An obese mum lost half her body weight during lockdown after learning her size meant she’d be more likely to die if she caught COVID-19.
Emma Forrest-Leigh, 46, from North Kesteven, Lincolnshire, weighed 18 stone (114kg) and was UK size 22 when the coronavirus pandemic started sweeping the UK. She was terrified to learn her weight made her more vulnerable.
Determined to become more healthy, she watched the daily government virus updates to “scare” her into staying on track with her weight loss.
The unique method seems to have done the trick, as over the last six months the mum-of-two has shed 9 stone (57kg) and is now a trim size 10.
Forrest-Leigh says her motivation for losing weight was always health not vanity.
“I’ve got two small children, I'm in my 40s now and I thought I need to sort my health,” the jeweller explains.
“When the pandemic broke and the message was coming out about weight, it made me think I need to stick with losing weight and really knuckle down.”
She says reading articles, which suggested her weight could make her more likely to get seriously ill from coronavirus was really scary, particularly as a mother.
“That was the pin in the map for me to make it stick,” she says. “The pandemic made me think ‘right, I’m doing this now’ because the pandemic isn’t going away unfortunately.”
Forrest-Leigh says the daily coronavirus updates from the government helped keep her motivated.
“I made sure to watch the updates every day as it was a really stark reminder about the obesity level and why I was losing weight in the first place,” she explains.
Having struggled with her weight for as long as she can remember, Forrest-Leigh says she really noticed the pounds creeping on as she indulged in snacks during her busy work day.
Her husband suffered a serious stroke in 2016, which made her realise she needed to lose weight, but she struggled to stick to any diet.
While busy at work, she says she turned to easy-to-grab snacks such as chocolate biscuits and bags of Haribo whenever she felt hungry.
But following new found fears over coronavirus, Forrest-Leigh became determined to make a change, cutting out sweets, ditching booze and sticking to three meals a day without snacks.
She says her plate is still as full as before, but big, healthy portions of vegetables have replaced chips and she has completely cut meat out of her diet.
Watch: Reasons you’re struggling to lose weight.
Working from home next to the fridge proved to be a challenge, but the mum stayed strong by forcing herself to watch the government’s daily coronavirus updates.
She also bought a bike and started getting up at 5.30am every weekend to cycle for an hour so she didn't miss time with her sons, aged five and 10.
Incredibly she’s now shed an amazing nine stone, impressing her husband and children with her fit and healthy body.
Though she thinks she could still lose a little more weight, her main focus will soon switch to maintaining her new size.
“My aim was to get into a healthy BMI range which I’ve just got into now,” she says.
As well as helping improve her physical health Forrest-Leigh says her new fitness regime has had a positive impact on her wellbeing.
“I feel like I can do things with the kids now and we can go on longer walks,” she explains. “My bike rides have been really good for my mental health too.”
The mum-of-two says she believes overhauling her lifestyle has also had a positive impact on her children.
“I think I'm setting a great example for the kids,” she says. “During lockdown, I taught them an awful lot about cooking which is something I'd never really be interested in before so I feel really proud in that respect.”
Having vowed to lose weight countless times before, Forrest-Leigh says her husband is particularly proud of her for sticking to it this time.
“So many times, I’ve said I’m going to do it and then lose half a stone and stop,” she says.
“Every time, he [her husband] would support me and although he never says it, I'm sure he must think ‘oh here we go again’, but this time I've actually done it so I think it's probably shocked him a little bit.”
Her husband’s determination to fight back to full health following his stroke also inspired the mum to stick to her weight loss goals.
“If he's got the determination to do that, then I can at least get around to losing some weight,” she explains.
“You can't control fate and anything can happen at any time but I thought at least I can do my very best to make myself as healthy as I can.”
Additional reporting SWNS.