‘I finally broke the cycle of yo-yo dieting’
Mum-of-three TRACY HARMSWORTH, 48, a carer from Faversham, Kent, knew she had to take action for the sake of her family.
Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon in 2020, I felt exhausted but elated. The old me couldn’t have run for a bus, she was so overweight and unfit, but I’m not her any more. I’ve transformed my body and health, and I still get surprised when I look in the mirror and see a size 12, happy and confident woman smiling back at me.
For as long as I can remember, I have been overweight, as were my parents. Our family diet wasn’t great, but I also believe we had a genetic disposition to being overweight. My parents tried really hard, many times, to lose weight, realising that it wasn’t good for their health to be the way they were. I remember that
Mum once lost
12st and Dad lost 16st, but they would always put it back on again.
As an adult, I became a yo-yo dieter, too. By the time I got married to Steve in 1998, when I was 23, I weighed 18st and was a size 24.
My diet was terrible – full of processed food, takeaways and large bars of chocolate – and I did no exercise. I’d go on a fad diet or join up to a slimming class and successfully lose weight, but I’d inevitably slip up and go back to my old ways. My size never mattered to Steve – he loved me for who I was. Looking back,
I can see I played the part of the jolly, fat friend when I was out, convincing myself I didn’t care. I carried on gaining and losing weight throughout the years I had my children, Lucas, now 23, William, 21, and Archie, 12 – and at my heaviest, I reached 23½st and was a size 28. I ached all over and constantly felt exhausted. But it wasn’t my own deteriorating health that shocked me into finally tackling my weight for good – it was my parents’. As they got older, they
‘I have transformed my body and my health’
developed problems linked to their weight, including type 2 diabetes, leg ulcers and cardiac issues. My eldest son, Lucas, has Down syndrome and I felt scared that I’d end up like them and not be around for him.
I made the drastic decision in 2012 to have a gastric band fitted, but it snapped and I ended up in hospital with sepsis. It was a scary time and I was so poorly that, by the following year, aged 38, I decided to overhaul my diet and lifestyle once and for all and do it on my own. By now, I was around 18st and I was determined that this time, it would be different.
Instead of skipping breakfast, then grazing on sandwiches, crisps and biscuits before a big Chinese takeaway and wine in the evening, I began to have cereal and fruit, a salad wrap and yogurt for lunch, then a home-made Quorn and veg curry.
I started running, steadily building up my stamina and, after joining a running club, ran a half marathon in 2020. Nobody was more surprised than me when I finished it.
Last year, in June 2022, I climbed
Snowdon and when I reached the summit, I thought about my dad, who had sadly passed away the year before, and how very proud he’d be of what I’d achieved. It was an emotional moment.
I also took up weight training to tone and strengthen my body and I now work out weekly with a local PT called Corinne Murphy, as well as going for eight-mile walks at the weekend. Knowing how good it will make me feel drives me on.
Of course, I do slip up from time to time, but I don’t allow myself to feel guilty. The next day, I simply start over again.
In the past, I’d have berated myself, then thrown in the towel on healthy eating, too disappointed in myself to carry on. I’ve broken that toxic cycle now.
Today, I’m a size 12 and weigh 11st 2lb, which I am very happy with. Steve, my sons and my family and friends have been so supportive and my mum is very proud, as my dad would be, too. I have so much respect for how hard they both tried to lose weight themselves and I know it makes them happy that I have finally done it. Best of all, I’m so happy that I’ve tried my best to futureproof my health to be around for Lucas and my other children for many years to come.