When busy mum-of-four Gemma Howden couldn’t find the time for a gym workout, she transformed her home into her very own fitness boot camp – and lost more than 10st.
With school runs, the cooking and housework to do, there were never enough hours in the day for the 28-year-old, from Lampeter, Wales, to squeeze in an exercise session.
But tipping the scales at 19st and bursting out of a size 28, the stay-at-home mum knew she desperately needed to do something about her expanding waistline.
Unable to afford an expensive gym membership, Gemma put what she had at home to good use and turned her house into an assault course to tackle her flabby figure head-on.
Gemma said: ‘I decided that if I couldn’t go to the gym, the gym could come to me.
‘I improvised and used whatever I could get my hands on as equipment.
‘Cans of beans from my kitchen cupboard became weights and I would dance around with them to music channels on the television.
‘My hallway stretched from the front of the house to the back door and it was soon my running track. I would sprint along it like Jessica Ennis.
‘I would also hurdle over the stair gate before dashing up and down the stairs 20 times in a row.
‘I began doing 20 star jumps a day but built up to 100 as my fitness levels improved and the flab fell off.
‘If I was watching television I would do 15 sit ups at a time during the ad break too.
‘It was the answer to all my problems as I could still look after the kids and do the chores I needed to.’
As mum to Summer, six, Coley, four, and Vinnie, two, Gemma could barely spare a second for herself and rarely caught sight of her reflection in the mirror.
But when she did she cringed. She could barely recognise the woman staring back at her.
Gemma pulled at her spare tyres, and moaned to her partner, plumber, John Shore, 33, that she felt huge.
She said: ‘I had been in denial about my size. I never realised I had got so big, unfit and unhealthy. In my mind I thought I looked like a size 10.
‘I had always been on the larger side and when I was younger, it took every effort I had not to burst out of my size 16 school uniform.
‘But it was when I fell pregnant that I really started piling on the pounds, as I made the most of eating for two.
‘When it came to losing the post baby weight, I tried every diet in the book.
‘I would manage to shift a couple of stone and then gain it all again. Nothing seemed to work for me.
‘But I my bubbly personality used to overshadow any niggles I had about my weight.
‘I was known as the loud and outgoing one of the group and I learnt to push any worries about my size to the back of my mind. ‘
It wasn’t until Gemma started to flick through the family album and noticed that there were no pictures of her with the children that she realised she needed to change.
She had been avoiding the camera at all costs because she hated her frumpy figure so much.
Not only did she want her little ones to have pictures with her to look back on, but she wanted to be an active mum too.
She said: ‘I didn’t want to be collapsing in a heap huffing and puffing while trying to keep up with my kids or watching them from the side-lines.
‘So deep down I always knew I needed to slim down.
‘I was desperate to be able to run around and play with Summer, Coley, Vinnie and Freddie to enjoy seeing them grow up and to take part in their lives.’
Gemma knew she needed to change her body not just for herself, but for her family too.
But she hated the thought of eyes glued to her as she worked up a sweat at the gym.
The thought of slim and sexy girls and buff lads staring at her wobbly bits as she pounded the treadmill or made a fool of herself on the rowing machine mortified her.
Not only that but with four kids and no job, she couldn’t afford to keep forking out the high prices of gym classes.
She said: ‘I couldn’t think of anything worse than people staring at my rolls of flab all as I blobbed around the gym.
‘I did try to stick to it but it just wasn’t for me.
‘Not only was I constantly too skint to splurge but I didn’t have time in the day for a session.
‘The giant mirrors positioned on the walls in front of me while I was working out left me feeling even more self-conscious.
‘And I needed to be at home to look after the children, so exercising at home made perfect sense.
‘No one was watching me become a sweaty mess and it meant I could be flexible and fit in a session after putting them to bed.
‘Although it was a bit mad, my friends and family thought it was a great idea.’
Gemma would grab any moment she could to cram in a bit of exercise – between putting food on the table, hoovering the living room and kissing the kids goodnight, she would leap around the house in her jogging bottoms armed with a can of beans in each hand.
As well as embarking on her new fitness regime, Gemma vowed to ditch the junk food.
She swapped her beloved greasy takeaways, bags of crisps and bars of chocolate for salad, fruit and veg.
Before Gemma could easily scoff eight Mars bars a day without thinking of calories and she would often pick up a takeaway to eat on the way home before gorging on a fry-up as a second dinner.
But after breaking her bad habits, she soon started to see results as the pounds slipped away.
In her first week alone she lost an amazing 9lbs and it gave her the motivation she needed to keep going.
She said: ‘I couldn’t believe I had lost so much in such a short space of time. It was a real boost and helped me to keep at it.
‘I dropped a dress size in my first month and people were starting to notice that I was shrinking.
‘My little girl asked me: ‘Mummy, where has your fat bum gone?’
‘It was the best thing I’d heard in a long time – it was the reason I was doing it in the first place: for my kids.
‘The compliments were enough to keep me on the right track.’
And now two years down the line and thanks to her ‘stay-at-home mummy diet’, Gemma weighs a healthy 8st 13lbs and can slip into a slender size 8 with ease.
She has chucked out her tent-sized t-shirts and swapped them for tight-fitting dresses.
Gemma said: ‘I love being able to walk into a high street shop and be confident that I can choose fashionable clothes straight off the peg, instead of resorting to plus-size catalogues.
‘When I tell people I lost 10 stone after turning my house into a boot camp they don’t believe it. It sounds a little crazy, but it worked and it’s absolutely true.’
Weight at her heaviest: 19st
Weight now: 8st 13lbs
Size before: 28
Size after: 8-10
Breakfast: Mars bar and packet of crisps
Mid-morning snack: Rustler burger
Lunch: Pizza and chips
Afternoon snack: Crisps and chocolate bars (up to 20 a day)
Dinner: Greasy fry-up
Evening snacks: Sweets
Breakfast: Fruit and a smoothie
Lunch: Soup or salad
Dinner: White fish and veg or chicken and salad
Snacks: Yoghurt or the occasional packet of Quavers crisps