‘I was fatter than Santa... ‘
CHRISTMAS IS THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR – BUT FOR JO, IT WAS THE MOST HORRIFYING
When Jo Parkes’ daughters tear open their many presents on Christmas morning, she knows she’s already given them the best gift possible – a happy and healthy mum.
‘This year I plan to take as many pictures as possible to make up for all the years I’ve spent trying to dodge the camera at Christmas,’ Jo, 32, tells New Idea. ‘I’ve just a handful of pictures with my kids at Christmas, and each one leaves me mortified.’
Jo, from Leicestershire, UK, recalls the time she built a snowman with six-yearold daughter Faye. The mum looked at the snap of that time and was horrified to see she was twice the snowman’s size.
‘My whopping frame had even made Santa’s belly look small when I’d taken Faye to meet him at a party,’ Jo recalls.
‘I’d burned with shame when I’d seen the picture. But there was worse to come when I posed next to a balloon snowman at the same party, only to dwarf that too.’
Every Christmas the mumof-two would vow to slim down from a size 30, but after just a few weeks of dieting she’d fall back to her old ways.
That was until last year, when something changed...
Then weighing 140kg at 160cm tall, simply reading to her young daughters left Jo breathless.
And that day, as she opened a careworn copy of The Gruffalo and began to read the story to Faye and her sister Alice, three, Jo simply couldn’t get the words out.
‘I’d expelled all my energy just getting up the stairs and helping the kids into their PJS,’ Jo explains.
Her husband Guy, 37, had to take over reading the story – and Jo found tears welling in her eyes.
She’d always struggled with her weight.
‘By the time I left school at 17, I weighed 120 kilos,’ Jo admits. ‘Over the years I’d settled at a size 26 – decided that was just how I was made.
‘I’d piled on more weight when I got pregnant with Alice and hadn’t been able to shift it. It didn’t help that I constantly made the wrong food choices.’
Jo had a love of takeaways, would cook herself two chicken kievs instead of one, and her serves of chilli con carne came with a heap of garlic bread.
‘Even when I made meals for the girls, I’d cook an extra fish finger or two just for me,’ she reveals.
While her husband made her feel loved no matter what, Jo still felt incredibly insecure as time went on.
‘I couldn’t buy the clothes I wanted, and shied away from going on nights out with [Guy] and his friends,’ she says.
‘Christmas was always the hardest – they just didn’t make party dresses in my size and all the joys of Christmas just seemed to bring me fresh humiliation.’
And after that disastrous reading session with the girls, Jo vowed to take action.
‘My brother Richard’s long-term girlfriend Sam had recently become a Cambridge consultant, so I plucked up my courage and texted her about signing up to a weightloss plan,’ Jo says.
‘The hardest part was revealing my weight to her, but she was so supportive and lovely that I became determined this was going to be the diet that worked.
‘I started the plan in May 2016, replacing all my meals with diet bars and shakes.’
In the first week, Jo lost almost 6kg.
‘My dress size dropped and people soon started noticing the difference,’ she says.
‘This spurred me on to stick to the plan, and even when we were invited to summer barbecues, I’d sit there with my shake and a glass of water, watching everyone else eating burgers and drinking cider.’
Gradually, Jo introduced proper meals into her diet again – making sure she picked healthy choices when eating out with friends.
‘By Christmas last year, I’d lost 51 kilos. But I wasn’t at target and determined to keep going, so I stuck to my plan...’
A year after she began, Jo reached her 70kg target.
‘I’m now a size 12 to 14 and love going shopping,’ she says.
‘People no longer recognise me when I pass them in the street and I have to tell them they know me!
‘Best of all, though, I can now read Alice and Faye a bedtime story all the way through to the end. Not only that, I have the energy to do the actions and voices too. The girls love it!’
This year, Jo says she’ll be making a whole heap of new Christmas memories – and taking ‘hundreds’ of photos to replace those past snaps that left her feeling embarrassed.
‘But I’m not ashamed of the woman in the pictures anymore. [She] found the determination to change,’ Jo reflects.
‘Just like in one of the children’s books I didn’t used to be able to read, I’ve found my happy ending.’
Jo says seeing photos of herself at Christmas time with her young daughters Faye and Alice used to leave her feeling mortified. Now the inspirational mum is showing off a brand new look!
Now a size 12 to 14, Jo loves shopping – but most importantly she has the energy to read to her kids again.