Real life: How losing 10st turned back time!
Tara Kavanagh hoped that losing weight would make her healthier. But her transformation was even more spectacular than she imagined
Looking back at old photos, it’s easy to pick on yourself. Most people would pick out one or two things they’d change, but I was spoilt for choice. At the age of 22, I should have been out and having fun with friends. Instead, I was slumped in a chair, hiding from the world.
Growing up, I’d always been big, coming from a family of fast-food lovers. Most people reminisce about their mum’s Sunday roasts, but my favourite was a macaroni cheese ready meal, to which my mum added mince and cooked up in the frying pan!
It’s not like we never ate fruit and veg. But given the choice between a healthy stir fry or a takeaway? No competition.
It wasn’t until I was eight and a girl in class called me ‘fat’ that I realised how big I was. By the time I was 13, I was wearing a size 14 and had to shop in the women’s section of the department store for baggy jeans and sweaters that made me look more like a parent than a teen.
My only hobby was performing with the school choir. But even that was difficult – we all had to wear matching, custom-made dresses. I dreaded going to the fittings with the seamstress struggling to pull the tape around my paunch. I was terrified that classmates would discover my measurements.
Mum encouraged us to try diets. But even she couldn’t stick them out. When the weekend came around, we fell back into old habits.
It wasn’t until I was 17 and 17st, and met my first serious boyfriend online, that I started to feel happy. I sent him a picture of myself and thought I’d never hear back. But when he asked me out on a date, I was ecstatic.
We eventually married in November 2000, and just over a year later our first daughter arrived, followed by another little girl in March 2004. My weight had rocketed to 20st as I spent most of my days sat in the house, eating and watching TV.
I didn’t work, and even walking around the house left me out of breath. When I did go out, I was so big I could barely bend over to tie up my own shoelaces, let alone pick up my girls when they tripped over in the park.
I stopped styling my hair and putting on make-up because I was too scared to look in the mirror. Family photos were my idea of hell. But one day, at a family meal, my husband managed to catch me slumped in my favourite green armchair.
Looking back through the prints a few weeks later, I was horrified. Dressed in a baggy man’s T-shirt and joggers with my mousy hair scraped back, I looked two decades older than my 22 years.
Staring at the awful photo, I broke down in tears. ‘How could I have let myself get into this state?’ I thought.
Pacing upstairs, I took a deep breath and stepped on the bathroom scales. The marker shot to 22st. I was dumbfounded. ‘That’s it,’ I said. ‘Something needs to change.’
I read up online about nutrition and fitness. I realised if I was going to do this seriously, I had to overhaul my entire lifestyle.
That meant no more processed meals, and no fast food. I chucked out all the boxes in my pantry, and replaced them with fresh fruit and vegetables.
I devised a strict, new routine of three daily workouts and a clean-eating regime. When I told my husband I wanted to buy a treadmill, he looked dubious. ‘Are you sure you’re going to stick this out?’ he asked. I was determined and when I lost 15lb in just one week, I was inspired.
By the end of May 2005, just two months into my new regime, I’d already burnt out the motor on the treadmill. The manufacturer sent a new one. But just a month later that motor burnt out too, followed by a third in July 2005.
‘Three motors in three months!’ laughed my husband. ‘How much have you been using it?’ When I told him between two to four hours every day, he was amazed. ‘Maybe it’s time we invested in a proper, gym-grade one then,’ he said.
By September 2005, I’d lost six stone. Slipping into my teenage jeans in front of the mirror, the sense of achievement was incredible. That Christmas, my family marvelled at my slinky new size 12 figure. With my nipped-in waist and toned pins on show, I felt encouraged to make an effort with my make-up and hair. I cared about looking nice again.
Finally, by May 2006, I’d lost 10 stone in just over a year. Going to dinner with my old rock choir friends, they were amazed by my transformation. Wearing an orange maxi that skimmed over my hips and with my new hairstyle, I felt a million dollars.
When my third baby was born in December 2008, I worked doubly hard to get back into shape. I’ve stayed a trim size 10 ever since.
I finally have the looks and energy of a woman in her 20s. Just as well – with three little ones to chase around. I need to be quick on my feet!
Although I always knew losing weight would be good for me, I could never anticipated just how much it would change my life.
In August 2017, I qualified as a yoga instructor and
I’m a health coach too, helping other people to lose weight. Now when
I look back on old photos,
I don’t cringe. Instead, it cements my determination to never become the woman I used to be.
‘Staring at my awful photo, I cried’
Exercising so often meant Tara wore out three treadmills in three months!
A fan of fast food
Tara: A size 10 since the birth of her third baby