Walking along the streets, I was exhilarated by how fit and healthy I felt. With each step I took, I wanted to take another, then another. I liked to joke that I was a real-life Forrest Gump, power-walking as if I’d never stop. It was hard to believe that, just over two years before, I couldn’t walk to the end of my pavement without every part of my body aching.
The moment everything changed was in the summer of 2018, after I’d been out shopping with my sister Jackie. As I started up the stairs to my first-floor flat, I was paralyzed by a crippling pain in my chest. Bright red from the exertion and gasping for breath, I clung to the banister and Jackie took hold of my arms, frightened.
‘What’s going on, Jenny?’ she said. ‘If you carry on like this, my children are going to grow up without their aunt.’
Jackie and I had always been incredibly close and I knew that what she was saying was out of love. I also knew she was right – for years, I’d had severe chest pains, aching joints, and headaches.
Slim as a youngster, by my late 20s I was a size 18, but at 5ft 9in I felt I could carry it off. I got married at 31, but the relationship quickly went downhill. Feeling lonely and desperately unhappy, I sought solace in food – rounds of thick toast with chunky peanut butter or bag after bag of crisps gave me an almost addictive high. Then, as soon as the feeling of euphoria wore off, I felt ashamed of not being able to stop.
As I went up in dress sizes, clothes shopping filled me with dread, and only a big slice of cheesecake or a chip-shop dinner would ease the despair briefly.
Divorced eight years later at 39, my self-esteem was at its lowest. I felt as though I’d thrown away the best years of my life. I knew my weight wasn’t helping, and I tried one fad diet after another, never losing more than a few pounds before giving up.
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