A YEAR ago nurse Michelle Ward weighed in at over 18 stones (114 kgs) and knew that she was putting her health at risk.
But the 41-year-old, who works as a senior training officer for the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust, was making the excuse that she didn’t have time to take care of herself. She was so busy looking after her two daughters, Chloe, 13, and Caitlin, 9, and husband Francis, who has spina bifida.
A comfort eater since childhood, when she was a carer for her mum, a stroke patient, and dad, who had Alzheimer’s, Michelle has struggled all her life with a weight problem and previous attempts at fighting the flab had failed.
But today, after a year in which she has made dramatic changes to her lifestyle, she stands 3½ stones (23kgs) lighter, has acquired a regular exercise habit and says: “food doesn’t control me any more.” She’s dropped three dress sizes – from 24/26 to 18/20 – and her Body Mass Index has fallen from 40 to 32. And although she still has a fair bit of weight left to lose to get down to her target of around 12 stones she’s feeling positive.
In January 2012 The Cedar Court Hotel in Birchencliffe ran a competition with The Examiner for a reader to win a 12 months gym membership.
Francis decided to nominate his wife because, in his own words: “Michelle does a great job supporting me but I feel she needs some support to lose weight herself.”
Michelle had never used a gym before and found the going difficult at first.
But staff were pleased by her willingness to try whatever they threw at her. She quickly improved her fitness and now tries to go to the gym a minimum of four times a week.
Although she was carrying a huge amount of weight Michelle had a reasonable base fitness. “I never sit down at home because I’m always busy doing something so I’m quite active,” she said.
But she was committing more than a few lifestyle ‘sins’. “I never had breakfast and I never read the labels on any of the food I bought. I was doing a lot of snacking and I didn’t wait until I was hungry before I ate,” she explained.
Because Francis, who is a wheelchair user, also has a weight problem the Birchencliffe family enrolled on a Kirklees Weight Management Service programme and adopted the healthier eating guidelines.
Michelle has been calorie counting her meals. “I aim for 1,200 or 1,300 calories a day and have three meals,” she explained.
“I have cereals for breakfast. At lunchtime, for example, I’ll take some bacon and mushrooms to work and have them with onions and tomato in a pitta bread.
“In the evening when we all eat together I’ll make something like a spaghetti Bolognese, which works out at 450 calories a portion.”
Michelle says she’s doing a lot more cooking and the family food bill has dropped.
“If we’re having chicken fillets for dinner then I’ll keep some back and have them cold in a sandwich the day after instead of buying a pack of sliced chicken. It’s all about planning everything beforehand and taking a list when you go shopping.”
She has learned that eating a carbohydrate-rich breakfast is important for kick-starting the metabolism and that not eating breakfast can actually aid weight gain.
And she doesn’t beat herself up if she has a calorific treat. “I used to think that if I ate something extra then I might as well have something else because I’d not stuck to my diet. But the guilt just makes you want to eat more and I don’t feel that way any more.”
Michelle believes she is fitter today than she has ever been – and that’s all thanks to her regular workouts in the gym and swimming pool at Cedar Court and the fact that she now tries to walk more instead of using her car. She has even invested in a bike, which she plans to use when the weather improves, and has a gym ball and weights at home.
“When I first started going to the gym I said it was just to lose weight, but now I want to carry on because I enjoy it,” she said.
“You feel better when you’ve been and you get a real buzz afterwards.”
Although she thought she didn’t have time to fit in trips to the gym Michelle has discovered, for example, that she can manage a workout or Aquafit class while her daughters are at dancing school twice a week.
“I aim to incorporate as much exercise into my daily life as I can and fit it around what I do,” she explained.
Senior gym instructor John Rathmell says Michelle has lost weight slowly and sensibly. “She has done it safely. It’s no good going on a crash diet in January and then putting it all back on. Michelle has changed her lifestyle, which is important in keeping the weight off and improving fitness.”
He is looking forward to seeing what progress she can make in 2013 – Cedar Court has extended her gym membership.
As well as feeling fitter Michelle says the experience has boosted her confidence.
“I feel as if I’m a lot more lively and I’m full of energy. I’m happy with what I’ve achieved so far because I’ve still enjoyed life while I’ve been losing weight. It’s got to be sustainable,” she said.
Husband Francis says he is proud of his wife’s achievements.
“The continuing membership is important to Michelle for her to carry on with what she has done this year,” he said.
“Her motivation has had an impact on others, including her sister and friends. She has had a big influence over the whole family.”
Michelle has been blogging about her experience in the gym on the Cedar Court Hotel website.
HAIR by Louise Hunter at Rubies, Heritage Exchange, Lindley.
Michelle’s quite fine bobbed hair was given a real colour boost. “Michelle wanted a bright colour to make a style statement,” said Louise, “but because of her job we couldn’t go overboard.”
So Louise, who uses the organic natural hair colouring system Sens.Us, applied a base colour of chestnut and put slices of hidden colour in layers at the front and fringe.
She then gave Michelle a classic graduated bob. “She hasn’t got much time to look after her hair so I’m going to show her how to care for it so that it doesn’t need doing every day,” said Louise.
“I’m giving her more shape at the back and thickening her fringe, which is a bit fine at the moment and makes her hair look thinner than it actually is.”
MAKE-UP by Kirsty Watson of www.haute-couture-media.com
Michelle says she has never used make-up and rarely applies moisturiser but has clear, youthful skin. “I don’t know what to do and I never have the time anyway,” she told Kirsty.
“Because Michelle doesn’t wear make-up normally, I’m giving her a natural look,” said Kirsty, who works in the fashion and entertainment industries.
She used a No 7 primer to create a smooth base for a light covering of foundation and then chose a sparkling purple eye shadow by MAC to co-ordinate with Michelle’s outfits, completing the look with a dusting of translucent powder.
CLOTHES from Dress for Less, Lindley.
Since dropping to a size 18/20 Michelle has found that she can now buy clothes in what she calls ‘ordinary shops’. It has been quite a revelation.
We took her to Dress for Less in Lindley and found a selection of tops to flatter her now-reduced figure and teamed them with a pair of black trousers.
The shop does have a special section of clothes for larger women but also has garments up to a size 20 in most of its ranges.
Because Michelle is pear-shaped we encouraged her to try tops that skimmed over her hips but enhanced the curves at her waist.
Both outfits pictured here cost less than £100 each, including shoes, handbags and jewellery.