Sioned Watkiss, 32, from Barry, used to be morbidly obese and painfully insecure.
In a letter to her former self, she shares how she managed to lose an incredible nine stone and regain her confidence.
Sioned used to weigh 19st 2lbs when she first went to Slimming World and she is now just 9st 9lbs
It’s weird writing to you, my 23-year-old self, trying to imagine how you’d feel if you saw the holiday snap I’m looking at right now.
In it, a slim, confident woman in a flowing maxi dress is glowing for the camera. Yes, that’s you, after you lose over nine stone.
I love this photo, but it also makes me feel slightly sad, wishing I could fast-forward you to where I am now and spare you all those years of struggling with your weight.
Because I know for you, in 2008, it’s a very different picture.
Constricted by your uncomfortably tight size 22 clothes, you listen to your GP telling you that your size is most likely contributing to the skin condition that you find so humiliating.
Just like always, though, you’re putting on a brave face.
Remember back at senior school when the girls would be swapping outfits ready for a night on the town while you felt left out?
You forced yourself to smile and refused to let any of them see how insecure you felt. Mum knew, though.
Although she continually told you how beautiful you were, she was concerned about your weight and took you to the doctor who referred you to a dietitian.
For a while, you followed her eating advice. But the constant pull of a night out, or swinging by the chippy on the way home from college, made you resent having to lose weight and you couldn’t sustain it.
Not long afterwards, you found that first abscess on your inner thigh, feeling painfully self-conscious and in constant discomfort.
Then, looking for love, you met Steve through an online dating site. On your very first date, you told Steve about the condition.
He threw you a warm, reassuring smile and said: “It’s absolutely fine. Don’t worry at all.”
Straight away, you knew he was a keeper. A couple of years later, he bent down on one knee on a beach in Normandy and asked you to be his wife.
Now that you were wearing a size 24, one thing was nagging at you as the wedding loomed – the horrifying thought of walking into a bridal boutique.
Eventually, you went online and ordered a dress in a size 22/24. And, as much as you were happy with it, afterwards you felt so sad that you never had the experience of a shopping day with your mum and sisters, finding the perfect gown that would bring a tear to their eyes.
In July 2013, on the hottest day of the year, you exchanged vows with Steve. You refused to let how hot and sticky you felt ruin your special day.
You were marrying a man who adored you and that’s what mattered most.
Then, December the following year, you were sitting on the couch with Steve the day after your Christmas night out with work, scrolling through the photos on Facebook.
You’d worn your trusty elasticated black trousers and a black top, having failed to find anything new.
When you saw the pictures of yourself, so much bigger than you’d imagined, you fought back the tears.
“That’s it,” you said to Steve. “I have got to do something about my weight.” And that was the moment you decided there would be no more forced smiles.
That Christmas, you found your nearest Slimming World group.
Unlike your previous attempts to lose weight, this time you were resolute.
Somehow, you batted away the fear of not accomplishing your dream and walked through the door that would open up a whole new chapter of your life.
Within minutes your consultant, Leesa, was reassuring you that she’d be by your side every step of the way.
True, you had a little wobble as you stood on the scales and learnt that you weighed 19st 2lbs.
Determined to start making changes, you went to the supermarket on your way home and filled your shopping basket.
Instead of buying your usual sweets, crisps and ready meals, you bought fresh vegetables, chicken, lean ham, rice and fat-free natural yogurt.
In the days that followed, you tried lots of Slimming World recipes – including a delicious Cajun chicken pasta salad that you still love now, and a filling mushroom risotto.
You lost weight week after week. Then, in November 2015, when you weighed 13st 7lbs, you hit your first stumbling block.
Two weeks in a row you’d gained and you felt crushed – you thought you’d been 100% on plan.
Leesa jumped into action and recommended you keep a food diary to check nothing was sneaking in without you noticing it.
And, as you wrote everything down, you spotted the odd estimated syn or guessed-at healthy extra portion.
You didn’t panic – you just went back to basics, and by the time your next weigh-in came around you’d lost three-and-a-hallf pounds. With every pound gone, your confidence and self-belief soared.
Suddenly you were hitting the shops with enthusiasm, even buying yourself a pair of skinny jeans – something you’d never have dreamed of wearing before.
By now, the abscesses had all but disappeared and walking was no longer painful.
When you went to see a new GP for a check-up, she read through your records and then looked back at you, astonished.
“I joined Slimming World,” you explained. “Incredible!” she replied.
It gave you even more of a boost and in October 2016, you reached your target of 9st 9lbs. You were practically skipping as you left group and couldn’t stop smiling when you told Steve the good news.
I wish we could swap places and you could experience right now how good being slim feels – like when you went on holiday to Greece with Steve last September and proudly wore a swimsuit as you lay by the pool.
Steve threw you a cheeky wink, and you smiled. It wasn’t one of those forced ones you used to put on.
This time you were smiling all the way through. Hang on in there, Sioned. Your life is about to be better than you ever imagined.
Love Sioned x