This time last year these seven people were dangerously overweight — but since then, they have shed an astonishing amount of weight — and seen a dramatic improvement in the health conditions caused by their excess pounds. 

Lucy Laing will share their inspiring stories with those who feel overdone after three days. 

After 7 Years, you can stop taking depression medications 

Elizabeth Hills (35), a hairdresser lives in Midhurst West Sussex with James, 45. James repairs equipment and they have two children, Finley (13) and Charlotte (11).

Height: 5′ 2″

Weighing: 13 st 12lb

Weight after: 9 st 12 lb

Weight lost: 4 st

Prior to 35.9 

BMI after: 25

On this diet I’d have a shake, a bar and soup, then a 200-calorie dinner. I lost 4 st in five months. My mood started to improve within the first two weeks

This diet would have me eating a shake, soup and a bar, followed by a 200-calorie meal. Within five months I lost 4 st. I noticed a change in my mood within two weeks.

Finley hugged me recently and told me: “We got Mom back.” 

This was wonderful. After years of fighting depression, it was a relief to lose weight. After taking these antidepressants for 7 years, I am now off them.

When I went on a shopping spree for a dress, the motivation to lose weight came to me in May. I discovered that I had changed from a 12/14 to 16 size.

It was embarrassing for me to gain weight in a larger size. Although I was aware that I gained weight through lockdown, I didn’t realize how much.

After returning from my trip I called the consultant to learn more about the Cambridge diet. In 2018, I had lost one stone through the Cambridge diet.

In the past, my breakfast consisted of no food and then I would eat large portions of crisps and chocolate bars. I also ate a lot of chicken and lasagne in the evening.

This diet would have me eating a shake, soup and a bar, followed by a 200-calorie meal. Within five months I had lost 4 st.

Within the first 2 weeks, my mood began to improve. My depression can sometimes rear its ugly head on days, and it is difficult to feel good when I see myself in the mirror. But then I start feeling better.

Expert comment: ‘Losing weight is about taking control, perseverance and ultimately feeling like you have really achieved something — all the same elements that are needed to move you out of the ‘stuckness’ of depression,’ says Wendy Dignan, a psychologist based in Cheshire.

“Losing weight will make you feel happier, which can lead to a lift in your moods and alleviate any depression.

Before, pictured, I'd have no breakfast then plough my way through large chocolate bars and crisps and in the evening I'd have huge portions of lasagne or shepherd's pie

I used to eat a small breakfast, then I would eat large portions of crisps, chocolate bars, and chips.

For arthritis, reduce painkillers  

I've lost weight in a rather unusual way — in my sleep. I spoke to a colleague who had used an app that you listen to as you fall asleep

I’ve lost weight in a rather unusual way — in my sleep. One of my colleagues had mentioned that she used an app to help her fall asleep.

Stacey Orton (47), books patient appointments at a private hospital and resides in Gateshead. Tyne and Wear with her sons Andrew (19 and Ryan (17).

Height: 5 feet 3 inches

Before: Weight 13 st 12lb

Weight after: 10 st 10 lb

Weight lost 3 st 2 lb

Prior to 34.5 

BMI after: 24.9

My spine has arthritis at the facet joints. One joint is already disintegrated, and there are two others that have bulged. 

I was taking the maximum amount of painkiller Gabapentin I could tolerate. But, losing weight made all the difference. I have halved the medication. It’s unbelievable to my doctor.

I’ve lost weight in a rather unusual way — in my sleep. One of my colleagues had mentioned that she used an app to help her fall asleep. 

You are asked to place all unhealthy food on a plate in front of it. It asks you to then ‘push it all off’ and make room for healthier foods.

After losing half of his weight in two weeks, I decided to download the app called ‘Virtual Gastric Band Hypnosis.

I have arthritis in the facet joints of my spine; one joint has already disintegrated and two more are bulging. I used to be on the highest dose of the painkiller gabapentin that I could take

I suffer from arthritis in my facet joints. The first has disintegrated, and the second is bulging. Gabapentin was the most powerful painkiller I could use.

It was my bedtime ritual every night. I pictured my slimmer self and all of the unhealthy foods that I had been eating. Then I pushed it aside.

My first day using the app was when I visited a workplace coffee hour where they gave out cookies and cakes.

I love it. But, I was not able to stomach them.

My back pain began to decrease as my weight decreased. I feel much more alert now that the painkillers made me tired. They will be required to continue for a long time so it is better to have a lower dose.

Expert comment: ‘The lumbar spine is made up of five segments, each with a disc and two smaller joints, the facet joints — that’s 15 joints that take the weight of your body and it stands to reason that you put more strain on it by putting weight on, which wears it down,’ says Colin Natali, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at BMI The London Independent Hospital.

However, you don’t have to be a wreck even though your bones are broken. Weight loss can reduce joint pain and the pressure on your joints. You can achieve amazing results by losing weight and exercising. 

You don’t need an asthma inhaler anymore 

Carly O’Connell (33), a retail assistant lives in Beds. Chris O’Connell, his fiancée, is a bank assistant. They have Scarlet and Sienna.

Height: 5 feet 10 inches

Before: Weight 20 st 2lb

Weight after: 14 st 10 lb

Weight lost: 5 st 6 lb

Before: BMI 40.3 

BMI after: 29.9

My New Year's resolution last year was to lose weight, partly to improve my asthma

Last year, my New Year’s Resolution was to lose weight partly in order to improve my asthma.

In order to help my asthma, I made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. It was something I had since I was 9 years old. I got more severe the older I got. 

I was a heavy lugger, which put strain on my lungs. At 32, I could barely run for a couple of steps without my chest starting to heave and I gasping for air.

I went through several reliever inhalers every month — most people use a few of these a year. My GP said many times to me that weight loss would improve my ability to breathe.

This made me even more sad about my weight. Because of my weight, I was unable to bend down to put on my socks. Last January, I made the decision to get my life in order. Chris proposed two weeks prior to my wedding and I refused to become a fat bride.

I joined the Jason Manford support group — an online group set up in 2017 by comedian Jason Manford as he lost weight. You can post photos of your weight loss journey, both before and afterwards. This helps you to get motivated and offers low-calorie snack ideas and recipes.

Calorie counting was something I tried out. I used a calculator that calculated the max calories I had to consume each day in order to lose weight. It works based on my height and weight, as well as your activity level.

Every seven pounds that you lose you must calculate the calories required. I was consuming 2,300 calories per day at first. It was 1,900 calories per day after I had lost three st. If you are losing weight, you need to reduce your intake.

Since April, I’ve not needed to take my relief inhaler since I lost 6 st. Chris and I are planning our June 2019 wedding. I was able to locate my dream gown.

Expert comment: ‘For people with asthma, carrying additional weight can make their asthma harder to control — and more likely to have symptoms and asthma attacks which could be more severe,’ says Eluned Hughes, head of health advice at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation.

By the time I was 32 I couldn't even run a few steps before my chest would start heaving and I would be gasping for breath

At 32 years old, I couldn’t run even a few feet before my chest started heaving. I felt like I was gasping for air.

Absent periods are back 

Chloe Matthews (26), a sales assistant lives in Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire.

Height: 4 ft 11 in

Prior to: 17 st.

Weight after: 9 st 7 lb

Weight lost: 7 st 7 lb

BMI prior to 46.3 

BMI after: 26.2

I had a band around the top portion of the stomach to reduce food consumption. I lost weight quickly over the next 18 months, getting down to 8 st 7 lb, but then I had problems with acid reflux and choking on my food — this can happen if the band is too tight

To reduce my food intake, I placed a band on the stomach’s top. I lost weight quickly over the next 18 months, getting down to 8 st 7 lb, but then I had problems with acid reflux and choking on my food — this can happen if the band is too tight

At 15 I experienced painful, horrible periods.

In 2011, they ended and I had no periods for seven years. Also, I had darkened and visible hairs on my body. In March 2018, I was 23, diagnosed with polycystic. 

It was caused by hormonal imbalances, which I received as a diagnosis.

My doctor diagnosed me and said that he would wager that I had been a bet man if he were a betting man. [type 2]Also, diabetes will be over by the end the year. 

He stated that I was at high risk of developing diabetes because of my weight and polycystic eggs.

My doctor said that losing weight would improve my ovaries’ normal functioning and hormone production, and reduce my symptoms. My weight was an issue since childhood. Because I was not able to follow a diet properly, my doctor suggested that I try weight-loss surgery.

My partner at the time took a loan out for £7,000 for me to have the surgery in April 2018.

A band was placed around my stomach at the top to decrease food consumption.

I lost weight quickly over the next 18 months, getting down to 8 st 7 lb, but then I had problems with acid reflux and choking on my food — this can happen if the band is too tight.

It was loosening in November 2020, and then 2 more stitches were added, so it was tightened a bit again in March.

In the time since, I have lost 2 st and gained another stone. Total, I have lost 7 st 7 pounds.

My periods returned a few months later and there is now a very little hair left.

This band will be my forever. This is the first time I felt normal.

Expert comments: “Weight loss surgery can result in the remission or improvement of certain conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, polycystic-ovary syndrome and hypertension. The surgery results in changes to gut bacteria. Rishi Singhal (a consultant surgeon in bariatric surgery at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham) says that the operation can result in remission of conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, type 2 diabetes and hypertension. “The kind of bacteria found in your gut can have a direct effect on how the body produces other hormones.”

The doctor who diagnosed me said if he was a betting man, he'd wager that I would have [type 2] diabetes by the end of the year, too. He explained that being overweight and having polycystic ovaries can reduce the effect of insulin, which normally controls blood sugar levels, which is was why I was at risk of diabetes

My doctor diagnosed me and said that he would wager that I had been a bet man if he were a betting man. [type 2]The end of the year would also see me develop diabetes. He said that my risk factors for diabetes were being overweight, having polycystic eggs, and insulin resistance.

It has been stopped! 

I did my first 5km run a few weeks ago in just 33 minutes, which was a great achievement. I couldn't have even run down the road before

My first five-kilometer run was completed in 33 minutes. It was an amazing achievement. It was a stretch I could not have run on the roads before.

Matt Bellbrough (33), is a Salford Community and Voluntary Services manager and lives with Sarah (30, a social worker).

Height: 6 ft 1 in

Before: Weight 29 st 8lb

Weight after: 19 st

Weight lost: 10 st 8 lb

Before: BMI 55.4 

BMI after: 38.7

Sarah was terrified of my night-time breathing. My night-time breathing would cause Sarah to wake up and panic, often waking me next to her. My breathing would return, and I would snore terribly.

This would occur several times per night, and it continued for nine months. It didn’t bother me so I went to see a doctor. However, I discovered that my symptoms were consistent with sleep apnoea when I checked the NHS website.

I stopped breathing during sleep because my weight was too heavy. The brain wakes up and starts you breathing again. Later, I learned that it could increase your chances of having a stroke or heart attack if this continues.

It was Sarah panicking and I felt tired throughout the day so I resolved to make a change.

I came across the ManvFat group on Facebook — it’s a football league made up of men who want to lose weight. The members form teams that play against one another every week. They each lose weight that week, which is a goal before they meet.

If your team did a great job losing weight, you can give them a huge goal advantage in the match.

There is lots of motivation in the team when we share our recipes and discuss diet tips.

It looked appealing, not least as I am a die-hard football fan — I support Leeds United.

I used to have massive portion sizes — I’d have chips with everything — and I was a terrible snacker — but part of the group is to give advice on how to make better food choices.

Sarah was relieved that I didn’t stop breathing at night. I also have more energy.

My first five-kilometer run was completed in 33 minutes. It was an amazing achievement. The road was too steep for me to run.

Expert Comment: Obstructive sleep apnoea can be closely linked to obesity, says Dr Abd Tahrani (a consultant endocrinologist at the University of Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust). 

Many patients experience headaches and excessive sleepiness, snoring, or fatigue. In managing this condition, weight loss is an important factor. It is possible to have an impact on your health by losing 10-15 percent of your weight.

My night-time breathing used to terrify Sarah. She would regularly wake up next to me, panicking that I'd stopped breathing for a few seconds

Sarah was terrified of my night-time breathing. Sarah would often wake up beside me at night, fearing that my breathing had stopped for just a couple seconds.

Breathing is possible again 

Last year I was finding it so hard to breathe that I was scared for my life. Just walking around would leave me fighting for air

My breathing was difficult last year. I felt like I would die. Walking around alone would make me fight for my life.

Alice Leo is a 25-year-old travel agent who lives in Wolverhampton.

Height: 5 ft 11 inches

Before: Weight 27 st 2lb

Weight after: 19 st 2 lb

Weight lost: 8 st

Before: BMI 53.5 

BMI after: 33.4

Last year, I found it difficult to breath and was afraid for my life. Even just walking would make me fight for my life.

After I visited my GP, he said that my lungs were being pressed by fat due to my excess weight.

When he recommended that I go on the NHS wait list for gastric bypass, I accepted.

To make me feel fuller, I would use staples to form a pouch on the stomach. It connects directly to the small intestinale. This allows me to absorb less food.

However, it was going to take at least two or three years to get the surgery done so I decided to do it privately. It cost £11,250 — my parents helped fund it.

My weight problems had been a problem since I was 16 years old. An operation would have been a very drastic step, but it gave me the push I needed.

However, I was excited about the June surgery. In the beginning, I couldn’t eat any pureed foods like mashed potatoes for several weeks. Eight weeks later, I had my first strawberry. It felt as if it were trapped in my stomach.

Within a month, I lost 3 st. My breathlessness was also improved.

Now I can eat half a bagel and a piece of turkey bacon for breakfast, and some brown pasta for lunch and a protein shake for dinner — and I’m full.

As I don’t eat as often, I supplement with calcium, iron, and vitamins B12 & D.

Today I am able to walk to work, and also to the village three times per week for a quick visit with my friends. Everyone says I smile all the time now.

Expert opinion: “Weight loss surgery is more than effective for effective weight loss,” says Mr Singhal. It also manages health conditions, such as high blood pressure and heavy breathing. A reduction in body fat reduces pressure on organs such as the lungs. This can cause problems like obstructive sleeping apnoea, and even cardiac failure.

I realised I couldn't ignore this problem any longer and so when he suggested putting me on the NHS waiting list for gastric bypass surgery, I agreed. She is pictured above before

This problem was too serious for me to ignore, so he offered gastric bypass surgery on the NHS. Above is her before.

Cholesterol is now at a healthy level 

I've so much more zest for life. In January, my cholesterol had dropped to 3.5. I'm so proud of all that I've achieved

I’ve so much more zest for life. I had a drop in cholesterol to 3.0 by January. It’s amazing to see all the things I’ve accomplished.

Claire Ferris is 48 years old and a former factory worker. She lives in Warwickshire, with Gareth (60), who works as a security officer.

Height: 5′ 6″

Before: Weight 18 st 7lb

Weight after: 12 st 7 lb

Weight lost: 6 st

Prior to 45 

BMI after: 29

I was told by my doctor in January 2020 to lose weight, as I was at high risk of having heart attacks. I had 8.9 cholesterol (a number that should not exceed five). Statins were given to me. It was not something I liked to have at this young an age.

I was suggested by a friend to walk daily, in order to burn some extra pounds. Anything was possible.

In the beginning, it was difficult to walk ten blocks around. Slowly I increased the distance — within six months I was walking 12 miles day.

I also ate more fruit than snacking on biscuits or crisps. And, unlike eating pre-prepared meals, I also cooked my own food.

I’ve so much more zest for life. I had a drop in cholesterol to 3.0 by January. It’s amazing to see all the things I’ve accomplished.

Expert opinion: Dr Philip Lewis is a consultant cardioologist at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust.

“But if you exercise and lose a lot of weight, like the lady who lost 6 st., your metabolic rate will change.”

Instead of placing fat in the blood, which can raise cholesterol, your body uses the fat to create sugar. Then, you get energy. This may cause your cholesterol levels to fall significantly.

It was a friend who suggested I try walking every day, to see if that would burn the pounds off. I was willing to try anything. At first I could barely make it ten minutes around the block

A friend suggested that I walk every day to lose weight. Everything was possible for me. It took me a while to get around the block.