A 28st mum who nearly capsized a boat because of her excessive size 32 bulk has shed half her body weight using diet and exercise and celebrated turning 50 as a 13st 10lb size 14.
Put on her first diet at just six-years-old, former teaching assistant Rachel Mellor, 50, says this triggered an unhealthy relationship with food that followed her through life.
But the final straw came for Rachel, of Ossett, West Yorkshire, who has two daughters, Catherine, 12, and university student Elizabeth, 23, with her accountant husband Richard, 52, on a seaside boat trip with her children.
She said: “We were living in Scarborough on the North Yorkshire coast at the time and I decided to take the kids out on a boat.”
She added: “It was a big thing, with at least 20 or so people on it already. But when I went to get on the boat dipped hugely under me.
“With that many people on it already, you’d think one more wouldn’t make a difference.
“I was so embarrassed. I was ordered to sit right in the middle of the boat.
“I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me.”
That was in August 2015 when, weighing 28st 1lb and a size 32, at 5ft 9in Rachel had a body mass index (BMI) used to gauge a healthy weight of 58, which is more than double the top of the NHS healthy range of 18.5 to 24.9, making her dangerously obese.
Finally facing her problem, Rachel joined WW (formerly Weight Watchers) the same month and started changing her lifestyle by cutting back on portion sizes and limiting things like bread and pasta, which she was used to eating in huge amounts.
She said: “I was lucky I didn’t have any health issues. But it was only a matter of time until that happened.
“I couldn’t run around after either of my daughters when they were young. I couldn’t go on funfair rides, but it was nearly capsizing the boat that I found mortifying!”
Rachel had struggled with her weight all her life but feels that being put on a diet aged six, when she was simply a “chubby child,” triggered her secret eating problems.
She explained: “I was always overweight. But, looking back now, when I was a kid, I was chubby. I wasn’t hugely obese.
“Being put on a diet at just six years old simply meant I started eating in secret.”
Always big growing up, she then gained weight once she settled into married life with Richard after tying the knot 28 years ago, which was compounded by her first pregnancy.
Struggling to conceive her second daughter, she managed to lose 5st between having her two children, but regained it all and then some with the arrival of her youngest girl.
She said: “The food I was eating wasn’t all bad. I’ve never been a binger.
“I’m a full-time mum now, but I was working full time then as a teaching assistant and there wasn’t a lot of time for planning and cooking. We’d have takeaways nearly every week.
“There were always cakes and chocolates in the staff room at school and I’d eat all of those, too.”
“Then I’d go to the supermarket to do the shopping and reward myself with a bar of chocolate on the way home.”
While her boating embarrassment got her through the doors of a slimming club in August 2015, her commitment was half hearted.
She said: “I spent the next few years losing and gaining the same stone.
“I wasn’t sticking to the plan. Life just got in the way and I wasn’t prioritising myself.”
But in 2019, Rachel and her family moved to Ossett for Richard’s work, and she stopped working, giving her time to recommit to dieting, especially when the country went into its first Covid lockdown.
Determined to shift her excess weight for good, recommitting to WW, Rachel began planning all the family’s meals in advance.
She would also send Richard shopping with a list, to avoid her being tempted to buy extra calorific treats.
She said: “I’d write a list and he’d stick to it. Chocolate wasn’t on there. It was quite simply a case of if I didn’t have it in the house, I wouldn’t eat it.”
Only initially wanting to reach a size 18, Rachel’s weight loss continued, and she was soon walking five miles a day.
And she was delighted when she tried her size 18 wedding dress on last year and found it was too big.
In time for her big 50th birthday party in May 2022, which she celebrated with a murder mystery bash, she was a slimline size 14/16 and weighed just 13st 10lb, giving her a far healthier BMI of 28.3.
Having lost an incredible 14st 3lb, Rachel said: “I’ve got to where my happy weight is. I could lose more, but I wouldn’t be able to maintain it.
“The girls and Richard are so proud of me. And I am proud of myself.
“I’m active with my family for the first time.
“Just the other day we were playing Frisbee, while the old me would just have been sat in the car!”
Breakfast – cereal and skimmed milk
Lunch – three slices of bread in a sandwich, a lot of fruit
Dinner – huge portions of pasta or two chicken Kyivs and tinned spaghetti
Snacks – chocolate
Drinks – water and coffee
Breakfast – porridge oats with raspberries and blueberries
Lunch – salad or spinach with smoked fish
Dinner – chicken and jacket potatoes and salad or a small portion of spag bol
Snacks – chickpea cake and fruit
Drinks – water
For more information or details on how to join WW, visit www.ww.com/uk.