A civil servant who had hit rock bottom has told of how she turned her life around by cutting her habit of eating blocks of cheese most days and devouring cheese boards at weekends.
Jean Brown, 52, from Reddish, spiraled into depression last year after suffering from an accident, which led to her turning to comfort eating.
At her heaviest weight of 14.5 stone by April and almost a size 18, Jean felt she needed to make drastic change.
Now a size 8 after losing five stone, Jean says she eats clementines ‘for fun’ and feels ‘amazing’ in her newfound confidence.
She had previously lost two stone after joining Slimming World in 2017, but was ‘back at square one’ when she sprained her neck.
While she had been cycling every day for 20 minutes on her exercise bike, she had to stop exercising and have a period away from work.
And once the pandemic hit, she endured a stressful period of change once back in her role, which resulted in her having more time off.
All the while, she was worried about her ailing mum, who was later diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s, on top of going through menopause, which resulted in sleepless nights.
“I had got into the routine of cycling, going out for walks with my mum, then when that happened, all of that went out the window,” Jean told the Manchester Evening News.
“I started to eat and drink a lot more and the weight piled back on, I put two stone back on and I was back at square one again.”
Jean felt sluggish as she wasn’t moving her body, but didn’t care how she looked.
She then asked for help in April 2020, and was prescribed antidepressants for the first time.
” It was all entangled into one great mess and I went into depression,” Jean continued.
“I needed help because it was all too much. I felt horrendous.”
Jean says she turned to cheese for comfort, where she would indulge in different varieties late at night, paired with a glass of wine.
“Alcohol wasn’t helping, I wasn’t exercising, I just felt irritated constantly,” she explained.
“Cheese was a big thing for me, and I loved eating chocolate too.
“I loved eating all the varieties of cheese, and would eat a block of cheese most nights after dinner, and then at the weekend have a proper cheese board with a mix of cheeses.”
Jean started to think about the damaging effects her lifestyle was having on her health, and feared she wouldn’t be there to look after her mum.
She cut out cheese and alcohol completely, and returned to Slimming World.
“ I was at the lowest I could possibly get, I knew I needed to do something drastic,” she said.
“I kept thinking if I’m not well, who is going to look after mum?”
She got back on her bike, received counselling, had help with her mother, and put a plan of action together.
Hitting her ‘target weight’ by the September, she then came off antidepressants the following month.
“Cycling for 30 minutes each day was a big help mentally and physically, it kept me focussed,” she said.
“I still do it now, it’s part of my new lifestyle.
“Work calmed down, and working from home meant I could see my mum more, and we would go for walks in the pandemic, so I was keeping active there too.”
Jean then concentrated on moving down the dress sizes, she says, and replaced her cheese and chocolate with fruit and vegetables.
“I don’t eat cheese now, I’ve completely cut it out,” she said.
“Like crisps, I don’t want to get started on it. I don’t want to feel like I have to stop at a certain amount, so I just don’t go near it now.
“I still have some treats at the weekend and count them in. I just don’t want to get back to what I was before.
“It’s too important for me to go back now.”
She says her weight loss is sustainable and has maintained her weight since last year, as she now understands what she personally can and can’t eat.
Still attending weekly Slimming World classes, she says she gets support from friends and consultants there, and also from her partner Paul, with Jean describing him as her ‘rock’ who encourages her to not give up.
When she buys new clothes, he comments on how brilliant she looks, she says.
But Jean even fits into old outfits taken down from her loft, that she wore when she was a professional dancer, and last fitted into them when she was 25.
“We recently took a break away and I took all my new outfits, I felt amazing,” she said.
” People were taking double glances, I was smiling ear to ear.
“I get comments from people, comments on photos on Facebook, saying how good I look. My confidence has grown so much and I feel like my old self.”
What Jean’s diet used to look like
Thick white bread, toasted with butter, and a glass of orange juice
A sausage butty from the work canteen
A cheese and ham toastie from a nearby cafe, with a latte
A bag of Maltesers or crisps to snack on at her desk
Pizza takeaway, or fish and chips. Or a homecooked meal consisting of chicken, potatoes, vegetables
A cheese board with a glass of wine
What Jean eats now
Porridge and blueberries, black coffee, water with every meal
Fruit – mainly clementines
Slimming World meals
Slimming World recipes from their book, with a protein such as chicken or salmon, with vegetables and potatoes
Satsuma with a cup of liquorice and peppermint tea