A teenager has lost almost ten stone after shunning weight loss surgery in favour of healthy eating – because she was too scared to go under the knife.
Isabelle Kennedy was so fat she got stuck on a water slide, but now she’s half the girl she used to be, after being told by doctors at just 15 she was facing an early grave.
But the teen, who weighed a giant 20st 11lbs, was so determined not to go under the knife she joined Slimming World, changed her diet and shed 9st 8lbs.
Isabelle, from Bexhill-on-Sea, who has been named Slimming World’s Young Slimmer of the Year, has even reversed a form of liver disease which she had been diagnosed with because of her weight.
Now 18 and weighing a svelte 11st 3lbs, Isabelle said: “During secondary school I was diagnosed with a form of liver disease and the doctors informed me that it was linked to obesity and losing weight would help.
“Weight loss surgery was never an option for me, so I joined Slimming World and I haven’t looked back since.
“I’ve now reversed the effects of the liver disease and have been discharged from hospital, which is an amazing feeling and my doctors are really pleased with me.”
The 5ft 10in teen had started gaining weight from the age of four, and mum Su had desperately contacted their GP and dietitians about her daughter’s ballooning waistline.
Unfortunately, nothing they tried seemed to work and Isabelle gained more and more weight.
During her time at secondary school she gained around 8st as she increasingly turned to food for comfort, and would stock up on unhealthy snacks from the local shop on her way home from school.
Isabelle’s weight also led to embarrassing experiences including once getting stuck on a water slide.
After being diagnosed with liver disease and facing the prospect of surgery, in October 2014 she was inspired to give Slimming World a try by her mum, who had recently become a member of a local group.
Isabelle added: “After a few weeks of seeing the types of food she could eat and how she was losing weight, I decided to give it a go.
“With the diets I’d tried before, I hated the feeling of being deprived, but with Slimming World I never feel hungry or deprived because you can fill up on lots of foods until you’re satisfied.
“My mum’s lost 5st now too – so we’ve lost more than 14st between us.
“One of my favourite Slimming World meals is BBQ pulled pork, I love being able to prepare it quickly before college in the morning, leave it in the slow cooker all day and then come home to a delicious dinner.
“The biggest thing for me to overcome was stopping the emotional eating though, which meant finding other ways of coping – now I find going for a long walk with my dog Millie or a run after college is a great way to relax after a stressful day.
“It’s crazy as I used to dread any kind of activity because I’d worry what I looked like and got out of breath, but not anymore.”
Isabelle, who has dropped from a size 22/24 to a size 10/12, has put her new techniques to great use recently after completing her A-Levels and says her weight loss has also boosted her attendance and confidence at college.
She hopes to go to university to study psychology this autumn.
Isabelle said: “I honestly feel that without having lost the weight, I wouldn’t have even thought about going to university as I wouldn’t have believed in myself enough.
“I used to feel self-conscious about talking to people because I thought they’d be secretly judging me for being so big.
“After losing the weight and being discharged from hospital, I feel full of self-confidence and like I’ll be able to meet new friends at university and enter the world of work when the time comes.
“While I absolutely know it works for some people, I don’t think I’d have had the same sense of achievement if I’d lost weight thanks to surgery and I’m so glad I did this myself.
“I hit my target weight in February this year and I’ve maintained my weight loss for five months now, even during my exams, so I’m definitely confident I’ve discovered healthy habits that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“Being named Young Slimmer of the Year is a brilliant bonus too.”
She later added : “At my biggest, I had no self-confidence and I hated myself in a lot of ways.
“It breaks my heart to say that now because I’m such a different person, I really believe in myself and I’m a lot more determined.
“I’m going to university in September and I’d never even considered being able to go before, I’ve had a huge change in my personality and I’m way more confident.
“I didn’t really have a social life before, I used to turn down invites to parties or things like that and I was a social recluse.
“I always had friends, I just preferred to stay in the house because I was worried what people would think and that they’d be looking at me.
“But I’m never in the house now, I’m always out with friends and walking the dog, and I’m far more sociable because I’m more confident, I’m able to be around people.
“I suffered with low mood and at my biggest I had a lot of health complications and skin conditions which made it hard to walk – I used to get picked up from the bus station even though it was only a ten minute walk because I’d be in a lot of pain.
“I’ve never done strenuous exercise but now I walk lots, I’ve got a wonderful Labrador called Millie who I take out all the time.
“I’ve just been through my A-levels so I used running as stress management too.”
Isabelle has just finished her exams in Psychology, English Literature and Nutrition, and is off to university to study Psychology in the autumn.
She credits her Nutrition course with helping to educate her about food and says it transformed her relationship with food.
The slim teen chose the course shortly after beginning her weight loss journey, and has since shed pounds while understanding why she binge ate.
Isabelle added: “My Nutrition course helped massively – I’ve always loved food and that was part of my issue, but changing my relationship with it and educating myself about it has been really interesting and helpful.
“I wouldn’t say my diet itself has changed that much, but my relationship with food has.
“I went through a tricky family divorce when I was younger and I used food as comfort, I would binge eat after school, I’d eat packets of biscuits after school before dinner.
“But now I no longer need that in my life to cope with difficult situations and I walk to relieve stress instead.
“I can still eat normally, I have everyday meals and the same types of food, just with small changes.
“I used to eat leftovers before they’d even get in the fridge, and I’d have 2000 calories in a binge session because I used it as a coping mechanism, but it was only making my health and everything worse.
“I hit my target back in November last year but I’ve adjusted it a little bit since then.
“When you stand on the scales at your biggest, you have no idea of what weight you could be or your potential.
“My consultant at the hospital said she was happy with my weight as it is now, so I’m happy to just maintain it.”
Breakfast: usually nothing
Mid-morning: sweets or crisps bought on the way to school
Lunch: chicken and mayo baguette (white)
Mid-afternoon: crisps, biscuits, sweets and chocolate after school
Dinner: a whole pizza and chips
Evening: ice cream, more chocolate and often picking at leftovers too
Breakfast: poached eggs, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms and baked beans on wholemeal toast
Mid-morning: apple or banana
Lunch: a jacket potato filled with tuna and sweetcorn and a big side salad
Mid-afternoon: a fat-free yogurt and some strawberries
Dinner: fajita rice bowl with salad or BBQ pulled pork with Slimming World-style chips and salad
Evening: Oreo ice cream sandwich or a chocolate bar.