This post started as something entirely different, but then went off on it’s own tangent and is now a little weight-loss history from 2008 to now. So I decided to just go with it!
The picture below is me in Malta in 2008, which was an all time low for me. My aunty had decided to emigrate and I asked if I could go with her. I’ve never said these words out loud or written them down before, but I was running away. I was up to my eyeballs in debt, my weight had spiralled out of control, because I was so miserable I thought it would be better for my immediate family if I wasn’t around… and it was probably the biggest mistake of my life. I knew from the moment my dad came to pick me up to take me to the airport that I didn’t want to go, but went anyway. Why? I’m not sure, but it felt like the only option left to me.
On the plane there I only just managed to do the seat belt up, so I thought once I have this fresh start I can sort my weight out too. Ha! What a joke. I’d already planned to drive from Dover to Barcelona with friends later on in the year so I flew back to England after a couple of months, and on that flight I humiliatingly had to ask for a seat belt extension. I don’t remember exactly what I weighed, but it was over 22 stone.
On that holiday I had the worst ‘fat’ experience of my life. In Barcelona we sat down to eat and a waiter came over to ask me something. Although he didn’t speak a word of English and I was a little tipsy shall we say, I instantly knew exactly what he was asking. He was asking if I wanted a bigger chair to sit in, and I just broke down. I cried all through the meal (the poor waiter was absolutely mortified, he clearly hadn’t intended to upset me) and all the way back to the hotel.
When I got back to my aunt’s in Malta I stayed for another month or so before I knew I had to go home. My mum and dad helped me with flights home and I arrived without a penny to my name. In desperation I got some office temp work, which I hated. The recession was just kicking in and I couldn’t get anything that lasted more than a few weeks at a time, and I felt so anxious I can barely stand to think back on that period of my life.
I think I came home in September, or thereabouts, and by the time October came around I thought to myself, ‘right, where is going to have work to see me to the other side of Christmas?’ The answer came at a local warehouse for a rather large retail company, and since I was still so big I decided picking was a good choice as it might help me lose weight. As if I hadn’t had enough humiliation already, in the group induction the lady in charge came over and asked me (in front of everyone) if I felt I was physically capable of doing the job. The answer was actually no, but I told her yes anyway.
The first few months were hell. I cried every night before going to work because I hated it so much. I was so shy and ashamed of myself that I barely spoke to anyone and within the first few hours wondered how I was going to make it through the rest of the shift. I had terrible blisters on my feet and my thighs rubbed until they were bleeding.
Gradually though, things improved. A new man came on to the night shift and we got talking, and I fell head over heels for him. At this point I’d actually started to lose weight from all the activity, my finances were being sorted out, and having someone to talk to really bought me out of my shell. Unfortunately whilst he was interested in a way, it turned out to be a one night stand. He led me on for a long, long time, which I honestly doubt he meant to do. I think he was just lonely and although he didn’t want me for a partner he wanted a friend. Perhaps he didn’t really know how to go about it. Anyway I ended up feeling really low again, the weight went back on and I ended up taking anti-depressants.
It took me a while to get a grip on myself, but eventually I started losing weight again. I was about 18 stone when I met another man at work who I liked, and we ended up being together for five years. This period in my life took me to my heaviest and lowest weights since 2008.
In our five year relationship I was kept a secret from his ex-girlfriend and children the entire time. I could write a novel about how bad I felt over those five years, and although in general I coped better than at other bad times in my life, I sure did use food to help me get through. This man also didn’t show me any affection at all, so I thought it must be because I was fat. We got together in 2010, and in 2012, at my heaviest ever recorded weight of 22 st 4 lbs, I did something really stupid and/or brave. I agreed to walk almost 30 miles for charity.
It took me over 12 hours and it almost ruined me, but I did it. At the end of the journey I got to meet a little girl (the daughter of a colleague) who was successfully battling cancer. She was only a toddler at the time and I thought to myself ‘what the hell is your bloody excuse Hayley? Sort your life out!’
The next week I joined Slimming World, weighing 21 st 9 lbs. The walk did help me lose weight but I really wouldn’t recommend it! In the next year I got down to 14 st 7 lbs, but I was still so miserable. My boyfriend’s nan had just passed away but when she was ill he wouldn’t let me see her. I wasn’t allowed to see him upset, or hug him too much, or talk about it. I had to ask permission to go the funeral, and I went alone. He still didn’t show me any affection and was never once supportive of my weight loss. Once he tried to force me to eat pizza until I cried. Deep down I knew then that it was never going to work.
Strangely enough, I regained ALL of the weight. Who could have guessed that would happen? Since I couldn’t get real affection, and being slim just made our relationship even worse because he hated me losing weight, I thought I might as well be miserable and eat all the crap I wanted to at the same time.
I somehow found the courage to end things in March 2016, and I had a nice little stress loss at the beginning. Then something amazing started to happen. For the first time in my life I started to do things that genuinely made me happy, just for the sake of it. And I haven’t stopped doing that since. I had some half-hearted attempts at Slimming World during the first few months but then I’d go out clubbing with the young men from work and put on everything I’d lost. It was kind of worth it at the time though!
Finally, in October last year, I found the balance I’d been looking for between having fun and being healthy so I rejoined my original Slimming World group, where I intend to stay until the end of time.
On Saturday I went back to my old hair stylist, who hadn’t done a proper cut on me since about 2006, and as he was cutting away I started to see the old me emerge in front of the mirror. For the past decade I’ve almost always worn my hair like in this picture, which I took in the car before my appointment:
I never liked it like that, I just didn’t care enough about my appearance to make an effort. As long as people didn’t look at me too much, I was OK with that. I didn’t see the point of spending time, effort and money on myself because quite frankly I didn’t think I was worth it.
This is me now:
And here’s a couple of side-by-side comparisons for you. That’s August last year compared to yesterday. Just a bit of a difference, yes?
And in this one on the left I’d already lost about 2 stone!
I still have a very long road ahead of me, but something is entirely different this time. That something is that I have found interests in my life, things that make me happy and fulfilled, that have nothing to do with food. I love being outside which used to mean picnics but now means photography, I love birds which used to mean eating them deep fried in a crispy coating and now means keeping one as a pet, training her and enriching her environment. I love spending time with my brother and sister, purely because I want to laugh with them and see how they’re doing, instead of using it as an excuse to eat out.
I’m only halfway to the target I’ve set myself, but I’m a million miles away from the person I used to be. I’m ready to say goodbye to her forever.