Mum with rare fainting condition who even passed out in the sea loses 11st 7lb and says blacking out at 9st beats “going down” at 21st

·8-min read

A mum who has passed out everywhere from railway platforms to supermarkets, in the sea and on a zebra crossing because of a rare sudden fainting condition has lost an incredible 11st 7lb and says: “It’s a lot easier going down at 9st than 21st.”

Diagnosed with syncope – sudden and unexplained fainting spells – during her first pregnancy at 19, often thrice weekly blackouts forced Bethany Cooper, 33, to abandon her teacher training course and left her unable to work, drive, cook for herself or use public transport.

Heavy since childhood, Bethany – who lives in Witham, Essex, with her children Amillia, 14, and Bradlee, nine, and husband Steve, 36, who provides gym equipment – turned to comfort eating, ballooning to a 21st size 24.

Bethany lost an incredible 11st 7lb (Collect/PA Real Life).
Bethany lost an incredible 11st 7lb (Collect/PA Real Life).

She said: “I’ve always been a bigger girl. I was wearing adult size 16 clothes at 13. It’d be, ‘Our Beth will finish that cake,’ at family parties.

“But, after developing syncope, my relationship with food got much worse. When I was pregnant, I used it as an excuse to eat for triplets and, after that, happy, I’d eat. Sad, I’d eat. Stressed, I’d eat.

“I’d eat chocolate buttons for breakfast. I’d get up, go to the shop and buy a share bag of giant chocolate buttons and a diet Coke for breakfast.”

She added: “Then, I’d often skip lunch, before finishing off leftovers from my children. I’d finish off their dinner of fish fingers and chips, then I’d have a sandwich.

“By the time my husband came in from work, we’d sit down for a pasta bake together. Then I’d have seconds. I’d often just keeping eating until 11pm.

“Before I knew it, there was the weekend and I’d think I deserved a takeaway as a treat.”

Bethany weighed 21st at her heaviest (Collect/PA Real Life).
Bethany weighed 21st at her heaviest (Collect/PA Real Life).

At 5ft3in, Bethany had a body mass index (BMI) used to gauge a healthy weight, of 52.1 – compared to the NHS healthy range of 18.5 to 24.9 – making her dangerously obese.

But, her life drastically restricted by syncope – which is an acknowledged but rare side effect of pregnancy and in Bethany’s case is thought to be linked to anxiety – saw her overeating become out of control.

Describing her fainting spells, she said: “Anything can trigger them, like a bill I need to pay or a bit of bad news. Anything at all, I just seem to hold onto it and then I’ll faint.”

  • Breakfast – Chocolate buttons share bag, Diet Coke

  • Lunch – nothing

  • Dinner – Leftovers, bread and butter, large portion of cheesy pasta

  • Snacks - chocolate, cheeseburgers, large hot chocolates

She added: “I fainted in the supermarket and someone stole my purse. I’ve woken up face down in a puddle too. There’s never any warning. I just go.”

Horribly aware of her size, Bethany, whose mum, Lynda , 60, is her carer, says she has always been a “yo-yo dieter.”

She lost 2st before her 2017 wedding – fainting due to stress the day before the ceremony while swimming in the sea – but still wore a size 20 dress to walk down the aisle.

She said: “We were married abroad.

“It seemed like a great idea to go out on a boat and have a swim the day before. But, of course, I was signing my life away and the stress was inevitable.

“My family lost sight of me. According to my mum, they looked around and I was bobbing about, half out of my life-jacket and completely out cold. It must have been terrifying for them.”

Bethany was diagnosed with syncope – sudden and unexplained fainting spells – at 19 (Collect/PA Real Life).
Bethany was diagnosed with syncope – sudden and unexplained fainting spells – at 19 (Collect/PA Real Life).

But Bethany still had a great wedding and was proud to have lost some weight before her big day.

She said: “I’ve been on some diet or other most of my life. I joined gyms, tried every diet going. I was so proud when I lost 2st for my wedding.

“Now I look at photos and think I barely did anything at all. I looked just the same.”

When Bethany’s aunt became a consultant for the 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan a decade ago, she was tempted to try it but, as she was not working, she felt it would be “selfish” to spend money on herself.

She said: “I’d looked into it years ago and I decided I couldn’t afford it. It was around £50 a week.

“Then, on a whim in June 2020, I was on Facebook and saw Aunt Barbara post about the diet. I clicked on the page and accidentally called her. I quickly hung up, but she called me back.”

Bethany joined Cambridge Weight plan in June 2020 and has lost 11st 7lbs (Collect/PA Real Life).
Bethany joined Cambridge Weight plan in June 2020 and has lost 11st 7lbs (Collect/PA Real Life).

She added: “We had a little catch up and I admitted, ‘I’m sitting here thinking about doing Cambridge.’ She said, ‘What’s stopping you?’

“I wondered what it was. I didn’t drink or smoke, so couldn’t save money there. But with the odd McDonalds cheeseburger, large hot chocolates from Costa most days, bits of chocolate and takeaways, I was easily spending £75 on food a week.

“I decided to try the diet for a month and see what happened. Anything that could make me feel better in myself might improve the fainting, so I had nothing to lose.”

Bethany started her diet on 12 June 2020, having two 1:1 products and one small meal of chicken and veg a day.

And, by the end of the month, she had already lost over a stone.

“In the beginning I just didn’t want to be big anymore,” she said.

Bethany now weights 9st 7lbs (Collect/PA Real Life).
Bethany now weights 9st 7lbs (Collect/PA Real Life).

She added: “But, after a little while, it became more about finding myself. I’d lost who I was.

“As the diet was so easy to follow, I felt like suddenly I was able to control a part of my life, because I couldn’t control other parts.

“There was nothing I could do about the syncope. Doctors didn’t know if the fainting would ever stop. I hoped losing weight might help with it, but there were no guarantees.”

  • Breakfast: 1 to 1 diet product

  • Lunch: Bar or soup

  • Dinner: Chicken and vegetables, stuffed peppers or small portion of pasta

  • Snack: Diet bar

She added: “I lost 2st, 3st, I was coming on for 5st loss and suddenly everyone was like ‘What happened to you?’

“There was never any weight loss target or end date in mind. I just kept on at it until I was happy in myself.”

Bethany celebrated Christmas 2020 with her usual diet products and a ‘treat’ of just five Pringles and two Celebrations chocolates.

She continued to lose an average of 2-3lb a week and it was only in December 2021 – after 18 months on the diet plan – that she finally allowed herself to eat normally again.

Now weighing a svelte 9st 7lb, after losing an astonishing 11st 7lb, she is a size 10/12 and her BMI is a healthy 22.6.

She said: “The whole way I think about food has changed.”

She added: “I can have a small bowl of pasta bake with some salad and be satisfied.

“There’s no need or desire to have more, more, more. Food is just fuel now. It’s not there to rule your life.”

Despite her dramatic weight loss, Bethany’s fainting spells have not improved and her condition means the kind of exercise she can take is quite restricted.

Bethany loves her size 10 frame (Collect/PA Real Life).
Bethany loves her size 10 frame (Collect/PA Real Life).

She said: “I know how to ride a bike, but I couldn’t do it now.

“I can’t go on a treadmill or anything like that. Even a walk can be dangerous in case I go smack into the concrete. But I have started doing a bit of yoga.”

But her new look body has been a massive boost to her self esteem.

She said: “I didn’t lose weight for anybody else. Not for my husband, or my kids. I did it for me and I finally like myself.

“Despite being a size 10/12 now, I still can’t wear a dress, as I have so many bruises on my legs from fainting.

“But, at least it’s easier going down at 9st than it was at 21st!”

Bethany hugely appreciates the ongoing support she receives from her family for her syncope and her weight loss.

She said: “My whole family – Mum, my brother James, Steve and the kids – have been such a support.

“And while my weight loss might not have helped with the fainting, I’ve got a smile on my face now. I’m really happy with what I see in the mirror.”

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