Family loss inspires a healthier outlook
FOR Shirley Willatt, the death of her beloved mum wasn't only a time of great sadness, but a wake-up call to the 65-year-old, who felt it was time she tackled her own health.
Other members of the family were also left upset by the death of 86-year-old Cissie Windsor, including Shirley's daughter Tracey Gidman, who, like her mum, was worried about being overweight.
But, together, Shirley and Tracey have transformed their lifestyles to lose a combined weight of 8st 5lb.
"My mum Cissie had suffered strokes and needed a lot of care," explains Shirley, who is retired and lives in Lynmouth Close, Biddulph, "and in the end she had pneumonia.
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"I was very close to her and her death hit me hard."
Shirley is married to Keith, aged 67, and has three children, six grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
"I was diagnosed with type two diabetes 10 years ago," she continues, "which I was gutted about.
"And although the doctor didn't say it was to do with my weight, he said it would be ideal if I lost some.
"I had to take medication and watched what I ate, but the more I watched what I was eating, the more weight I put on."
As well as diabetes, Shirley found out she had high blood pressure, cholesterol problems and angina, which is chest pain or discomfort that happens if an area of heart muscle doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood.
"I couldn't get any breath," she says, "or I'd get pains in my chest if I walked too far."
At her heaviest, Shirley was 14st 6lb and a dress size 22.
"I've never been slim," she admits, "but it didn't bother me until my later years."
In May last year, Shirley joined a WeightWatchers group in Biddulph. "I felt it was time to look after me," she says.
"I looked at myself and decided I couldn't go on the way I was.
"I had to do something about my weight and health."
Tracey was already a member of the same group when Shirley started attending meetings.
"It was Tracey who suggested that I come along," recalls Shirley, "and I haven't looked back since.
"I'd tried to lose weight on my own before, but I found that impossible."
In the past, Shirley's diet consisted of convenience food and packets of crisps.
"I used to eat anything that was fast and quick," she reveals, "just to keep me going."
Shirley has lost 3st 7lb and four dress sizes, taking her down to 10st 13lb and a size 14.
"At first I found doing WeightWatchers difficult," she says, "but after I got it into my head that I wasn't on a diet and that I was changing the way I was eating, it became quite easy.
"I've now reached my target and am trying to maintain it."
Shirley's diabetes has now improved and she hasn't had to use her medication spray for angina for about eight months.
"I feel much better," she adds, "and my family are over the moon."
Meanwhile, Tracey, of Church Close, Biddulph, has dropped from 14st to 9st 2lb – a loss of almost five stone.
And the 35-year-old has trimmed six dresses sizes, transforming her figure from a size 22 to a slender 10.
"My nana had been ill for such a long time," says Tracey, explaining her reasons for deciding to lose weight, "and the family had put so much energy into making sure she was OK in her last days that I sort of neglected myself.
"But when she died, I knew I had to look after me and felt my nana would have been sitting on my shoulder saying: 'Yes, you need to lose a bit of weight now'."
The textile operative at ribbon manufacturers Berisfords, in Congleton, is married to David, a 35-year-old paint sprayer, and has a daughter, Tiffany, aged 12.
"I used to eat the fattiest and most convenient food," she continues, "and very rarely prepared a meal from scratch.
"It would be something processed or a takeaway, and things like crisps, chocolate and biscuits – anything I could get my hands on."
When she was overweight, Tracey wasn't happy with her appearance and lacked confidence.
"I joined WeightWatchers in April last year, a couple of weeks before my mum," she says, "and it's been brilliant.
"I wouldn't class it as a diet, it's more a way of life, and I don't deprive myself of anything.
"It's all about everything in moderation and portion sizes."
Following her huge weight loss, Tracey feels "fantastic" and is bursting with energy.
"Life is for living, rather than sitting back and dreading each day," she insists.
"Family time has definitely improved and my husband is proud of what I've achieved, and he sometimes says he can't recognise me.
"Tiffany loves it too and says I'm a cool mummy now, which I've waited 12 years for her to say."
Shirley and Tracey attend WeightWatchers classes at 11am on Tuesdays at The Conservative Club, High Street, Biddulph.
For more information, call class leader Rachael Smith on 07749 595392.