A woman who turned to comfort eating ‘to feel better about herself’ lost 11 stone after being turned away from a roller coaster ride on a dream holiday.
Nicola Wells, 41, from Larkfield, Kent, began overeating around a decade ago after she overcame another addiction – alcohol. So much so that between the ages of 31 and 35, her weight ballooned to 22 stone.
With junk meals from McDonald’s and KFC becoming a main part of her diet, Nicola would eat around 5,000 calories on a ‘good day’, and soon realised she had simply swapped one addiction for another.
Having started drinking in her 20s, Nicola was drinking all day, every day by the time she hit 30, losing her friends and her job. She knew she had to do something about it, so she checked herself into rehab for three months.
She moved back in with her parents and started the ‘next chapter of [her] life’, but it was there she started ‘eating for Britain’ to replace her alcohol cravings.
I’d eat huge portions of food at home or scoff unhealthy takeaways, before snacking on bars and bars of chocolate. I could easily eat three bars of Green and Blacks in one sitting.
I swapped one addiction for another. I stopped drinking and started eating for Britain. It got worse and worse and worse until I found myself squeezing into a size 24.
The 41-year-old said she’s had an addiction to food for ‘as long as [she] can remember’, adding, ‘I’d even go as far to call it an eating disorder’. She said while it was ‘no one’s fault’, she believes she was just born that way.
Despite knowing she had put on weight – her BMI increased to 48.3 in a matter of years, while the NHS recommended range is 18.5-25 – it wasn’t until a dream holiday to America that she decided things had to change.
Nicola travelled to Florida’s Universal Studios with her family in 2014 and couldn’t wait to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so she was horrified when she wasn’t allowed on the roller coasters because of her weight.
Before I stepped on the ride, I was asked to get in the test seat to see if I would fit. They tried to fasten me in, but there was no way it was going to happen. That’s when I had the realisation about my weight. I’d been in denial up until then.
I was so humiliated, I knew I couldn’t go on like that. I just kept thinking, ‘This is really, really bad’. After being turned away, I found my parents and told them what had happened and they could see just how upset I was.
Nicola had to watch in embarrassment as her brother Rob, 28, enjoyed the ride alone, and made the decision there and then that she would take drastic action to lose weight.
As soon as she got home, Nicola started to research gastric bypass surgery because she ‘knew’ this was the only way for her to lose the weight. ‘I’ve tried all the fad diets and they just don’t work,’ she explained.
However, the 41-year-old wasn’t eligible for the procedure on the NHS because she didn’t have any illnesses related to her weight, so she paid for the procedure herself. Less than two months after her holiday, Nicola was booked in for a gastric bypass, in which the patient has the top part of the stomach joined to the small intestine to make them feel full more quickly.
After borrowing the £10,500 for the surgery from her parents, Nicola went in for the procedure on July 1, 2014, and hasn’t looked back since. In less than a year, she had lost seven stone.
Eating just 1,400 calories a day, by swapping junk food and chocolate for chicken salads and fresh fruit, Nicola has since dropped down to 11 stone and has never felt happier.
Not only that, but she transformed from a self-confessed couch potato into a gym bunny, having trained to be a qualified personal trainer in October last year. She now works part-time at her local gym.
Saying she wants to ‘give people inspiration’, Nicola acknowledges she’s had help to get to where she is, but stresses she wants to help people keep the weight off.
The 41-year-old describes every day as a ‘blessing’, saying her biggest fear is turning back into the person she once was because ‘she was miserable’.
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