The past 18 months have proven transformational for Holt mum Alison Bell, who lost half of her bodyweight and went from being a size 30 to a size 10.
Ms Bell, 37, is now planning to skydive for charity following her amazing weight loss journey, which began after a visit to Alton Towers.
She said: “By the time I joined Slimming World, I had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 55 and was classed as morbidly obese.
“I had fairly serious health concerns and some less serious, but pretty horrible ones too. I had awful skin sores, eczema, hair loss, edema in my legs and ankles.
“I dressed in clothes I felt were really ugly and I hated the way I looked. One of the worst moments of my life was when my little boy Angus and I were told to get off a ride at Alton Towers because I couldn’t fit the safety harness over my stomach.
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“It was a ride where the child had to be accompanied and he was crying his little heart out – he was only five at the time and didn’t understand. I knew something had to change.”
Ms Bell’s weight has fallen from 23st 4lbs (148kgs) at her heaviest to 10st 10lbs (68kgs), and she now felt she could “take on the world”.
“Being heavy and unfit had held me back and got me down for so many years. I’m not just lighter and slimmer, it’s like there’s been a weight taken off my shoulders too,” she said.
“I’m more confident, I smile more and I feel like I can do anything – bring on the skydive.”
Ms Bell, who is the head of Norfolk Music Hub’s music service, is planning to raise money so the hub can put on musical experiences for children by doing the jump from 13,000ft.
She joined a Slimming World group in June 2019 after a plea from her mum, Fiona, who urged her to try one last alternative to a drastic gastric bypass surgery she had booked for two weeks later.
Thanks to encouragement from consultant Steve Little, she started losing weight and was able to cancel the operation.
Ms Bell said: “I’d dieted for years and always piled the weight back on, plus extra on top, but this was different.
It felt like a new way of life, and the food was delicious.
“I hated diets that involved counting absolutely everything you put into your mouth.”
Ms Bell said she used to turn to food for comfort whenever she was stressed, and the habit spiralled out of control when her marriage ended in 2016.
She said: “I was extremely unhappy and found food to be the only thing that gave me comfort. I’d think nothing of having a bag of chocolate bites for breakfast, a tube of Pringles plus two sandwiches and a pasta salad for lunch and dinner was usually a Chinese takeaway or a curry. I also guzzled litres and litres of full-sugar fizzy drinks and snacked all day.”
Today she has a passion for exercise and enjoys food including homemade breakfast wraps, low-fat pasta salads and bunless tower burgers with salad and jumbo king prawns.
Before the lockdowns she began going on long walks with her dog, Mr Darcy, and working out at the gym, something she now continues through Zoom sessions.
And Miss Bell has also found love with the man she describes as her soulmate – a colleague she has worked with for 10 years.
She said: “At a conference in November 2019, when I was a few months into my weight-loss journey, however, I finally plucked up the courage to tell him how I felt and I’m so glad I did.
“It turned out he felt the same and we’ve been together ever since. Even at that stage, having lost a few stone, I could feel I was becoming a more confident, happier person.”
The health problems Ms Bell had due to her weight have also all disappeared, and she has just been named runner-up in Slimming World’s ‘woman of the year’ contest for 2020.