Sitting at my sewing machine, I stitched together pieces of fabric to make my fancy dress costume.
Every year our family friends had a party on Christmas Eve and this year the theme was ‘Hollywood’.
‘That’s it!’ I’d said, as my partner, Scott, and I snuggled up on the sofa watching a festive film a few days earlier.
‘I’m going as Buddy the Elf,’ I grinned, as we watched the comedy character lark about on screen.
‘That’s a great idea,’ Scott laughed.
The Christmas classic ‘Elf’ was my favourite and I didn’t think putting together a costume wouldn’t be too hard.
Tipping the scales at 20st 2lbs and bursting out of a size 26, I knew I wouldn’t be able to squeeze my frumpy frame into the ‘one size fits all’ elf costumes available online so I ordered some red and green material and set about stitching together an outfit.
The huge dress I made looked like a tent – and even then, it was still it was tight on my bulging belly.
Dressed in the costume, donning some sparkly tinsel and an elf hat with pointed ears to make it ultra-festive, I felt gigantic.
But when Christmas Eve, the day of the party rolled around, I pushed any niggles about my size to the back of my mind.
‘It’s only a family do,’ I convinced myself. ‘No one else will see you.’
My family – stepdad, Gary, mum, Lisa, my sister, Alex and I – all went to our friends – Mel and David’s near our home in Bournemouth, Dorset.
The Christmas tunes were blaring, while we played silly games.
Mel had been in the kitchen for hours, preparing a traditional roast dinner with all the trimmings for us all.
As we sat down to eat, we pulled crackers and Mel dished up, plates full of crispy roast potatoes, turkey, pigs in blankets and Yorkshire puddings with lashings of gravy.
My face lit up when she passed me a plateful. I’d always loved my food.
‘Smile!’ one of Mel’s daughters called, pointing the camera at us as we sat around the dinner table.
I felt so full from the meal, but I plastered on a grin.
At Christmas I always made the most of the delicious food – indulging in boxes of mince pies, tins of chocolates and nuts – glugged down with glasses of mulled wine and Baileys.
I’d been on the larger side since I was a child, but I adopted a bubbly and outgoing persona to disguise how self-conscious I really felt about my weight.
I couldn’t help but pile on the pounds – gaining a stone every year since my teens.
I had met Scott when I was at my heaviest and he assured me my size didn’t matter to him.
Only in between Christmas and New Year, when I scrolled through Facebook and saw photos from the festive period I was horrified.
One snap from the Christmas Eve party stood out.
Sat at the dinner table in my elf costume, I looked enormous.
‘I look hideous!’ I cried, showing Scott.
‘You don’t,’ he tried to soothe, but there was no denying it.
I was anything but Santa’s ‘little’ helper.
The picture gave me the kick start I needed to finally beat the bugle.
Over the next few months, I tried every diet in the book – Slimming World, Weight Watchers, Slimfast shakes – but each time I’d manage to shift a few pounds, before gaining it and more back.
I’d always battled with my weight.
Friends and family would often say ‘you have such a lovely face’, but all I could think was: ‘I know, shame about the rest!’
In shop changing rooms, I’d look at myself in the mirror and leave in floods of tears.
I’d even been swimming on one occasion and got stuck coming down the slide because I was so fat.
Wedged, I was mortified and shuffled down to the slide until I splashed into the pool at the end.
But it was only when I saw myself as the ‘fat’ elf that I knew I needed to drastically overhaul my diet and do something to slim down for good.
When my friend, Gina, mentioned NCS clinics I was intrigued.
‘It’s a medication which helps to aid your weight loss,’ she said, explaining the tablets suppressed your appetite. ‘It’s all totally legitimate and supervised by highly-qualified doctors.’
After her recommendation, I decided to book a consultation.
On the day I was a bag of nerves, but I came away feeling more motivated than ever.
When I started taking the medication I was a little worried it might not work for me.
But within days I started seeing results.
In my first week I lost a whopping 11lbs. I could barely believe it.
I swapped huge portions of greasy junk food for healthy home cooked meals prepared with fresh ingredients.
I didn’t get cravings for crisps, sweets or chocolate like I thought I might and found it easier than I imagined I would.
I didn’t completely deprive myself of treats – still having my favourite foods but only on one evening a week – in moderation which kept me on plan.
I used to joke to Scott: ‘If it’s not nailed down then I will eat it.’
But as the months passed, I started to make better choices for myself.
I knew going to the gym wasn’t for me, so I made a rule not to use my car at weekends and I started walking everywhere.
In six months, I lost a whopping 7st 2lbs.
When I stood on the scales and it read 13st I was amazed.
As well as shedding the weight, I dropped seven dress sizes. Now I can slip into a svelte size 12-14 with ease.
Scott and I tied the knot and my dad even mentioned in his speech on the big day that I had gone from an ‘elf to a princess’.
If it wasn’t for that horrendous picture of me dressed as Buddy the Elf on Christmas Eve I may never have found the drive I needed.
Only those closest to me, knew exactly what he meant.
I was also told when I was bigger that I had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) which doctors warned could affect my chance of becoming pregnant.
They warned I could slim down to try and reduce the symptoms but they would probably never completely go away.
Knowing Scott and I wanted to start a family one day, I knew I had to do something about my weight.
After beating the bulge, I’ve reversed the condition and my hormone levels have returned to normal so Scott and I can fulfil our dream of having children of our own when the time is right.
Now I’m looking forward to Christmas this year.
It’s our turn to host the annual festive party and I’d like to go as an elf again – only this year I really will be Santa’s ‘little’ helper.