Christmas is a time to eat, drink and be merry. But when I saw a festive photo of myself I realised I had a big problem… By Jo Burnett, 24

I groaned as I opened my fridge and surveyed the contents. 

“I’m starving, and there’s nothing to eat again” I muttered, closing the door and grabbing my purse. My stomach rumbled expectantly, so I opened a drawer and grabbed my bunch of takeaway menus and tried to choose between a pizza, a Chinese or a curry.

Eventually I plumped for my favourite - a large pizza with all the trimmings.

I felt giddy with excitement when it arrived, and piled high a generous portion of chips, onion rings and pizza onto my plate before settling down in front of the television.

I made my way through the entire pizza - by myself. After that, I grabbed a packet of crisps and a chocolate bar, and polished that off too.

‘Diet starts on Monday,’ I thought as I tucked in, but when I was finished I felt full of self-loathing and guilt.

It was always the same, vicious cycle. When I was tired or emotional I ate to make myself feel better. But once I was full, I felt unhappy about my expanding waistline.

Growing up, I was always the biggest child in my class and as I got older, the problem only got worse.

Soon enough, I weighed in at a massive 19st 11lbs and I wore a hulking size 26. I would be out of breath just walking down the street and clothes shopping was a complete nightmare.

I often ended up in tears as I struggled to find anything in my colossal size and I had to order drab, frumpy clothes online which could hide my lumps and bumps.

My confidence suffered massively as a result, but I painted a smile on my face and was always the first person to poke fun at myself for being big.

My health suffered too - my joints hurt constantly from carrying around the extra bulk and I always had a sore back. My skin would often chafe as it rubbed together and as a result I had sores on my legs and arms.

My doctor constantly warned me about the risking of diabetes as it ran in my family, and although I nodded along, I lacked the motivation to really try to slim down.

I tried diet after diet but always failed miserably when it came to the weekend. After a massive binge, I would always promise myself I would start losing weight the following Monday, but it never really happened.

My absolute favourite time of year has always been Christmas. I love everything about it - most of all the abundance of delicious food! My family are really into it too and we always pick something festive to wear as we tuck into our huge Christmas dinner.

December 2011 was no exception. I was so excited as I hung up loads of sparkly decorations all over the house and spent hours carefully choosing presents and wrapping them up. I placed them all underneath our huge Christmas tree, which had been decorated with hundreds of bright fairy lights.

A few days before the big day, I was invited to a festive fancy dress party. I was so excited as I picked out a bright green elf costume, and crammed my curves into the tight-fitting dress.

Even though it was stretched across my bulging tum, I thought I looked a picture of ‘elf and went to the party with a smile on my face, determined to have a good time.

And when somebody offered to take a picture of me, I grinned as I posed provocatively for the camera - until a few weeks later when I saw the picture for the first time.

My eyes bulged in horror. Ho, ho who’s that? I stared at the photograph for what seemed like hours and blushed crimson with shame.

I thought I’d looked like a cracker that night but my thighs looked massive - talk about stocking fillers - and my belly was bigger than Santa’s.

Horrified, I buried the picture but it played on my mind for five months until I finally snapped in May 2012, when I vowed to change. That picture had shown me just how big I had become - and I didn’t like it. I needed to change my ways - for good.

I decided to join Slimming World and kept that turkey of a Christmas picture close to hand for motivation. I was really nervous at first, but everyone was so nice and friendly, I immediately felt right at home.

My consultant was really welcoming, and I had a good chat to all of the members who were on similar weight loss journeys. When I left, I felt like we had all been friends for years.

With a new sense of motivation, I threw out as much unhealthy food as I could from my cupboards and ditched the takeaways for healthy homecooked meals.

I found the plan surprisingly easy to follow and I started swapping my takeaways for healthy homecooked meals, like exotic curries and sticky chicken with cauliflower rice.

If I ever felt like being naughty, a quick glance at the Christmas picture was all I needed to keep me on track, and I took time to learn loads of new healthy recipes so I would never get bored with my meals.

I was amazed how easy the meals were to cook and for the first time in my life, I was cooking up a storm in the kitchen!

I was thrilled when it started to work. As the pounds fell away, my confidence soared. Soon, I was able to enter a clothes shop without feeling sick.

Shopping became fun again as I was able to try on sexy new outfits - things I would have never dreamed of wearing before.

I also started walking miles every day in a bid to keep fit and to aid my weight loss. To my surprise, I found I really enjoyed it, and soon I no longer felt out of breath.

Encouraged by my progress, I joined a gym and started taking part in Zumba classes - a far cry from the evening binges I had become used to!

By August 2015, I shed a whopping 8st 11lbs and I shrank to a slinky size 10. My health problems almost completely disappeared, and I felt like a brand new woman.

I started going out with friends a lot more as my confidence increased, and although I was more than flattered by all the attention I got from men, I decided to stay single in order to really focus on myself.

On the following Christmas Day, I cooked everyone up a Slimming World healthy dinner, and toasted a successful year with my family and friends.

I blushed as they told me how fabulous I looked. In one year I had gone from looking bigger than Santa to feeling slim and sexy - I was over the moon!

Not only have I lost weight, but I also became a Slimming World consultant to help others do the same. I love what I do and it’s great to share the sense of achievement people get when they reach their goals.

Losing the weight has changed my life completely and I would encourage anyone who is in a similar situation to give Slimming World a try.

I was mortified at the time but that photo of me looking more stuffed than the turkey was the best Christmas present Santa has ever given me - it was just the kick I needed to lose weight!

When Jo lost nine stone it was the best Christmas present she could have wished for. So the team at Sell My Story helped her celebrate her festive success by selling her story to two leading women's magazines and landing her some extra cash for Christmas! If you want to share your slimming story, contact us on 0117 973 3730


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