Loretta Ridler: ‘I have so much enthusiasm for life now’
Loretta Ridler (41), a stay-at-home mum, lives in Belfast with her partner, Hasan Cakir (37), a chef. She has three children, Shannan (18), Paris (12) and Rio (2), (Hasan's son). She says:
Even when I was growing up I was always slightly overweight. When I had the children I put on more weight and the more I weighed, the worse I felt and it became a vicious cycle.
I was eating to make myself feel better. Food, I thought, was my friend, so when I was feeling down and bad about myself I turned to it.
For years I just kept eating and doing nothing about my weight gain. When I had Rio, I was a size 32.
Can you imagine that? I was so big and heavy that I didn't want to go out of the house and I didn't want anyone to see me.
So I just stayed in the house and got more and more depressed.
I was in a real rut and eating all the time. Friends and family were telling me that I needed to lose some weight, but that would just make me feel worse and I wouldn't do anything about it.
Things reached a head when Rio was nine months old and he started to walk. He was running around the house and into everything and I couldn't keep up with him.
I was constantly asking the other children to do things and to grab him, as I couldn't get to him in time. I was exhausted and really down.
On Christmas Eve 2014, I looked at him and thought, 'I am absolutely no use to you. I can't do anything with you or take you out anywhere, and if this continues, I won't be around to see you grow up'.
So, on January 5, I joined my first Slimming World class in Belfast and it transformed my life. Suddenly, I was empowered and taking control. To be honest, from that day I never looked back.
The first few weeks were tough, as my diet was atrocious. I was eating takeaways all the time; chocolate, crisps and drinking lots of Coke.
I had to learn all about healthy eating and controlling my portions. After a few weeks I got into the rhythm and it all became easier.
I realised that the only person who could make the change was me and the discipline needed to come from within.
I am a very determined person and once I set myself a goal I usually achieve it, so I worked hard until I got to the size I wanted to be.
Last week I got my 10 stone weight loss medal.
I have never missed a Slimming World class and won their Woman of the Year award which was nominated by other members in my class. They helped support me and it felt great.
I am now a size 12 and I feel fantastic. I have so much energy and enthusiasm for life now.
And I no longer take any antidepressants or blood pressure tablets - I have never felt healthier.
I can do so much more with the children and it's brilliant to be able to take them out.
Having dropped 20 dress sizes to a 12, I now enjoy shopping for clothes. Before I hated it. I just bought whatever clothes fitted me and they were horrible.
Now, I can go out and pick really classy outfits, go and try them on and they look great.
My partner of six years, Hasan, is a chef, so he cooks healthy meals.
We met when I was heavy, but he never judged me. He loved me either way - but he is loving the new me as I have so much enthusiasm for life and can't wait to get dressed up and go out with him at night.
He has a whole new woman in his life.
I didn't do any exercise as part of my weight loss; it has been all about getting my eating under control."