A woman shed more than eight stone in an effort to look more like her sisters and found it gave her a massive boost of self confidence.
Growing up with three slim sisters, Holly McHale, 25, always felt like the “ugly duckling” on account of the fact that she struggled with weight gain from a young age.
After two of her sisters got married, the office manager from Shrewsbury resolved to make a lasting change and spent £10,000 on bariatric surgery. She paid for the operation with money she had inherited after her father’s death.
Having once weighed 21 stone and forced to wear size 24 clothing, today she is around 13st and can fit into size 12 dresses.
She said: “My sisters never teased me, but I struggled with my body image since I was young. I was always the larger sister. I wanted to look like them because they always looked so beautiful and graceful. Today I’m much happier with the way I look, and I feel amazing.”
Miss McHale’s weight began to shoot up after her father Michael died when she was just 11 years old.
She said: “I was the one who found dad after he died and it was very upsetting. We were very close.
“My mother was so keen to look after me that she gave me everything I wanted. She was sad for me that I didn’t have my dad anymore, so she treated me with things like sweets and hot chocolate after school. It created a link in my mind between comfort and food that didn’t go away. I thought I would lose my puppy fat but I never did.”
By the time Miss McHale reached college, she was weighing 16 stone and was subject to bullying.
She said: “I was made to feel worthless and my self-esteem hit rock bottom. I was drawn to takeaways and convenience food. Things like Chinese and Indian food, takeaway sandwiches, burgers and chips, fried chicken, and bag after bag and salt and vinegar crisps.”
Miss McHale has three older sisters - Katie, 35, Lucy, 32, Aimee, 30. In June 2010 Aimee became the first of the sisters to get married.
Miss McHale said: “It was wonderful seeing my sister get married but I was devastated that I looked so overweight. An individual photograph was taken of me and I insisted it was taken out of the wedding album. I was so humiliated.”
By the following summer, when her sister Lucy got married, Miss McHale was, at 21 stone, at her heaviest weight and wearing size 24 clothing.
She said: “I just wanted to look more like my sisters, because they looked so wonderful and happy. I’d struggled even to find a nice dress I could fit into.
“I’d tried dieting, by despite signing up for slimming classes, I’d always put on weight after losing a few pounds.
“I investigated getting surgery on the NHS, but I didn’t fit the criteria for the area I was in.”
Undeterred, Miss McHale decided to spend the £10,000 inheritance money she received following her father’s death on a gastric sleeve operation.
She said: “At my heaviest I was struggling for breath and scared even to go outside. At one point I spent three months inside my house, terrified to leave the front door.
“I knew it was the right decision, but my family was scared for me.”
Following the operation in January 2012, during which doctors removed three-quarters of her stomach, Miss McHale began rapidly losing weight. Today, she weighs just over 13st and can fit into size 12 dresses.
Prior to the operation, Miss McHale typically ate leftover Indian or Chinese takeaway for breakfast with hot chocolate or biscuits for breakfast, followed by a jacket potato with noodles and a chocolate bar for lunch, and a Chinese takeaway with a tub of vanilla ice for dessert for evening meal. She would snack on salt and vinegar crisps throughout the day.
Today, she typically eats a fruit smoothie for breakfast, followed by a rice cracker with tuna and onion with a greek yoghurt for dessert, and chicken with steamed vegetables with evening meal. She rarely snacks.
Three months ago, Miss Hale met her boyfriend, forklift driver Steven Harvey, 33.
She said: “He’s amazingly supportive, and knows all about my weight loss. He said he would love me no matter what size I am - I’m amazingly lucky.
“I’m so happy with my new body. I feel happier and more energetic, and no longer feel ugly compared to my sisters.
“I know dad would be amazingly proud of me. He would utterly approve of the changes I’ve made, there’s no doubt about it.”