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The Moment That Changed It All

I love working with Essentials because the stories always look so gorgeous on the page. Plus they do fantastic recipes at the back of the mag. This month we interviewed Nicola, who lost a lot of weight after her mum passed away, Julie, who couldn’t read until her daughter started learning to read at school, and Katy, who refused to let an early diagnosis of arthritis hold her back. These women have been through the mill but they are standing tall and smiling and I love them for it. A celebratory story of the human spirit.

Nicola’s mum was always nagging her to lose weight. But it was a wish Nicola fulfilled a little too late…

I started eating junk food as a teenager. By the age of 14, I was a size 24. I had swollen ankles and terrible back pain. I was breathless and sweaty, could hardly walk up the road without needing to sit and catch my breath.

My mum, Jo, raised her concerns.

‘Your back hurts because you’re overweight, Nic,’ she said. ‘Only you can change it.’

But I ignored her.

Little did I know by the age of 30 I’d have arthritis in my back due to years of being clinically obese. I just wanted Mum to stop nagging me and leave me in peace, to gorge on four bacon sandwiches for breakfast, a fast food lunch and two deep fried pieces of chicken, chips, sausage in batter and a saveloy, with curry sauce, for dinner. I even had emergency crisps and chocolate hidden in my bedroom. That’s all I wanted to do – eat. I didn’t want anyone reminded me I had to get my diet under control.

Then Mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer. For three years, she put up a fight. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’d go and visit Mum in hospital, and I’d eat the chocolates people had brought in for her, or the lunch she was too frail to finish off.

But as I watched Mum fight the effects of chemo, I realised that all my health complaints were self inflicted – my bad back, my breathlessness, my painful joints. All because I ate too much.

Mum didn’t give herself cancer. Life just seemed so cruel. Even while she was battling cancer, Mum still tried to help me.

‘Only you can change it,’ she reminded me. She always said that. Unlike Mum, I had a choice. I had control over my health.

In 2006, when I was 27, Mum passed away.

I was absolutely devastated. It was the wake up call I needed. I was suddenly so aware of my own mortality, and wanted to fulfil Mum’s wish – that I changed the way I was.

I weighed 25st 11lbs when joined a slimming class. Although I’d tried to diet many times in my life before, this time, I was determined.

I went on holiday with my sister a year later and although I was still a size 20, I felt confident – until a deck chair buckled underneath me. I still had a long way to go.

My weight loss journey continued and by 2009, I was 13st. For my birthday, I had my hair cut and bought a new dress. I’d never felt pretty before in my life but that night, I did. I’d lost over 13st – more than my sister even weighed.

I started walking to and from work, eating cereal for breakfast, soup for lunch and something healthy like spag bowl for dinner.

I feel healthier and younger than I did in my 20s.

I’d go and visit Mum’s grave and whisper to her: ‘I did it Mum!’

If only she could see me now. Mum always said only I could change my ways. But I wish I could tell her that we did it together.