A woman whose weight climbed to 19st 2lb (122kg) and dress size reached 24 after her husband died saw an incredible 9st (57kg) weight loss in time to celebrate her 60th birthday as a trim size 12.
When Christine Burnell, 59, from Darlington, County Durham, lost her husband to bone marrow cancer in 2007, a combination of comfort-eating and her own health issues contributed to her weight creeping up to 19st 2lb (122kg).
But joining a slimming club in 2019 saw her weight drop to 10st 3lb (63kg) and a healthier size 12 before she turns 60, in December this year.
Weight first became an issue for the former nurse following the birth of her second daughter back in 1987. Afterwards, she found she couldn't shift her baby weight and yo-yo'ed between a size 14 and an 18 for years.
When her husband John Burnell died, aged 47, in 2007, Burnell was soon comfort-eating which, alongside health struggles of her own in her 50s, saw her weight creep up to 19st 2lb (122kg) by 2019.
A size 16 when her husband passed away, Burnell was soon left in an empty home, learning to cook for one, while adapting to an entirely different life.
“I had gone from a busy house with John, my eldest and her partner and my other daughter living there to being alone," she explains.
“I could eat whatever I wanted.”
Burnell says her unhealthy eating regime became ingrained at various stages in her life.
“I never ate breakfast but at lunch, I would stop in the canteen or pick up a sandwich or a pie," she explains.
“It was dinner, though, which was my downfall, because I had a lack of self-discipline.
“I was always baking cakes or treats, so there was always something to snack on.
“I would come home from work hungry and eat a sandwich while I made dinner, then I would snack while I cleaned, before sitting down with a cake or crumble in the evening.”
Drinking fizzy drinks, coupled with unhealthy snacking, also contributed to her weight issues and meant all attempts to control her weight were swiftly scuppered.
In 2010, Burnell had managed to get down to a size 14 and started dating again, meeting her partner, Declan McGuckin, 64, who she now lives with, through an online dating website.
A keen foodie like her, she was soon baking and cooking high-calorie meals like roast dinners, big Bologneses, Chinese and Indian dishes.
“Declan is very active and sporty and eats a phenomenal amount, but stays very slim," she says.
“So, I ate alongside him, but without doing the exercise, so I swiftly jumped from 13st 7lb (83kg) to 19st 2lb (122kg) in the next eight years.”
Watch: Susanna Reid shares weight loss tip from Tyson Fury that helped her during ‘lockdown slump’
And in 2013, Burnell began to suffer with plantar fasciitis – a pain on the bottom of the foot, heel and arch.
“It was like stepping on something really sharp, across the whole foot, on both feet,” she says.
“If I had to walk, I would be desperate to just get to the end. There was no pleasure in it.
“It became so bad that I couldn’t walk by 2018. I even drove to the corner shop, a five-minute walk away.
“If I went to do the school run and tried to walk, my feet would swell up because of the condition, which was exacerbated by my weight.”
While the pain improved after she left nursing, and with physio, in 2018 she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia – a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.
“I hurt all over, my hands, arms, back, neck – it was easier to say where I didn’t hurt.
“I was depressed, I felt very low.”
By August 2019, when Burnell hit her heaviest, she knew drastic action was needed.
She had tried out slimming club, Weight Watchers, now WW, over the years but then, with a body mass index (BMI) used to gauge a healthy weight of 45.7, compared to the NHS healthy range of 18.5 to 24.9, she decided “enough was enough” and joined once again, this time determined to succeed.
“The group of ladies were lovely and I did really well, losing 4st 13lb (25kg) by March 2020, so I was 15st (95kg)," she says.
“But then the pandemic hit and I started baking."
Back up to 17st (108kg) by March 2021, Burnell resolved to lose the weight for good.
“I was so disappointed in myself for putting it back on," she explains.
“I started going to the classes in person and being weighed and made to feel accountable.
“I started going on long walks and enjoying it.”
The weight started to fall off and by April this year Burnell hit her target of 10st 8lb (64kg).
“It was amazing," she says. "I always say my children are my greatest accomplishment but this was a very close second.
“I expected it would be really hard to lose weight at this age but it wasn’t.
"I have friends, going through the menopause, who struggle to lose half a pound, but I was losing two to two and a half pounds a week.
“To know I had finally not just lost the weight, but started to feel better mentally and emotionally, was huge.”
Weighing 10st 3lbs, Burnell now plans to wear a gorgeous size 12 outfit to celebrate her 60th with a party in December.
“We’re also planning to go to France this summer to follow the Tour de France and I’ll walk around for the whole holiday," she adds.
“I could look back and think, ‘What a shame I didn’t lose the weight all those years ago,’ but there is no point beating yourself up.
“You need to live in the now and enjoy what you have and make plans for the future.
"Now if I see something I want to do, I know I can."
She continues: “With every decade, I have promised myself to not be fat.
“I said I wouldn’t be fat by 30, wouldn’t be fat by 40, wouldn’t be fat by 50 and finally I have achieved it by 60!"
Burnell's diet before
Breakfast – Two slices of heavily buttered toast with two poached eggs and bacon.
Lunch – Leek and potato soup with a heavily buttered ham sandwich, salad and crisps, followed by cake for dessert.
Dinner – chicken and bacon risotto fried in oil and butter with pepperoni and a dollop of butter.
Dessert – Fruit crumble and custard.
Snacks – Crisps
Drinks – White wine for dinner and tea and coffee in the day
Burnell's diet now
Breakfast – Two slices of unbuttered toast with two poached eggs.
Lunch – Tuna pasta salad or jacket potato with tuna salad and a yoghurt and fruit for dessert.
Dinner – Pan-fried salmon steak with lemon, ginger and soy, with broccoli, carrots, leeks and new potatoes.
Dessert – Yoghurt with sugar-free fruit and jelly.
Snacks – Apple crisps
Drinks – Water and sugar free squash
For more information or details on how to join WW, visit www.ww.com/uk
Additional reporting PA Real Life.