Belfast Telegraph

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How we finally slimmed down and changed our lives


Newry mum Lissara Fox, who survived a car crash, and Gemma Bailie from Banbridge, who was 17 stone after having her second child, tell Leona O'Neill how Weight Watchers has helped them to turn their lives around.

'A near-fatal car crash changed my life ... but I still needed to tackle my weight'

Lissara Fox, (41), is a stay-at-home mother from Newry. She is married to Eddie (45), a boiler engineer. They have three children, Jack (16), Katie (13) and Jamie (11). A near death experience in a head-on collision changed Lissara's perspective on life. Having battled with weight issues since childhood, she was made painfully aware that life was short, precious and needed to be lived to the full after being told she would never walk again following the horrific smash in 1998.

She says:

When I recovered from my injuries, I set about tackling my lifelong weight issues and lost 4st thanks to Weight Watchers. Now I make sure I walk 10,000 steps every day and have gone from being a size 18 to a size eight.

I first joined Weight Watchers in 2002 after the first birthday of my first child. I always would have carried weight, even as a child I was always plump.

New start: Lissara Fox, now a size eight after slimming down from a size 16

In August 1998 I was in a serious car accident. I was a back seat passenger in a car on the Belfast Road just outside Banbridge when a lorry jackknifed. It was a head-on collision. The lorry was going at 70mph and so were we. I had my seatbelt on underneath my arm instead of on properly so it cut through my stomach like cheese wire and my back ricocheted and broke.

I was in intensive care in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. My family were told that my stomach injuries might kill me. It was a life or death situation.

I ruptured my bowel and was told I would never walk again. I was in the Royal Hospital for a few months and then in Musgrave Park, Belfast, in the spinal unit. Luckily enough I made a full recovery. I was able to walk again. I still have stomach problems. I have metal rods in my spine, which were fine for the first couple of years but then the pain set in and the weight didn't help.

The near-death experience altered my attitude and made me think that change had to happen.

The car accident changed my perspective on life. I was a different person afterwards. I actually had more confidence. I was constantly dealing with consultants and started to question the medication I was being given.

I got married in 2000 and had my first child in 2001. I felt very blessed that I could have children after all my injuries. My weight was the one thing that I was not happy about. At my heaviest I would have been 13st, which for someone 5ft 3in tall is considered overweight, maybe into obese category. I was a size 18.

I knew I had to lose weight. I was trying to do things myself and it just wasn't working. I was eating nothing during the day and then by the evening I was eating everything. There was no structure or no plan. I found when I first joined Weight Watchers I lost weight every week, whether that was a half a pound or two pounds, it was still all in the right direction. I looked brilliant and felt brilliant. I was in control. Instead of the food controlling me, I was controlling the food.

I went on to have another child, Katie. My daughter has a severe learning disability and she has autism, a chromosome abnormality and epilepsy. She was only two years old when I had my third child. So I wasn't putting myself first anymore. I gained a bit of weight then and my back pain, to do with the injuries sustained in the crash, really came back. It was actually worse than when I had the accident. I saw consultants who were talking about taking the metal rods in my spine out, but the bones had grown around them so the procedure would have been very dangerous.

They talked about putting me on strong medication. But I couldn't do that as I have a child with epilepsy and I have to have my wits about me and I need to be able to drive my car. I can't be zonked out on the sofa. I spent enough years on heavy medication. I wasn't going back to that.

New start: Lissara Fox, now a size eight after slimming down from a size 16

A GP told me I should lose weight. I was probably about a stone and a half heavier than I am now. I made a decision to go back to Weight Watchers because I knew that it was the only thing that worked for me. I went back and lost the weight in no time.

I also got myself a Fitbit and made sure I did my 10,000 steps every day. And that, to me, doesn't mean going for big walks, but maybe doing laps of the house all day until I reach my goal.

I'm now a size eight and weigh 8st. I have found that keeping the weight off me and keeping myself at an actual healthy weight, I'm not in severe pain with my back.

Weight Watchers changed my life, they really helped me. Weight Watchers gave me my life back."

'I wore a size 22 and was 17 stone, my knees and back ached'

Gemma Bailie (34) is a stay-at-home mother from Banbridge. She is married to Samuel (33), a mechanical design engineer. They have two children, Ethan (7) and Ruby (2). Three years ago Gemma's weight had crept up to 17st. She was wearing size 22 clothing and her bones ached daily. After turning to Weight Watchers, she is now a healthy 11 stone and a size 14 and has energy in abundance to run after her two children. She says:

I joined Weight Watchers several times. I joined before I got married to lose some weight. Once I got married and I had my first child, Ethan, the weight steadily crept on. After Ethan we struggled to conceive for about three years.

My doctor was telling me I had to lose weight. But I was not really determined to because I thought I would only put it on again if I fell pregnant. But I joined Weight Watchers and lost half a stone. Literally three weeks later I fell pregnant naturally.

I had Ruby my daughter and I sat back and enjoyed myself and ate all the biscuits.

Gemma Bailie before she lost almost 6st

She was born in February 2015 and I joined Weight Watchers again in September because my weight had crept up to 17st. My back was sore and my knees were sore. Everything was sore. I knew I had to lose weight to feel better.

I looked in the mirror and thought I looked fine. But if I saw a photo or a video I wouldn't recognise myself. I hated buying clothes and really was wearing anything that would fit. I wore the same comfy hoodie everywhere.

When my daughter was six months old and she wasn't as dependant on me as much, something just clicked. She was getting a bit bigger and I knew I had to look after myself now. I was tired of being sore and achy.

I never was the one to want to go outside for a walk or get down on the floor and play.

I realised that to look after my children, I had to do look after myself.

I joined Weight Watchers and lost weight slowly and steadily, a pound a week, and so far I have lost 5st 5lb and reached my goal weight just before Christmas. I knew that I had to make a lifestyle change and not just that I was going to cut out all the bad stuff, because I knew I would never stick to that. I had to still have those things, but just in moderation.

Despite reaching my ideal weight, I still go to my Weight Watchers classes for the support and motivation I need to stay on track.

I still attend classes every week and I will continue to go for the support because I know that, left to my own devices, I would revert back and let the weight creep on. So I need the accountability and support of the classes.

Weight Watchers has changed my life in that I am more confident as a person now.

I am more active and I want to get up and do things, whereas when I was heavier I wouldn't.

I would have put Ethan to bed at night and fallen asleep beside him. I didn't want to do anything or go out.

I would advise anyone who feels like they want to lose weight to go to Weight Watchers. I think because they take a really well rounded look at things.

Feeling empowered: Gemma Bailie after she lost almost 6st

It's not just the food but it's the exercise and being active aspect. They talk about your emotions and about how happy people make better choices.

It's not just about eating certain types of food. Half the battle is in your mind before you even open your fridge. The support is amazing. They cover all the bases.

Weight Watchers has empowered me. Whereas in the past a voice inside my head might have said that I couldn't do this, they said I could. They told me that I had the willpower and the power within me to go for it."

To find a Weight Watchers group in your area, log on to

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