SUPER-SLIMMER DEBBIE, WHO TIPPED THE SCALES AT 26 STONE AT HER HEAVIEST, HAS SHED HALF HER BODY WEIGHT – AFTER BEING PICTURED LOOKING FATTER THAN THE SEA-LIFE IN FLORIDA.
Squeezing into the seat beside my son Connor, now 11, I battled to push the safety bar of the Spinball Rollercoaster down over my bulging stomach.
To make the most of the school holidays I’d taken Connor and my other boy Bradley,now 14, to the Alton Towers theme park for the day. Still a big kid myself, I was never one to miss out on the white-knuckle rides.
The train set off and crept forwarded a few paces before grinding to a complete standstill.
“What’s happened, Mummy?” Conor asked.
We didn’t have to wait to find out. Two Alton Towers assistants walked along the platform and stopped at our carriage.
“I’m sorry Madam but your seatbelt has popped open,” they said.
My size 28 frame shifted uncomfortably in the seat as the other passengers craned round to see what the hold up was.
Then to my horror the two men worked together to push the bar back into place.
“This could only happen to me!” I laughed, trying to make light of the situation. Inside I was dying.
The ride set off for a second time but the safety belt was now pressed so tight across my tummy that I could barely breathe.
All around me people whooped and screamed in delight but I was fighting back the tears.
When we got off, as always I did my best to put on a brave face, but the truth was my size was really getting me down.
When I first met my husband Mark I was a slim size 10. The weight had started to creep on after the births of my two boys and I tipped the scales at 26 stone at my heaviest.
The following summer I was treated to a bonus at work and decided to treat the kids to a family holiday to Florida.
I wanted to give them a holiday they’d never forget but the trip ended up sticking in my mind for all the wrong reasons.
Packing my suitcase full of figure-disguising maxi dresses I was already starting to fret about my size.
When we arrived at the theme park I tried to enjoy myself like everybody else but it was hard to block the Alton Towers incident out of my mind.
“I’ll give this one a miss boys,” I’d say to Bradley and Connor, as they tugged at my arms trying to force me on the rollercoasters.
Rather than enjoying the white-knuckle rides I spent the holiday feeling sorry for myself, comfort-eating junk food.
On the last day of the holiday Mark and I took the kids to a waterpark to show them some of exotic sea creatures.
Usually I avoided having my picture taken at all costs – but standing next to the seals and dolphins looked like a bit of a laugh so I allowed Mark to take a few snaps.
When I saw the pictures afterwards I wanted to cry.
“Oh my god! I look terrible,” I gasped.
“How did I let myself get like this?
“I look the same size as the dolphin!”
Enough was enough, I decided, vowing to tackle my weight problems head on.
I emptied the cupboards of crisps, chocolate and biscuits and started exercising for the first time in years.
Just a few weeks into my healthy eating plan I noticed a loosening in my jogging bottoms which helped spur me on when things got tough.
My target was to fit into a size 18 so I didn’t have to shop in the plus size stores anymore.
I was over the moon when I could finally treat myself to some trendy outfits. But my confidence was short-lived as the following July Mark announced he was leaving me.
Determined not to reach for the junk food and undo all my hard work I decided that I needed another goal to work towards.
Since I could remember it had always been my ambition to complete a skydive, but at 26 stone I was twice the weight limit.
The old me would never have thought it possible but now I was well into my healthy eating regime the pounds were dropping off.
When I hopped on the scales one afternoon to find I’d finally hit the 13 stone mark the first person I called was the skydive centre.
“Yes, you’re eligible for a dive now Debbie,” the manager said.
“We’ll book you in – but don’t put any weight back in the mean time will you!?”
“Oh, I won’t!” I replied.
Now I’ve lost 13 stone in total I’m half the woman I was before – although I feel twice as confident.
When I look back at the old Florida photographs I can’t believe how far I’ve come.
It hasn’t been easy, but as a single, working mum I really believe that if I can do it anyone can.