A newly-wed who dropped eight stone in a year to fit in the 'dress of her dreams' walked down the aisle to 'gasps' from relatives who hardly recognised her.
Gemma Dobbing had been so focused on looking after her little boy Charlie, now three, that her diet spiralled out of control and she gorged on Chinese takeaways and chocolate bars.
At her heaviest, the council worker weighed 17st and couldn't bear to go on nights out with friends because she struggled to find clothes to fit her size 22 figure.
But after booking her wedding in October 2018 and finding the perfect dress, Gemma, 32, set herself the challenge of squeezing into the gown in less than a year.
Two weeks ago she walked down the aisle to audible gasps from relatives who could hardly recognise her.
Gemma, from Newcastle, Tyne and Wear, said: "It's a massive achievement. I was so happy.
"When I bought my dream dress, it didn't even fit. It didn't close fully.
"I was a size 22 and it was size 14 – but it was the dress of my dreams.
"My mum said 'you really shouldn't do this' as I signed a waiver, confirming I was aware it didn't fit when I bought it.
"We'd been storing the dress at my mother-in-law's house for the last year, but eight weeks ago it went to the dressmaker for alterations.
"I was convinced it wasn't going to fit. I panicked.
"When I put it the dress on it still didn't fit – but this time it was too big!
"We had to take four and a half inches off the waist.
"I hit my target three days before the wedding on September 19.
"I was a size eight and weighed just 9st 3lbs. I'd finally done it."
After being with Alan for seven years, Gemma claims he never commented on her weight, but told her to do what she needed to do to feel good.
But as he turned around to see her walking down the aisle, she claims he had a tear in his eye.
For family members who lived further afield, it was the first time they had seen Gemma since her weight loss journey began and they gasped at her incredible transformation.
Gemma said: "A lot of my family live far away and they hadn't seen me, so when I walked down the aisle you could hear people gasping.
"It made my day. It was amazing.
"Alan had always just said to me to do what I want to do, but when he saw me on our wedding day, he had a tear in his eye and said I looked beautiful and like a princess."
Gemma had survived on a diet of chocolate and crisps for breakfast, fish and chips with bread for lunch and takeaways for dinner.
And after a lifetime suffering with acute asthma, she realised her weight was making the condition worse – with medics even telling her to lose weight.
The last straw came when Gemma looked at pictures of her little boy's birthday party and didn't recognise herself.
Gemma said: "Friends would invite me on nights out and initially I would say yes, but then on the day I would change my mind.
"I didn't have any clothes to fit me. I would just wear a baggy t-shirt or leggings. I suddenly didn't like to go out.
"I stopped going out and being myself because of my weight.
"I was already in ill health, including lung disease and acute asthma, and I'd been in critical care in hospital 14 times in a year.
"I've always had bad lungs, but I think they struggled supporting me more when I was overweight.
"The respiratory nurses said I needed to lose weight, but I would think 'who are they telling me to lose weight?'
"I had a party for my son's second birthday in August last year, at Build a Bear Factory.
"I saw a photo of myself on Facebook with Charlie on my hip and I thought 'oh my god, is that really me?'
"By that point, I felt ashamed of myself. I didn't know how I could have let myself get like that.
"Just over a week later I joined Slimming World. I've only been a member for just over a year.
"I'll never be cured of the asthma or lung disease, but I feel I can breathe more freely now."
After a month of following the plan religiously, the plus-size mum had already lost half a stone.
She swapped last minute morning sugar for overnight oats with berries and her fatty chip suppers were swapped for healthy wraps or chicken and rice.
Gemma said: "I went to the first meeting and was like 'oh my god, how do I walk through that door myself?' But everyone was so supportive.
"It's tough to keep going. I got bored of the same meals because I wasn't mixing up the recipes and by December, I almost quit.
"My friend Bex joined too to give me motivation and I learnt to cook from fresh.
"There were points where my weight plateaued. I was trying so hard but for a few weeks I wouldn't lose anything.
"Now I plan each meal. I'll sit down on Thursday and plan Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then on Monday I'll plan the next three days.
"It's amazing to be able to run around with Charlie now and keep up."
Gemma's diet before:
Breakfast – chocolate bars and crisps
Lunch – fish and chips with bread and butter at chippy
Dinner – takeaway Chinese or pizza with kebab
Snacks – sausage rolls or crisps with sandwiches
Gemma's diet after:
Breakfast – overnight oats and natural yoghurt and fruit
Lunch – weight watchers wrap and pizza topping with measured cheese
Dinner – Diet Coke chicken rice
Snacks – HiFi bars, fruit
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