Nicola Gee had barely finished dialling her local Chinese takeaway’s number before she heard a familiar voice on the other end of the line.
‘Hi Nicky, the usual?’ he asked.
Shockingly, Nicky, 34, from Derby, Derbyshire, had been gorging on greasy feasts from the Oriental Garden for ten years.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Nicky and partner Mick, 57, had spent £70 on Chinese every week – racking up a bill of £35,000 over ten years.
Delivery drivers knew the greedy couple so well, they could reel off their order without hesitation.
Ordering two portions of chicken balls, special fried rice, four spring rolls, two portions of chicken chow mein, noodles, prawn crackers and a bottle of coke you’d think they were feeding a small army.
But the gut-busting banquet would be hoovered up by the two of them, costing £25 a pop.
Although Nicky’s lost hundreds a month to her fast food addiction, her waistline was piling on the pounds.
Tipping the scales at a whopping 19st 3lbs, 5ft 4in Nicky was morbidly obese with a dangerously high BMI of 44.9.
The mum-of-three from Hilton, Derbyshire, a carer for her oldest son, said: “I knew my greed was killing me but after a long hard day with the kids, it was so much easier to order in than to cook.
“I’d cook the kids a lovely, healthy meal and once they were all in bed I just couldn’t bear the thought of anymore cooking.
“When I look at pictures of myself now it makes me cringe, I was huge!”
As a little girl Nicky had always been a bit on the chubby side, but she had never let it bother her.
It wasn’t until the birth of her first son Bradley, now 11, that her bottom and belly ballooned and she starting weighing in at 17st.
She said: “I knew I had a bit of a problem but I just got used to my size. No one said anything to me and no one ever commented on my weight, so I was just in denial and refused to see it as a problem.”
Meeting her partner Mick, an eBay shop owner, in 2005, all her image worries washed away.
She said: “Mick was so lovely and made me feel good about myself. He never once told me to lose weight and I felt loved.”
Sadly, Nicky’s life was anything but stress-free and her son Bradley was born with Down’s Syndrome and used up a lot of her energy.
As well as learning difficulties he suffered from sleep apnoea and would wake up every three hours during the night.
She recalled: “After a hard day of entertaining and caring for Bradley, I was absolutely shattered. Life was so chaotic but even though Bradley was much harder work than a typical child, I loved him dearly.”
Mick and Nicky quickly settled into a routine of putting the kids to bed, clearing up the dishes from their dinner and then snuggling up on the sofa.
She said: “I loved getting cosy with a huge takeaway but we both knew £70 a week on Chinese was far too much.”
Unfortunately, the years of indulging started to take its toll.
One night in 2012 the pair had just started tucking into their favourite sweet and sour sauce, chicken balls, rice, chips, prawn toast and noodles when Mick made a passing comment.
She said: “I was starving that night and when the food arrived I was piling it onto my plate. Innocently, Mick joked that I was turning into a chicken ball. I laughed along because I knew he was only messing about but when I looked down at my belly I saw that he was right. It was devastating.”
Later, horrified Nicky stepped onto the scales and was horrified by what she saw.
She said: “I couldn’t believe I weighed more than 19st, it was heart-breaking. I’d always struggled with my weight but I didn’t realise how bad it had got. I was already squeezing into size 30 clothes and realised enough was enough.”
Not only was Nicky upset because she looked enormous, but she realised her weight was affecting her kids.
She said: “The kids could barely put their arms around me for a cuddle as I’d got so fat. I’d avoid playing with them in the garden or playing hide and seek because the exercise just tired me out so much.”
Unprepared to give up her favourite takeaways, the overweight mum put her worries to the back of her mind.
A few months later when the Gee family all set off for a well-needed holiday, Nicky couldn’t wait to kick back in Yorkshire with her little ones.
But when one of them asked her to get in the swimming pool, all she wanted was for the ground to open up and swallow her.
She said: “I lied to them because I was too ashamed to tell them I couldn’t squeeze into a bikini. Telling my son I was allergic to chlorine was a new low for me. When I told them I couldn’t go swimming their little faces sank and so did my heart.”
Not long after they came back from their holiday, the couple were cosying up on the sofa with their usual gigantic order from Oriental Garden in front of the telly.
The Channel 4 show Supersize vs Superskinny came on, showing a drastically overweight woman being told that if she didn’t stop her life-threatening overeating, she wouldn’t be alive to see her children grow up.
She said: “My jaw dropped and tears rolled down my eyes and for the first time in years, I didn’t finish my Chinese feast. The woman on the telly wasn’t that much bigger than me and then I knew I didn’t want to be morbidly obese anymore.”
Terrified, Nicky’s eyes poured over the mound of empty takeaway containers and she felt physically sick.
In that moment she turned to Mick and vowed to get her weight problem under control.
She said: “Mick was amazing and said if that was what I really wanted, he would support me through it. He said he loved me no matter what, whether I was fat or skinny.”
Setting herself a goal to make sure she stayed on the right track, Nicky aimed to lose 4st in time for their next family holiday – leaving her just four short months.
Trading in the mounds of biscuits, fatty junk food and fizzy drinks for well-balanced meals, Nicky started to see the results of her new lifestyle almost instantly.
Breakfast became a bowl of cereal and for lunch she would have a healthy jacket potato.
She recalled: “I was careful never to deprive myself of the things I really loved. As much as I wanted to be skinny, without chocolate I would have been completely miserable.”
Inventing a clever method to stop her from reaching into the biscuit tin, Nicky quickly started shedding the pounds.
She said: “Every time I fancied a biscuit or an extra chocolate bar I would ask myself one very important question. ‘What do you love more? Chocolate or your children?’ and it worked every time.”
As well as swapping her calorific munchies for healthier options, Nicky got off the sofa and out the door.
Walking every day to burn extra calories, she also bought Hannah Waterman’s fitness DVD and spent hours every day sweating in front of the TV.
Amazingly, in just four months she managed to reach her goal of 16st – and she’d never felt better.
This time when they set off on holiday, Nicky was feeling confident and positive about her body.
For the first time in a decade, she donned a swimsuit and hit the pool.
She said: “I was so nervous to come out of the changing rooms because no one had seen me like that for so long. Then I realised no one was even looking at me and all my biggest fears had been in my head.”
By the time they got home, Nicky had promised Mick she wasn’t going to stop there and would get to 13st by Christmas.
After reaching her Christmas target she set herself another goal of 10st by Mick’s birthday in May 2014.
And again, she reached it. 10st and 10 dress sizes later she is now 9st 11lbs and a svelte size 10 and Nicky hardly recognises herself when she looks in the mirror.
She said: “I couldn’t believe it when I hit the 10st mark. I started going into shops and buying size 10 clothes and I felt like fraud. I felt that the shop assistant would stop me and ask why I was buying such tiny clothes.
“Now I’m not splashing out on takeaways every week I can afford to look nice. Not only do I feel fantastic, I can give my kids the attention they deserve. Losing weight is the best thing I’ve ever done.”