A mum-of-three who was having epileptic seizures up to four times a week and “in pain all the time” has said she now has episodes only around twice a month since losing eight stone.
Nicola Atkins, 29, who is 4ft 11in tall, said she was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2012 after being punched by a stranger in Croydon, and her seizures would typically arise from stress or exhaustion.
When she reached her heaviest weight of 15 stone in 2015 after the birth of her first child, she said she would have seizures several times a week and they would put a lot of strain on her body.
Nicola said she was “in pain all the time”, both physically and mentally, and she felt “rubbish”.
But after losing eight stone in 10 months with WW (formerly Weight Watchers), dropping from a size 22 to size 8, she now experiences only around two seizures a month and is “much happier”.
Nicola explained: “I was in town, and these kids ran past this drunk guy and I went to go and help him up and he punched me, and since then I’ve had epilepsy.
“I’d probably have around three or four (seizures) in a week but sometimes I’d have more than one in that day.
“It was very frustrating, especially when you’ve got a new baby.
“It was a lot (to deal with), mentally and physically, but now that I’ve lost loads of weight, my body doesn’t hurt anywhere near as much after having a seizure.”
She added: “It has impacted my life so much. I’m so much happier, I’m better, (and) I feel healthier.”
Nicola said she has always struggled with her weight, but she reached her heaviest at 15 stone following the birth of her first son, Luca, now seven, in 2015.
She explained that she was experiencing postnatal depression and “didn’t want to go anywhere”.
She said she “didn’t feel good enough” and her lack of confidence meant she stopped doing the hobbies she loved, including karaoke.
She would stay at home and “eat anything she could find”, including sweets and junk food, as it “seemed to make (her) happy”.
But in reality she said she was “miserable” and this led to her starting her WW journey in 2015.
“I felt a lot less confident when I was bigger,” Nicola explained.
“People would point it out to me and just not be very nice about it, and I thought it was time for me to do something about this because I’m still going to be big if I keep complaining about it.
“(Complaining is) not going to make me lose weight, so I started going to the meetings.”
Nicola, who lives in Crawley, West Sussex, with her husband, Chris, 33, and her three children, Luca, seven, Avery, five, and Arlo, one, started going to WW meetings in 2015.
She was based in Croydon at the time and said everyone was “so supportive”.
She would go for weekly weigh-ins and would use the WW app for recipes and guidance. She would also follow The Points system, which takes a food’s specific nutritional value and turns it into a single number.
Nicola explained that being around other people who had the same goal helped enormously, especially because there was no judgment from anyone.
Nicola said: “At the Weight Watchers meetings, everybody is literally in the same boat – some people are just starting, some people are just keeping the weight off, and some people are maintaining.
“You’ve also got people who are really struggling to lose weight, but they still go to the meetings anyway. It’s such a nice environment … and the coaches really lift you up.”
But it has not always been easy for Nicola.
She remembered one week during her weight loss journey where she had not lost any weight.
She said she felt “really disappointed” and “upset” as she had “tried really hard”, but her WW coaches encouraged her to carry on and told her not to lose hope.
“They said, ‘don’t worry, it’s a new week. You’re doing fine as you are, and you haven’t put anything on’,” Nicola said.
“It was nice and, after I got smaller, I still went to the meetings.
“It was really nice to be able to share my story with other people and give them confidence and a boost to follow the app as much as they can and keep going.”
After 10 months, Nicola lost a total of eight stone, dropping from a size 22 to a size 8 through dieting alone.
She said she felt more confident and started socialising with her friends again. She even started going back to karaoke – a hobby she “absolutely love(s)”.
“I love singing. I did Performing Arts at college, but I stopped going (to karaoke),” she said.
“As soon as I started losing weight and felt more confident, I started going out with my friends again and going to sing and that was a big thing for me.
“When I first started going back out, I thought, ‘oh no, people are looking at me’, but they were looking at me for a different reason. A couple of times they didn’t even recognise me.”
Nicola remembers another occasion when even her best friend did not recognise her after her weight loss transformation.
“My best friend, she lived in Weston-Super-Mare for a long time, so I never really saw her,” she said.
“She came down to see me and the baby and she walked right past me. I was like, ‘Zoe, I’m over here!’ The last time that she’d seen me before that, I was really quite big.
“It’s nice to be recognised, but in a way, it’s nice not to be recognised as it just means that I’ve done well, and I’ve changed the way that I look in a good way.”
Nicola said her weight loss journey has not been easy, but she never gave up and she wants to help others who may be struggling.
She continues to use the WW app as she gained weight after the birth of her third child in 2021, but she said the programme has changed her and her family’s life.
They have a healthier lifestyle – they go outdoors more, eat more vegetables, and now cook their meals from scratch. She also has fewer seizures.
Nicola said making small, healthier food swaps, such as using grated cauliflower instead of rice, has made a big difference.
Nicola wants to encourage others who want to lose weight to “never give up” and to “stay positive”.
She said: “I know that one week, if it’s not what you hoped for, it can be a bit of a downer, but if you’re positive and you stay focused, you’re more likely to get the results that you want.
“It’s not a quick fix, it does take a lot of hard work.”
She added: “What I would always say to the kids is ‘there’s no such thing as can’t’. You have to think, is it that you can’t do it, or you don’t really want to.
“If it’s something you really want, you’ll achieve it, so don’t give up.”
To find out more about WW, visit its website here: www.weightwatchers.com/uk/