PEOPLE who see photos of Cheryl Barker from two years ago just don’t believe she is the same woman.
In many ways, she isn’t.
After shedding a staggering 13st, the 31-year-old, from North Shore, is happier, healthier and fitter than she has been in years.
She has been able to buy a whole new wardrobe, can buy clothes from any shop she wants, and run up the three flights of stairs to her top-floor flat.
Now a slim and petite 10st, Cheryl – who works at a before and after school club for children at Singleton CofE Primary – has transformed her eating habits, and has not set foot in a gym once!
Her Body Mass Index plummeted from 53 – which put her in the morbidly obese category – to 24.9, which is in the healthy bracket.
She said: “I was heading towards my 30th birthday and I started thinking it would come to the point where I began to get health problems because of my weight.
“My GP surgery was running a scheme, so I went in to see Karen Davis, the nurse, and she gave me lots of information, booklets and support.
“I didn’t want to make myself unhappy or go on a drastic diet, so I made small, simple changes and the weight dropped off.
“Before, I would eat big portions and lots of cheap carbohydrates like pasta and bread.
“I cut my portions and followed the eating advice and recipes in the British Heart Foundation literature Karen gave me.
“I started walking every day, just 15 minutes. It was hard at first, but it got easier and soon became a habit.
“I started swimming at Moor Park, although I’ve not been able to go while the refurbishment has been carried out, but am looking forward to it opening again.
“After I lost the first 50lbs, I started researching nutrition myself and have changed the way I see food. I don’t eat rubbish basically, nothing with empty calories.
“I just made those changes bit by bit. If I tried to do it all at once, or ever thought I would lose 183lbs, then it would have been too daunting. I set myself small goals and each time I hit them, it spurred me on to keep going.
“I didn’t want to feel deprived or miserable, so I still have the odd piece of cake, go out for meals or have a take-away sometimes – I just know it means I have to have a lighter lunch. And I have managed to maintain my current weight since August.
“Now everything just feels easier. I don’t get out of breath, I don’t feel tired all the time. I have more energy. I can keep up with the children at the school clubs. I can go shopping wherever I like.
“But it is taking some time to get used to as I’ve been overweight since I was a child. I still feel like people look at me because I am big, although I now weigh less than I was when I was 12.
“But my boyfriend, who is really proud of me, insists it’s because they think I look good.
“I just hope I can show other people they can do it. It doesn’t have to make you unhappy. Just take it one step at a time.”
Cheryl’s GP Steve Parr-Burman, from North Shore Surgery, said: “Cheryl was the star patient on our All Cause Mortality scheme, which was a primary care trust initiative. Now she has completely reduced the risk of serious health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.
“Our nurse Karen gave Cheryl the help and support to live to a healthy lifestyle. Cheryl is just an inspiration. She has done fantastically well.”
As a reward, Cheryl will be given a 12-month pass for Blackpool Council’s leisure facilities.