Too fat for my pants!

Something had to give- would it be me or my elastic?

Published by: Joani Walsh and Jean Jollands
Published on: 3 November 2011

As my partner Andrew cycled along in front of me, he made it look so easy. ‘I must look a right sight!' I thought, huffing and puffing to keep up.
At 5ft 5in, I was a whopping size 28. When Andrew, 55, had suggested a bike ride, I thought it might shift some pounds. But as I wobbled along, I felt decidedly peaky. And suddenly... Bleurgh! I threw up on the spot!
‘Sweetheart? Are you okay?' Andrew asked nervously.
‘F-fine...' I mumbled. Really, I was anything but. I was so unfit, I couldn't even ride a bike without being ill - how had it come to this?
All right, I'd always been a big girl. By the time I was seven, I weighed 7st and was wearing clothes for 11-year-olds. I was regularly hauled out of class to be weighed, records kept on my school file. ‘We must try to make Susan pretty,' a health visitor had tutted, grabbing a roll of my belly with callipers to measure the fat.
‘My Susan already is pretty!' my mum Pauline had snapped.
After that, she did her best to make me feel special, treating her precious only child to homemade fruitcake each week. My dad Eric was head of a company making seaside rock, so kept my sweet tooth well fed, too.
With a natural hatred of exercise, I'd talk my way out of PE by volunteering to help out in the school library. By the time I was 10, I was 10st. To avoid the bullies on the school bus, I'd beg Dad for a lift home. Yet still I believed Mum when she told me I was perfect just as I was.
But by the time I was 17 - and 17st - I couldn't pretend any longer. Though boys complimented my long blonde hair, when I went clubbing, I hid my bulk under tent-like kaftans.
At university, the on-site doctor had warned me my now 20st body was heading for an early grave.
‘You'll be dead by the time you're 40,' he'd told me.
It was my wake-up call. Joining a walking club and rushing around campus, I'd shed a massive 5st.
But as soon as I started work as a teacher, and then a civil servant, the weight had piled back on.
Throughout my 20s and 30s, I tried every diet going. But arriving home late after work, I'd settle down to a three-course meal.
By the time I was 38 and met Andrew, a businessman, I detested my beefy thighs and baggy belly.
‘You're gorgeous,' he'd hush, but I envied him his get up and go. He'd think nothing of cycling 50-60 miles a time at weekends. Which is why I'd ended up vomiting at the side of the road.
Soon after, I was diagnosed with gallbladder disease. ‘Your poor diet hasn't helped,' a doctor said, as I was booked in for surgery to remove gallstones.
After I recovered from the op, Andrew and me started going on gentle walks. But I was horrified when I went to buy some wellington boots and struggled to pull them over my calves!
But the final straw came one evening two years ago when I was helping a mate Joe, who owned a pub. I was a dab hand behind the bar, and the place was so busy, it was all hands on deck.
Smiling, I reached over for a bottle of beer...
Ping! Then the gentle sensation of something floating down my thighs, knees, then my ankles... My knicker elastic had snapped under the strain, and my size 28 granny pants were crumpled around my feet.
Oh God! I blushed, frozen to the spot as my customer waited for his drink. But if I moved, I'd leave my undies behind.
Thinking fast, I niftily stepped out of them and started pushing them around the floor with my foot, pretending they were a cloth!
‘Just mopping up some spills...' I coughed before scooping up my drawers and chucking them in the bin.
Talk about getting your knickers in a twist!
Luckily, no one noticed my brief disaster, but I was so ashamed.
I'd felt humiliated. ‘I should be loving life, but now I just want to hide away,' I admitted.
‘I love you just the way you are,' Andrew said gently. ‘But if you're so miserable, and for the sake of your health, you need to do something about it.'
He was right. I'd managed to outlive my university doctor's prediction, was now in my mid-40s. But I was playing Russian roulette with my life.
Then one day, we were browsing in Boots and spotted a leaflet for a new diet called the Tony Ferguson Weight Loss Programme, developed by an Australian pharmacist.
I went to speak to a consultant.
‘You have a meal replacement for breakfast and lunch,' she explained. ‘Then you have a near-normal dinner. but with lots of protein and veg instead of carbs.'
As I stepped on the scales to get my start weight, I was horrified. I was 18st 11lb. Determined, I stuck to a chocolate shake for breakfast and a cereal bar for lunch. Instead of biscuits, I snacked on blueberries. And in the evenings, I feasted on grilled chicken and two veg.
Six weeks later, at my weigh-in, I'd lost a stone! Four months later, I'd lost a total of 3st! And if I ever wavered, the memory of my snapped pants falling down in the pub strengthened my resolve.
A year later, I was down to 11st 11b. I rushed out to buy my first- ever pair of jeans, in a svelte size 14. There's no more granny pants for me, just sexy, lazy knickers.
My life's been transformed. Now I can cycle alongside Andrew for 20 miles without breaking a sweat. I just can't believe it took my knicker elastic breaking to snap me out of my bad eating habits!
Susan Clarke, 48, Oxford