54, and Georgie Cox, 33
Debbie Chesters has lost 5st since joining a slimming club
DEBBIE CHESTERS, 51, a mother of two, works in a café. She lives in Connah’s Quay, North Wales, with husband Gareth, 55, a machine operator.
WEIGHT LOSS IN PAST YEAR: 5st (from 17st 7lb to 12st 7lb; height, 5ft 4in).
DEBBIE SAYS: Two years ago I was asked to get off a ride at Alton Towers theme park because I was too large for the attendants to shut the safety bar over me. It was soul-destroying.
My weight affected everything — in my late teens I developed asthma that got worse as I put more weight on.
I had to use an inhaler regularly and couldn’t do any exercise or walk very far because it would trigger an asthma attack.
Eight years ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes too — which meant doing fingerprick tests twice a day to monitor my blood sugar levels and taking two types of medication.
Even then, trying to control my blood sugar was a nightmare and I developed complications such as numbness in my feet, caused by nerve damage, and this will never repair.
But since joining a slimming club, I’ve lost 5st — it’s reversed my type 2 diabetes, so I don’t have to take medication any more and I don’t suffer from asthma attacks either! I’ve got loads of energy — so much I walk 30,000 steps each day. My doctors are amazed by what I’ve done.
Lost: 6st 3lb
Kate Mincher has lost 6st 3lb and said her blood pressure is now normal and her acid reflux is gone
KATE MINCHER, 54, a mother of one, is a business development manager for an animal health company, and lives in Stockport, with partner Andy, 54, an engineer.
WEIGHT LOSS IN PAST YEAR: 6st 3lb (from 19st 1lb to 12st 12lb; height, 5ft 6in).
KATE SAYS: At the start of last year, I was so fat I would lie awake at night worried I was going to die and leave my son [aged 19] without a mum.
From the age of 49, I’d be puffing and panting even just walking a few steps. My knees were really painful, and I suffered from bad acid reflux and needed daily medication for it — the doctor said I might have to have pills in the future for my blood pressure, too.
This worried me as we have a history of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in the family — and my mum had a stroke in her 50s and my dad had a heart bypass.
I knew nothing was going to change if I didn’t change myself, so in January I went on a diet.
Within ten months I’d lost six stone and I feel fabulous. Now I play badminton regularly, and I think nothing of swimming 30 lengths at a time.
My blood pressure is now normal, my acid reflux is gone and I don’t pant when I walk.
I’ve turned my life around and have given myself the best possible chance to see my son grow up.
Lost: 9st 1lb
Georgie Cox lost 9st 1lb. She said she struggled with her weight all her life
GEORGIE COX, 33, who collates cancer patients’ treatment plans, lives in Manchester with husband Trevor, 50, a computer analyst.
WEIGHT LOSS IN PAST YEAR: 9st 1lb (from 21st 4lb to 12st 3lb; height, 5ft 3in).
GEORGIE SAYS: We were about to take off on a flight last year when I had to ask for a seatbelt extension. I was mortified — I felt that everyone was staring at me.
It wasn’t just embarrassing — over the previous three years, my feet had become swollen and painful because of my weight. I limped and could only wear soft fitting shoes — and I was taking eight anti-inflammatory painkillers every other day. My doctor told me the best thing I could do would be to lose weight.
I’ve struggled with my weight all my life — I was a secret eater. I would sit in the supermarket car park and gorge on chocolate and florentines before driving home.
After the seatbelt incident I changed my diet: my plate was always a third fruit and vegetables, and I didn’t snack.
Since losing weight, my feet aren’t swollen any more and I don’t need painkillers. We went on a cruise in May and I did every activity going — rock climbing, bungee jumping, and ice skating. It was amazing.
Cath Young lost 9st after cutting out cheese, butter, chocolate and crisps, pizza and ice-cream and eating more home cooked veg dishes and fresh fruit
CATH YOUNG, 56, a retired nurse and mother of two, lives in Cheadle Hulme, with husband Alan, 55, a computer design engineer.
WEIGHT LOSS IN PAST YEAR: 9st (from 19st 3lb to 10st 3lb; height, 5ft 6in)
CATH SAYS: Two years ago my back hurt so much that I was taking codeine four times a day, and in October 2017 I had to stop working for three weeks.
I asked my GP if my weight was making my back problem worse, and she said that it was.
I’ve struggled with my weight all my life, but on holiday in Wales last year, when I could barely walk a few steps on the beach, was the moment I realised that things had to change.
Because I have a family history of type 2 diabetes I asked a doctor where I work to check my blood sugar levels, which showed that I was pre-diabetic, too — I really didn’t want to go on to develop diabetes; as a nurse I knew where it could lead.
After cutting out cheese, butter, chocolate and crisps, pizza and ice-cream and eating lots more home cooked veg dishes, with fresh fruit, the weight just dropped off.
And as soon as I lost even a few pounds my pain improved.
My blood sugar is now normal, I don’t have back pain, and don’t need the paracetamol and anti-inflammatories I had been taking daily. A year ago I could only shuffle down the beach: now I run 5km three or four times a week.
I can hardly believe it.
Left to right: Cath Young has lost 9st, Michelle O’Neill has lost nearly 7st and Michele Rogers has lost 8st
Lost: 6st 4lb
Michelle O’Neill joined the Cambridge Weight Plan and lost nearly two stone in the first month
MICHELLE O’NEILL, 45, lives in Manchester with her fiancé Dominic Risk, 43, a supervisor for a bus company. She has two children Kaya, 20, and Cenk, 24.
WEIGHT LOSS IN PAST YEAR: 6st 4lb (from 20st to 13st 10lb; height, 5ft 7in)
MICHELLE SAYS: Eight months ago I had my first proper night’s sleep since 2017. That’s when I developed sleep apnoea — when I lay down at night, the fat around my neck would crush my airway and briefly interrupt my breathing, meaning I woke around 30 times a night.
Dominic never slept properly either as he was terrified I was going to die, so he would keep checking on me.
The doctors said sleep apnoea put me at a greater risk of dying from heart disease because it was putting pressure on my heart. I was also always tired during the day, and would fall asleep anywhere. That wasn’t my only issue.
In 2017 I needed a right knee replacement after an accident at work — but because of my weight I needed a wheelchair for a year: both knees caused me horrific pain and my doctor warned me in the summer of 2018 I might need it permanently unless I lost weight.
That really worried me, so I joined the Cambridge Weight Plan — and lost nearly two stone in the first month. By the time I’d lost five stone, the pain in my knees had reduced so much I didn’t need a wheelchair any more.
And my sleep apnoea had gone, too. I wake up feeling refreshed — life is normal again.
MICHELE ROGERS, 46, a housewife, lives in Stockport with husband John, 48, a parts manager for a car company. They have two children Danielle, 22, and James, 19. 46, a housewife, lives in Stockport with husband John, 48, a parts manager for a car company. They have two children Danielle, 22, and James, 19.
WEIGHT LOSS IN PAST YEAR: 8st 1lb (from 20st 1lb to 12st; height, 5ft 7in)
MICHELE SAYS: Staring at photographs of myself at New Year last year I couldn’t believe how big I’d got. It shocked me into action. It wasn’t just about how I looked — I’d also had a long battle with breast cancer, and doctors told me that losing the weight would lessen the risk of it returning.
I’d been diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive form, in December 2014. After chemotherapy and a double mastectomy I also had my ovaries removed because I was at raised risk of ovarian cancer, too. It was terrifying and I comfort ate a lot when I was first diagnosed.
But that picture made me confront my weight: I wanted to be around for my children. I threw out the white bread, and stopped buying biscuits, cakes and crisps — and I reached my target weight in August.
I feel fantastic. I’ve just celebrated five years in remission. Originally I was told I had an 80 per cent chance of the cancer coming back, but now doctors say losing weight has drastically reduced that figure.
Left to right: Georgia Lawton has lost 7st, Elanor Darman has lost 10st and Rebecca Mellor has lost 6st
Georgia Lawton said for years her mood spiralled down as her weight increased
GEORGIA LAWTON, 22, lives in Stockport with her partner Louis Waldron, 24, an accountant. Georgia, a support worker, has dropped from a size 26 to a 10/12.
WEIGHT LOSS IN PAST YEAR: 7st (from 18st to 11st; height, 5ft 7in)
GEORGIA SAYS: For years my mood spiralled down as my weight increased. At times my depression could be so crushing I couldn’t get out of bed. Just over a year ago I hit rock bottom and needed six months off work.
My doctor prescribed antidepressants — Prozac and citalopram — but they didn’t help and I was comfort eating even more. I’d have takeaways several times a day.
My weight affected my relationship with Louis — I never wanted to go out, so he had a separate social life. Then, just before last Christmas, a friend begged me to go with her to a slimming club.
I didn’t have any intention of joining, I was going to keep her company. But one of the members had lost half a stone and was so excited, I joined.
For the first time in years, I felt a spark of something positive. The next day I changed what I was eating — breakfast was now fruit and yoghurt, and a jacket potato for lunch. No more takeaways.
Within four weeks I’d lost a stone: stepping on the scales was giving me such a buzz I realised I didn’t need antidepressants any more so I stopped them — my doctor was happy for me to do this.
By August I’d lost 7st and for the first time in years, I’m really enjoying life. Depression and anxiety are in the past now.
Ellie Darman said she always wanted to lose weight but struggled to control her eating
ELLIE DARMAN, 44, lives in Leicester and works as a configuration and data engineer for Rolls-Royce.
WEIGHT LOSS IN PAST YEAR: 12st (from 24st 3lb to 12st 3lb; height, 5ft 11in)
ELLIE SAYS: I’ve always been overweight but ten years ago, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition, psoriatic arthritis — my joints became really painful and because I was carrying an extra 12 stone, I struggled to move.
All my joints are affected — knees, ankles, elbows, wrists and hips — and I will probably need multiple joint replacements at some stage, but being so overweight meant that I’d have them sooner.
I’d always wanted to lose weight but struggled to control my eating. Then a year ago, I decided to join WeightWatchers as I’d finally had enough of my weight making my problems worse.
As well as making better choices — swapping my cereal and toast for granola and yoghurt — I started batch cooking food from scratch.
As soon as the weight started to fall off, my joints became more flexible. My consultant has told me my weight loss has significantly delayed the need for joint replacements.
I still have this condition — it will never be cured, but now I can move around without getting out of breath and have halved my medication, which is fantastic because there are side-effects to it — sickness, hair loss, even an increased risk of cancer.
It’s by far the best thing I’ve ever done.
Lost: 6st 3lb
Rebecca Mellor said aged 32 she could only crawl up the stairs as her knees were so painful
REBECCA MELLOR, 41, a deputy head teacher, lives in Cheadle, Cheshire, with husband Stu, 42, a decorator.
WEIGHT LOSS IN PAST YEAR: 6st 3lb (from 18st 11lb to 12st 8lb; height, 5ft 11in)
REBECCA SAYS: Aged 32 I could only crawl up the stairs as my knees were so painful. I had to take two anti-inflammatory painkillers every day just to walk around. My GP said if I didn’t slim down I could be looking at knee replacements.
I also had very high blood pressure and since I was 39, I’d been on two types of blood pressure tablets.
My diet was very unhealthy. I wouldn’t have breakfast — lunch would be sandwiches and crisps, and I’d have a pizza or a takeaway at night.
I joined Slimming World last year and my diet is much healthier now.
Losing weight has given me a new lease of life. My knees aren’t painful — we’ve just got a dog and I walk him for hours each day, no problem.
And my blood pressure medication has been halved. Brilliant.
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