Hulking holiday rep, Michelle, weighed in at 22 stone - until a summer of shame motivated her to lose 11 stone... By Michelle Kemp, 34, Redditch.

I grinned as I flashed my passport to the man behind the check-in desk. I could barely contain my excitement - I was off to Lanzarote to work as a holiday rep for the first time.

It was a dream come true for me, as I had always wanted to work abroad. My mind was full of images of sun, sea, and sangria and I couldn’t wait to get started.

But as I boarded the plane, my excitement changed to an all-familiar feeling of dread as I took in the size of the seats.

‘Everything alright?’ a air stewardess said, smiling at me, and I nodded as I shoved my bag in the overhead compartment and wedged myself into my seat.

The armrests dug hard into my sides, and I forced myself to breathe in as I tried to get my seatbelt around my bulging belly.

‘Do you need an extension belt?’ she said, glancing over at my hulking frame. I felt my cheeks burn red with embarrassment.

‘I should be ok thank you,’ I said through gritted teeth. I gave the seatbelt one more hard pull, and thankfully, got it to fit into place.

I tried to slide down my seat so no one could see me but there was no room. I’d never felt so fat and disgusting and I spent the rest of the four hour flight feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable.

I’ve struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. While at school, I was always the fat girl of the class and it only got worse as I got older.

I was badly bullied for being overweight, and as a result my confidence was non-existent. When I was 13, I went to a school disco and I was devastated when none of the boys wanted to slow dance with me, labelling me as ‘fatty’ and laughing in my direction.

I always found comfort in food, stuffing my face with junk food at every opportunity, and that night was no exception.

After a binge I would be consumed with self-loathing and guilt, but I couldn’t seem to break the cycle. I tried dieting but would fall at the first hurdle and eventually I tipped the scales at a staggering 22 stone and bulged out of my size 28 clothes.

But when I landed the job as a holiday rep I was thrilled, hoping it would be the fresh start I needed.

All thoughts of the embarrassing plane journey flew out of my head the minute we landed on the runway, and when I stepped out into the sunshine I couldn’t help but grin as I made my way to the hotel.

However, I was met with even more embarrassment when I arrived.

‘What size uniform do you need?’ a member of staff asked me with a smile.

‘Erm, well a large if you have it?’ I asked timidly, avoiding eye contact.

‘This is the largest we have,’ she said, handing me a folded stack of clothes. ‘Let me know if it fits you.’

But to add to my humiliation, the uniform didn’t fit and I was forced to order custom-made clothes to cover my massive frame.

I couldn’t wait to throw myself into my new job and for the first few weeks, I really enjoyed myself. The people I worked with were really friendly and for what I lacked in self-confidence, I made up for in enthusiasm.

But as the island was hit by a heatwave, I spent my days sweating like a pig in the blazing heat, the extra large uniform I’d ordered straining over my stomach.

I’d wear a gigantic blazer to try to cover up the massive sweat patches under my arms, which of course just made me feel hotter as a result.

The ultimate embarrassment came when I was asked to cover an aqua aerobics class.

‘Me?’ I spluttered, when my boss asked me.

‘Why not?’ she said. ‘We need the cover and it’s easy honestly. You don’t even have to get in the pool with them, don’t worry.’

I was mortified as I took my position in front of the pool where a group of holidaymakers were waiting. In my swimming costume and shorts I could feel everyone’s eyes on me as I fiddled with the sound system.

‘Let’s get started shall we?’ I said brightly, but to my dismay everyone in the pool started laughing.

‘I can’t believe she’s the instructor!’ one woman said to her friend, who giggled in response.

I pretended not to hear them as I took the group through some basic moves. But I struggled to keep up with the music and I fought back tears as I noticed people were still laughing at me.

I was horrified, and the incident played on my mind for years. Eventually, I quit my job as a holiday rep and in time I met my now-husband Mark, 35.

‘I think you’re beautiful,’ he said, barely managing to wrap his arms around my colossal waist. I knew he was being kind but I also knew he was telling the truth. Mark loved me for who I was, not what size I was.

But I didn’t love myself and my summer of shame haunted me so much, that in September 2011, I joined Slimming World.

I forced myself to step on the scales for the first time in years. When the needle hovered over 22 stone, I stared at it in disbelief. It was the jolt I needed and I vowed to change - for good.

After years of yo-yo dieting, I finally felt motivated enough to stick at it and with the guidance of a consultant, I finally started eating three healthy meals every day, each dish loaded with fresh vegetables or fruit.

Gone were the days of eating piles of junk food. I’d let myself get so big that the weight dropped off in huge chunks to begin with and with every half stone I lost, I felt my energy levels soar. I was able to exercise and even joined a gym.

Seeing my results inspired me to keep going and in October this year I hit my target, losing a staggering 11 stone and shrinking to a slinky size 12. A few weeks later, Mark and I jetted off to Tenerife to celebrate.

Once we’d boarded the plane, I securely fastened my seat belt. I couldn’t help but laugh when I thought of my first ever flight to Lanzarote.

‘I can even get the tray down completely,’ I joked to Mark, as I lifted the tray up-and-down, expecting it to rest on top of my belly like it used to.

When we arrived at our hotel, I took a deep breath and changed into my bikini before we set off for the beach. For the first time, I felt amazing.

I never thought I’d be this size or feel so healthy. I’ve gone from feeling like a beached whale to having a whale of a time! 

We helped Michelle share her weight loss story with Take a Break magazine. If you have a slimming success story to sell and want to find out more about how it works, contact us now on 0117 973 3730.


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