For years 39-year old saleswoman Karen Nutter, from Leeds, gorged on takeaway kebabs, curries and pizza until she tipped the scales at 23 stone – blowing a whopping £5K in the process. Since swapping greasy takeaways for healthy ‘fakeaways’ in 2010, she has dropped 11 stone and wears a svelte size 14….
Peeling the lid off her chicken chow mein, Karen Nutter tucked into her third takeaway of the day.
For Karen, this had become a way of life and earlier that day she’d devoured a large chicken McNugget meal on the way home from work.
The 39-year-old’s taste for takeaways had become an addiction – causing her to tip the scales at 24 stone and wear a dress size 30.
And her favourite orders came at a cost – as Karen, a saleswoman, who’s single, from Leeds, says she spent £100 a week of her hard-earned cash on junk food – that’s £5,000 a year.
But the wake up call she desperately needed came in November 2009 when she tried to walk up two flights of stairs but was so overweight she collapsed to the floor, exhausted, halfway up.
Terrified to give up her fish and chips, Chinese takeaways and extra-large pizzas, she decided to replicate fast-food meals at home – to trick her mind.
Incredibly, within the space of five years, she went from 24st to 12st.13 and lost 11.3st.
Today, she weighs 12.13st and is a svelte 14.
“I could never imagine not having take aways in my life.
“The smells from the restaurants were so tempting I couldn’t resist popping in when I was peckish, especially as it meant I wouldn’t have to cook.
“But my addiction to greasy dishes cost a fortune, and I had to sacrifice things other women save all year for, like holidays, to fund it.
“Faking my takeaways worked as a placebo, but they tasted just as good.”
“Last summer I was able to splash out on a luxury holiday to Cyprus – it was my first holiday in 12 years!
“It felt like a direct result of my hard work – and flaunting my figure in a size 14 bikini was a bonus, too!”
Before ditching the takeaways, Karen had long struggled with her figure.
She says: “Even when I was younger, I was always overeating. I weighed 14 stone by the age of 14, and battled with my weight ever since.”
Through her teens Karen loved to indulge in carbs like toast, baps, crisps and chips, and her size steadily increased.
By the age of 21 she weighed 20 stone and wore a dress size 20.
But it wasn’t until 2006, when a long-term relationship broke down, that Karen turned to takeaways to get over her heartbreak.
She explains: “I couldn’t see the point of cooking big meals from scratch if I was going to be eating alone.
“I felt like I deserved the odd treat because I was feeling a bit low.
“So I started popping into the local Chinese takeaway on my way home from work to buy a chow mein or chicken fried rice to cheer me up.
“Or I would order in a pizza to eat in front of the telly in the evening.”
Soon, Karen was indulging in takeaways five times a week.
She says: “After a long day at work I couldn’t be bothered to come home and start cooking. I knew my choices weren’t super-healthy, but I was too tired to think carefully about what I ordered.
“By then I was already a size 20, and didn’t think eating a pizza or fish and chips every night for tea would make much difference.
But soon eating one takeaway a day wasn’t enough to satisfy Karen’s cravings for quick, calorific dishes.
“It was easy to grab a butty from the takeaway van outside my office during the day, then I would nip to KFC or even the local kebab shop during my lunch hour.
“My favourite lunch break pick-me-up was a large Chicken McNugget meal with fries, a banana milkshake and an extra Big Mac from McDonalds.
“But those treats became daily habits, until before I knew it, I was gorging on takeaways up to three times in one day.”
On top of her takeaway habit, Karen would start her day with two slices of toast with butter and jam for breakfast.
Later, she’d grab a chicken chow mein from her local Chinese takeaway for dinner, before sitting in front of the telly with a large glass of wine, chocolate bars and crisps in the evening.
“I must have been putting away about 4,000 calories a day,” she recalls. “But for some reason, I couldn’t compute how bad my diet was.”
“I would find myself mindlessly scoffing iced buns and choccie bars at my desk when I wasn’t even hungry.”
In three years, she piled on three stone, taking her to 24 stone and a size 30 by November 2009.
It was that month that Karen hit a turning point.
“I was babysitting my niece and nephew and they raced up the stairs,” she recalls. “I tried to run after them, but had to stop halfway up.
“I physically couldn’t follow them up there – I was too exhausted.”
“As I watched them looking back at me, I could see myself in their eyes – an overweight, unfit woman.
“I couldn’t pretend my weight wasn’t affecting my life anymore. My terrible diet had stopped me holidaying, buying new clothes, feeling attractive – and now I couldn’t even play with my niece and nephew.
“I was terrified about what it would rob from me next.”
In January 2010, weighing 24 stone and wearing a size 30 dress, Karen joined Slimming World.
With the help of her weekly meetings, she overhauled her diet.
And her takeaway breakfast butties were the first thing to go. Instead, she ate homemade poached egg on toast.
At lunchtime she would eat soup followed by a yoghurt, and she’d snack on fruit and carrots.
But Karen says that, come dinner time, she would miss her takeaways the most.
“I didn’t want to start eating salads for dinner,” she explains. “I had always looked forward to my evening meal and couldn’t bear the thought of eating rabbit food after a long day at work.
“But with the help of Slimming World I discovered fakeaways,” Karen says. “Basically, I decided to make healthy versions of all my favourite greasy orders.”
Buying in fresh produce from a nearby supermarket, she started with a former favourite – fish and chips.
She explains: “I grilled fresh cod and served it with loads of peas, for vitamins, and Slimming World chips.
“It tasted just as good without the high-fat batter and I felt energetic afterwards, rather than sluggish.
“From there I started experimenting further.
“I made my own chicken nuggets using fresh chicken and wholemeal breadcrumbs to replace my McNugget obsession.
“And, rather than scoffing pizza, I would use a chicken breast instead of a doughy base, lathered with tomato sauce and vegetable toppings rather than my usual pepperoni and cheese.
“Because I was eating things I loved, it didn’t feel like I was dieting.”
Finding that the meals satisfied her takeaway cravings, Karen stuck to her new diet plan and, slowly, began to see results.
Within 18 months, she lost five stone, taking her to 18 stone and a dress size 18.
And Karen says she noticed the difference in her bank account as much as on the scales.
She explains: “Because I was no longer spending hundreds on takeaways, I could put more into my savings account.
“It started off an extra £100 or so a month, but I continued to put the cash away, dreaming of splashing the cash on a luxury holiday.
“I kept picturing myself in a gorgeous bikini with a slimmed down figure – and that made me even more determined to opt for homemade stir-fries rather than chow mein from the Chinese down the road.”
Her determination paid off, and she’d soon saved enough for a luxury holiday.
In Septmber 2014, weighing 13.st 2, she splashed out on a two-week holiday to Cyprus.
She says: “It was my first holiday in 12 years and every bit as amazing as I’d hoped. Especially as I was wearing a size 14/16 bikini!”
“Even though I still wanted to slim down a little more, I felt more confident than I had in years.
“I couldn’t believe I’d let my expensive, unhealthy diet stop me from seeing the world and feeling good about myself for so long.”
Last October she hit her target weight of 12.st 13 and a dress size 14, taking her total weight loss to more than ten stone.
Last month, she even became a Slimming World leader in the hope of educating other women with her slimming secret and inspirational transformation.
And she is already planning her next trip.
She says: “Now that I’ve got my dream body I can’t wait for another chance to get in a bikini on the beach.”