The green grosser!

I looked like I sold cakes, not fruit and veg...

Published by: Polly Taylor
Published on: 20th January 2011

Sweat poured from my brow as I dragged the giant sack of potatoes out of the storeroom and across the shop floor.
Huffing and puffing, I bent down to load the spuds on to their shelf.
Phew! Running the fruit and veg shop was hard work.
Still, I was proud I’d bought my own business two months ago,
and I was desperate for it to be a success. I wasn’t going to get anywhere without breaking a little sweat, was I?
I had to admit, though, I sweated more than most. Pulling up my size 22 trousers, I fanned myself with my hand.
‘They weigh a ton,’ I gasped. ‘I’m really pooped.’
I know what you’re thinking. What was someone my size doing running a greengrocers, urging people to eat their five a day when, clearly, I’d rather eat five cakes a day?
Well, truth was, I was starting to wonder the same thing…
I’d always been big. When I was 14, my school uniform had been a size 16, and I’d been the butt of every classroom joke.
By the time I’d left school and got a job running a call centre, I was a size 18 and weighed 13st.
After years of driving to work, sitting behind a desk all day, then driving home again, I’d really piled on the pounds.
Then there were my bad eating habits. Breakfast was a sausage roll and latte, lunch was sandwiches and crisps. After work I was too exhausted to cook, so dinner was a jacket potato covered in butter and cheese, pies, or a greasy takeaway.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d tried losing weight – Rosemary Conley, Weight Watchers, Atkins, even the cabbage soup diet.
But it was the same old story. I’d lose a stone or two, fall off the dieting wagon after a few months, then get back everything I’d lost – with interest.
Now, staring down at my bulk, I knew I had to do something about my weight. How could I flog fruit and veg to customers with a straight face? Not to mention how much I was struggling with the physical labour of running the shop.
‘Yeah, but is now really the right time?’ I wondered out loud. ‘I mean, I’m rushed off my feet trying to get the business up and running. It’ll be impossible to find time to cook healthy meals, or exercise.’
Yeah, I’d leave it. It was too much like hard work. Talking of which, lugging those sacks of potatoes about was surely a work- out in itself! I’d probably sweated off a few pounds since opening.
So, I tried to push my weight problem to the back of my mind. It was hard, though. Every time a customer came into the shop, I couldn’t help thinking they were judging me.
I felt like I was a vegetarian running a butcher’s shop, telling customers how delicious the sausages were.
As I grew more self-conscious, my social life suffered, too. Whenever friends invited me out, I told them I was busy working. Truth was, I had nothing to wear because nothing fitted me.
One evening, I compromised and invited my best pal Chris, 32, and some friends round for dinner. While I shovelled out huge portions of spaghetti bolognese, Chris came into the kitchen to chat.
‘Honestly, Michaela,’ he chuckled. ‘Only you would invite people round for dinner, and stand cooking in your pyjamas!’
‘Oh!’ I blushed. ‘I don’t want my clothes to smell of cooking.’
It was a lie. My pyjamas were the only thing I owned that fitted, and that I felt comfortable in.
A few weeks later, my dad Bill stopped by. ‘Sit down, love,’ he said slowly. ‘I need to talk to you.’
Oh God… was it bad news?
‘Michaela, I’m worried about you,’ he sighed, taking my hand. ‘It’s not healthy for you to be the size you are.’
‘Da-ad! I thought you were going to tell me someone had died,’ I said, hurt and annoyed.
‘I’m sorry, love,’ he said. ‘But I’m worried that if you carry on the way you’re going… it might be you who’s dead.’
His words hit me like a sledgehammer. It was like he’d held a mirror up to me for the first time.
I’d known my weight was a problem, but the idea that I was endangering my life… well, it had never occurred to me.
‘I feel like I’ve let you down,’ I said, bursting into tears.
‘Of course not,’ he soothed, hugging me. ‘I’m telling you because I love you.’
That night, I stood in front of a mirror and it hit me – I was grossly, dangerously overweight.
What must my customers think? I wouldn’t go to a dentist who had terrible teeth – why should people buy fruit and veg from me when I looked like I avoided it at all costs?
‘I’m such a hypocrite,’ I whispered to my reflection.
I had to do something – not just for my health and happiness, but for my livelihood, too. What, though?
There was no way I was going on another fad diet. So instead, I decided to eat sensibly – lots of fruit and veg – and exercise.
But before then, I needed to face my true weight.
I braced myself and stepped on the scales…
‘Oh my God!’ I gasped as the needle hit 17st 7lb. I was huge!
That day, I threw away my takeaway menus, and joined the local gym, determined to make dieting work this time.
And at least I didn’t need to stock up on healthy snacks! I reduced my portion size swapping crisps and sweets for cereal bars and, of course, fruit. Apples, oranges, grapes… you name it, I ate it.
Straight away, I felt better and, as the weeks rolled by, the weight rolled off.
‘I’ve lost a stone in a month,’ I told Dad. I even started to enjoy running on the treadmill and the body combat classes I was taking at the gym.
Two years after I started my diet, I reached my goal weight of 10st 7lb, shedding a massive 7st.
I slipped easily into a size 10 dress, but there was a problem. My weight loss had resulted in lots of excess skin sagging on my tummy like a fleshy apron.
‘It’s horrible,’ I complained to my sister Sue, 35. ‘I can’t bear to look in the mirror.’
‘Why don’t you have it removed?’ she suggested to me.
So I did a bit of research and got in touch with the Harley Medical Group’s local office. 
Paying £5,000 to have all my excess skin removed was nothing compared to coming around from the op and seeing my new, flat tummy.
‘Look!’ I shrieked to Chris when, four weeks later, I was able to remove the tight bandages. ‘Britney, eat your heart out!’
‘No more serving up dinner in your pyjamas,’ he chuckled.
Now I practise what I preach and business is booming. In fact, so many customers have asked me for weight loss advice, I’m thinking about retraining as a nutritionist, or a personal trainer.
I’m half the woman I used to be, and no longer a big, fat hypocrite!
Michaela Wells, 36, Brighton, Sussex