A 21st 7lb carer who started “raiding the biscuit barrel” in her teens shed 10st after pledging at New Year 2018 that she would wake up looking fab at 40 – going from a size 24 to a slender 11st 7lb size 14.
Losing “the equivalent of a whole person” in weight, 5ft 9in Rachal Collins, 41, has almost halved her body mass index (BMI) used to gauge a healthy weight – dropping from 44.5, which is deemed dangerously obese, to 23.8, which is well within the 18.5 to 24.9 NHS healthy range.
Astonishingly, Rachal, a trained beautician but now full-time carer to her mum, Carol, 72, who she lives with in Sandhurst, Berkshire, says she had only planned to lose a few stone, saying: “By the time I was 38, I’d look in the mirror and tell myself, ‘I’m not going to look like this at 40.'”
She added: “In the second week of January 2018, I found a local WW weight loss group down the road and joined.
“When I started, my goal was to lose just 2st which I thought would take ages, so it never occurred to me I would lose the equivalent of a whole person’s weight!”
Rachal, whose healthy size means she has now reduced her risk of developing high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, admits to emotional eating, which became worse because of family problems.
In 2012, she became a carer for her mum, as she was hit by a car crossing the road leaving her with a serious back injury and other mobility challenges.
Then, in 2013, Rachal’s dad Daniel, a landscape gardener, died aged 59, from kidney cancer – further compounding her unhealthy relationship with food.
She said: “I come from a family where we’re big built on both my mum and my dad’s side.”
Breakfast – Nothing, or just toast with loads of butter, cup of tea ( no sugar)
Lunch - Anything and everything, from junk food to sweets and loads of diet cola.
Dinner - Bowls of pasta, more, junk food, sandwiches, crisps and more diet cola.
She added: “I had lost weight before, but it had gone up and down and then, after mum’s accident and after dad died, things just went downhill because I started eating even more.”
Being tall, Rachal says she looked older than she was growing up and was bullied about her size at secondary school.
“By the time I was 11, I looked 15, so I was picked on at school,” she said.
She added: “I had a friendship group where quite a few of us were a bigger size and, although I would stand up to the bullies, when I got home I’d just eat because people would say things that had hurt my feelings, like ‘Fatty.’
“We lived opposite a shop, so it was easy to pop out for snacks and when I was younger my dad’s mum lived opposite, so I’d go there after school and raid her biscuit barrel and then come home and do the same at my house.”
By the time she hit her late teens and early 20s, Rachal says she had adopted a feisty attitude to her weight, telling herself, ‘It’s my life and my body and I can do what I want.’”
Looking back, she wishes she had tackled her growing waistline back then, though, rather than defiantly allowing her weight to soar.
She said: “It is so much harder to lose the weight and keep it off as you get older. Your body changes, so I really do wish I’d started this in my twenties.”
Rachal, who is single and now a dress size 14, also had some serious health reasons to lose weight – with middle age and the risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure looming.
She said: “I haven’t found the right person to have as a partner yet, but if someone came along, I’d be happy to have a relationship.
“Losing the weight was never about that, though. I did it for myself and for my health.”
Still, she loves looking and feeling so much better and being able to buy clothes from the front of the rails, instead of heading for the plus size clothing stashed at the back.
She said: “I have kept a few of my larger tops in a box under my bed.
“I take take them out sometimes and look at them to remind myself that I am never going back up to that weight again.”
At the start of her journey, Rachal was very strict with her diet, working with the WW points system.
At first she was given a daily allowance of 43 points, which would usually only be allotted to a man.
But the allowance dropped as she shed more and more weight – eventually taking her down to 23 points a day, some of which she would use for a square of chocolate or a glass of wine at the weekend.
“Once the weight is coming off, the diet becomes more about healthy eating and portion sizes,” she said.
Breakfast - 40g of porridge with handful of blueberries, cup of tea.
Lunch - Two boiled eggs with a banana, decaffeinated coffee and/or water.
Dinner - Skinless chicken breasts with vegetables and much, much smaller portions.
She added: “I come off the points altogether on birthdays and at Christmas and then get back on them once the holidays are over.
“I weigh myself weekly, either at home or at the slimming group and if I have put on a few pounds I then work hard to get them off again.
“So, what I would say to anyone thinking about losing weight this year is to go for it and not to give up.”
She added: “If you have a bad day don’t make it a bad week or a bad month. You are only human, so once you are in the right mindset, you should get back on your diet.
“If you hit a crisis, don’t try and diet. Eat what you want, but when you are settled again, go back to healthy eating so you can get your weight down.”
Scared of being judged when she first walked into her local WW group, Rachal now feels like a stalwart.
She said: “I soon realised that I was being silly, because we were all there for the same reason which was to lose weight.
“Whether someone wants to lose just one stone or 10, all of us want the same thing, so that makes us all equal.”
Looking back over the last four years — with the pandemic meaning she had to monitor her own weight loss from home, because lockdowns put a stop to her WW meetings – Rachal says she is proud of her achievement.
And her advice for anyone else who wants to shape-up is simple.
She said: “Believe in yourself. Never give up on yourself and hold your head high, because you can do this.”
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