Jenny Dyson’s dreams of having a baby were little more than that - distant dreams.
Suffering from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and weighing in at nearly 20 stones her fertility was severely compromised.
But today, having lost six stones, the delighted 29-year-old from Brighouse has just been told that her fertility is back to normal.
“We’re thrilled,” says Jenny, who dropped five dress sizes, “everything is good now. My hormone levels are what they should be and the hair loss you get with polycystic ovaries has resolved.”
While Jenny doesn’t blame the PCOS for her weight problem, the condition is known to contribute to weight gain, which can lead to insulin resistance (a pre-diabetic condition), and the only solution is to shed the surplus stones.
But, as every would-be slimmer knows, that’s easier said than done.
Jenny, a district nurse based in Hebden Bridge, had tried every fad diet going. Her husband Dave can list them: “the Paleo diet, Atkins Diet, Cambridge Diet.”
She added: “I even paid to see a nutritionist privately.” As a trained nurse she knew what she should be eating but couldn’t get her appetite under control.
Finally, it was joining a slimming club and getting the support of others that worked.
Jenny explains: “I have found that having limits and boundaries are important. It’s not about being on a diet, it’s about a way of life. Going to the Slimming World group at St Martins in Brighouse has transformed my life. I have more friends, I’m much more outgoing and I have more confidence.”
She joined the group, run by Sarah Tearne, just over a year ago and has two more stones to lose before realising her goal weight of between 11 and 12 stones. At 5ft 7ins tall, she says this is the weight she will feel most comfortable at. She is currently a size 14 – down from a 22/24.
While regaining her fertility has been the most exciting aspect of her weight loss, Jenny says she has also gained a new, more enjoyable lifestyle: “I had got to 20 stones and didn’t think it was affecting my day-to-day life. But now I can run up a flight of stairs, for instance, something I couldn’t have done before.
“We’ve been on holidays to the Lake District, going out walking every day. Before, we would have spent our time going to the cinema or out for meals.”
Today, Jenny exercises regularly by swimming three or four times a week. In June she’s even planning to take part in the Great North Swim in Lake Windermere with her friend and colleague Helen Kettlewell. “I’d never have dreamed of doing something like that before,” she says.
The life-changing and life-enhancing benefits of losing weight are now obvious to Jenny. But, she didn’t take the plunge and join a slimming group – even after getting the diagnosis of PCOS 18 months ago – until she was jolted into action by the sight of herself in family photographs.
It’s a common-enough story among slimmers. Jenny explains: “I was looking at some photographs taken at Dave’s grandma and grandad’s golden diamond wedding part in February last year and I was traumatised by them. I couldn’t believe how big I looked.” She was ready to tackle the problem - something that she says all would-be slimmers have to realise for themselves. “No-one could have said anything to make me want to do it,” she added.
Adopting a slimming club eating plan meant ditching the takeaway pizzas and red wine that she confesses were an important part of her diet. But she maintains that she hasn’t had to give up everything she loves.
She explained: “We used to have a lot of takeaways and I didn’t really think about liquid calories in alcohol, now I don’t really drink much at all.
“You have to be aware of what you are eating and plan your meals. You have to be organised and cook from scratch. My love for cooking has been re-ignited and I find it therapeutic. With Slimming World you can eat loads, but you eat the right things. I can still have curry but I cook it myself.” And she can indulge in pizzas, as long as she makes them herself to a carefully-balanced recipe.
Jenny’s weight issues began in childhood but began to get out of control when she went to university to study nursing. She admits that losing weight has involved will-power and restraint but she has retrained her palate and appetite and believes in the group therapy effect of belonging to a club. Colleagues have seen her gradually shrink and been encouraged to join a group themselves.
“Through the group I have learned that I’m not the only person in the country that would sit and eat an entire chocolate bar and feel horribly guilty afterwards,” she said. “For me, it’s about having that understanding and compassion you get from others who know how you feel.”
Because of her determination and dramatic weight loss, Jenny has been named Brighouse Slimming World ‘Greatest Loser’ 2016. But from her point of view she’s gained more than she’s lost in terms of a new lease of life.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is thought to affect as many as one in five women. It is a hormonal condition and, according to NHS Choices, the cause is largely unknown. The three main features of PCOS are irregular periods, excess androgens (male hormones), and enlarged ovaries containing fluid-filled sacs that are undeveloped eggs. These sacs are unable to release an egg, which results in fertility problems.
Signs and symptoms of PCOS include excessive hair growth, weight gain, thinning hair, acne and difficulty getting pregnant. PCOS sufferers run a higher risk of developing diabetes and high cholesterol levels in later life. The condition often runs in families and is related to abnormal hormone levels, including high levels of insulin, a hormone that controls sugar levels in the body. Many women with PCOS are resistant to the action of insulin in their body and produce higher levels of insulin to overcome this. This contributes to the increased production and activity of hormones such as testosterone. Being overweight or obese also increases the amount of insulin your body produces.There is no cure but losing weight can dramatically reduce the symptoms. Most women with PCOS are able to have children but may require medical intervention to do so.