A teacher lost 18st – after feeling like a ‘hypocrite’ for telling kids to live healthily.
Kelly Barker, 43, once weighed over 28 stone and was worried that she would die on the operating table if she opted for bariatric surgery.
But she has since lost almost two-thirds of her body weight and now loves kayaking, rock climbing and fell walking with her teenage son.
She has been now named Slimming World’s Woman of the Year 2023.
Kelly, who lives with her 15-year-old son, Josh, in St Helens, says felt hypocritical teaching children about health.
She explained: “I’ve always loved my job as a teacher, yet I often felt like a hypocrite – especially when teaching the children about healthy eating and being active.
“My joints and back would be in agony after a day of teaching and although I’d plaster a smile onto my face, I just felt like a fraud.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve saved my life by losing weight – and these days it’s a life worth living.”
Kelly confessed her wake up call to kick start her health journey came when her GP recommended weight-loss surgery.
She said: “I researched the procedure and knew that my weight made me a huge anesthetic risk.
“I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would die on the operating table.”
Kelly admits weight has been something she has struggled with her whole life, and goes back to the days of her childhood.
She said: “As a child I was placed on a special diet and had to be weighed at school.
“While the other children were eating fish and chips, I would have to eat a separate meal on my own – usually something bland like boiled fish and potatoes.
“It made me believe that weight loss was miserable, embarrassing and shameful, and it didn’t work – I gained weight every year into my adulthood.”
Kelly admits her time at university only made her gain weight further, and she was left in a “vicious cycle of comfort eating” that continued for years.
After Kelly had been recommended weight loss surgery – she got in touch with her cousin, Fiona, who is a Slimming World Consultant and decided to join in with the program.
Kelly says she was “surrounded by warmth, kindness and compassion” from the moment she joined the group – despite the new process being a little scary for her, it was the support she needed.
Kelly explained: “I can’t lie, standing on the scales for the first time was daunting – not least because I was terrified I’d be too heavy for them to weigh me (they could, thankfully).
“Although that number was frightening – it also felt like the start of something.
“Fiona told me that she would never give up on me and she has remained true to that promise.
“She and my group have been there every step of the way.
“They helped me discover in myself the belief that I could do it and I now look at that moment as the biggest turning point in my life.”
Kelly began cooking from scratch and building healthier habits around food – which has now resulted in her feeling “proud” to show others the fresh food she is enjoying, given her more confidence and has even improved her relationship with her son.
She said: “Obviously losing 18st has been fantastic for my health and my confidence but by far the best thing to happen is the relationship I now have with my son.
“I no longer feel like I embarrass him, and he tells me he is proud of what I have achieved.
“He is a county and regional level swimmer so being more in tune with my own activity levels and nutrition has brought us so much closer together.”
Kelly began to get active herself with the help of Slimming World’s physical activity support program, which helps members to create a personal plan to increase their activity levels at their own pace.
She added: “My activity levels before I lost weight were basically zero. As my journey progressed, I found I had so much more energy – so when Josh suggests fell walking, rock climbing or kayaking now, I’m excited to get involved rather than worrying I’ll be over the weight limits.
“We’ve recently been on holiday to the Lake District. As I sat on top of the fell after a tough climb, I looked out to the view of the lake below and tears came to my eyes. I was thinking about how much I had been missing out on, all these beautiful views and experiences.”
Kelly’s meals used to include pies, pastries, sandwiches, crisps, takeaway pizza and sugary snacks like biscuits, chocolate and cake.
Now, she makes overnight oats with yogurt and lots of fruit, soups, salads, rice, chips in the air fryer, homemade curries and ‘smaller’ chocolate bars.
Breakfast: Something on-the-go like a pastry from the petrol station on the way to work
Lunch: Sandwiches, crisps and cakes from a bakery
Dinner: A takeaway pizza
Snacks: Crisps, chocolate, biscuits, cake, pies
Breakfast: Overnight oats made with fat-free natural yogurt and plenty of fruit
Lunch: Homemade soup, pasta salads or a crustless quiche
Dinner: A curry made from scratch with rice or a homemade Slimming World kebab with chips made in the air fryer
Evening: A Slimming World Hi-Fi bar (available in groups, online and in selected Iceland stores), fruit, yogurt or a small chocolate bar
Produced in association with SWNS Talker