Posing in front of the mirror in my size 10 sparkly black bikini, I can hardly believe the person in the reflection is really me. This week, I’ll be stepping onto the catwalk in my skimpy bikini in front of hundreds of people as a finalist in Ms Great Britain.
After five years of weighing more than 17st and feeling incredibly unhealthy, I can’t help feeling proud of how far I’ve come. Until 2015, I was a healthy weight for my 5ft 6in frame. But when my dad Phil died suddenly of heart disease, aged 57, everything changed.
Dad was my best friend and we did so much together. He was a well-known deputy council leader in Coventry, where I grew up, and even when he and my mum divorced, I saw him all the time. We’d meet most days and he was proud of my ambition to follow him into politics.
I was devastated when he died but my grief was compounded by the shocking news that Dad had died owing nearly £1 million.
I thought I knew everything about him but now I was dealing with solicitors and newspapers running stories about his death and financial allegations. I had to deal with the estate and the debts, and I struggled to cope with the pressure. I’d moved to London shortly before he died to work in PR. But work couldn’t distract me from the grief I felt.
The only thing that seemed to numb it slightly was eating. Those moments when I was eating became the distraction and comfort I needed and, before I knew it, I was over-eating all the time – piling on 2st in six months.
There was a fast-food restaurant a few minutes’ walk from my house. Every morning I’d buy four sausage and egg breakfast rolls. I’d eat two there and shove the other two in my work bag ready to eat when I got peckish again mid-morning.
By 2pm I was hungry and I’d nip to the supermarket near the office and buy two chicken curries and a four-pack of naans. I’d microwave the curries in the office kitchen, pour them into one bowl and eat the lot.
I’d often follow this up with a pack of five cookies or a tub of yumyums. Then, when I left work at 6.30pm, I wouldn’t want to bother cooking when I got home, so I’d go back to my local takeaway for two large chicken burger meals and a chocolate shake.
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