A young woman from Dundalk who was told she might not see her 30th birthday if she didn’t slim down has lost an incredible 20st – nearly two thirds of her body weight – and dropped 10 dress sizes.
At just 27 Bríanán McEnteggart weighed 32st 11lbs and wore a dress size 34. It was at a routine health check that her GP warned her that if she didn’t tackle her weight she could be less than 18 months away from a heart attack.
Now, after losing 20st 5lbs, pretty Bríanán has her whole life ahead of her with a new job she loves and she’s just set up home with her boyfriend. To top it off, she’s also been named Slimming World Woman of the Year 2014 – and she is the first ever member from the Republic of Ireland to win the title.
Bríanán, now 31, says she feels like she’s entering a new chapter in her life: “When I look back at old photos of myself I can see that even though my mouth is smiling my eyes aren’t smiling. I was a very unhappy girl – I would walk everywhere with my head down looking at the ground and I hated looking in the mirror. Now when I smile my whole face smiles, and I walk everywhere with my head held high. I feel like I’ve got a second chance at life and I’m looking forward to everything the future holds.”
Bríanán wore a dress size 20 at just 15 and had to have her clothes specially made. As she got older she avoided social situations and comfort ate. She says: “Like most big kids I was picked on at school, I put up my defences so no-one would ever know they’d hurt my feelings but when I got home I’d cry. Not much changed as I got older. At 27 you should be out living your life, but I didn’t want to be seen by anyone so I’d just stay home and read a book or watch television.”
She tried to shed the weight by attending slimming clubs and even visiting a hospital dietician: “I felt the diets I followed were always too restrictive for me. I was hungry a lot of the time and I couldn’t fit them into my life because they didn’t let me have any treats. My experience at the dieticians was even worse, they said their scales couldn’t weigh me and I had to sit in something called ‘the obesity chair’ – it was mortifying. It’s experiences like that that crush your self-confidence bit by bit.”
As Bríanán’s weight increased she began to worry about her health as heart problems run in her family. In October 2011 she visited her doctor and received the grim diagnosis. Just days later, she was dealt another blow when the bath at her family home cracked beneath her heavy weight. She says: “Hearing something like that from the doctor scares the living daylights out of you. A few days later I was taking a shower as usual when I heard a noise and realised the bath had cracked. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to have to come out and tell my parents I’d broken the bath, I wanted that bath to swallow me up. Both of these things were wake-up calls and I knew I really had to do something. Within days I was at my first Slimming World group.”
Bríanán had heard about Slimming World from a friend, Mary Murphy, and joined her at the local Dundalk Slimming World group, run by Consultant Fiona Pepper. Bríanán says: “I felt sick and was absolutely petrified because I felt I had such a long journey ahead of me. I didn’t need to worry though – Fiona came running over to offer me a cup of tea and everyone was so friendly. Now I sail into the group, they’re like my second family and I tell people that there’s no reason to ever feel scared because everyone – no matter how much weight they’ve got to lose – is there for the same reason. I think I get as excited when other members lose weight as when I do, it’s amazing to think we’re all helping each other as well as ourselves.”
She began following Slimming World’s Extra Easy eating plan and started enjoying more regular meals. Gone were the super-size bags of crisps and jumbo bars of chocolate and she took over the cooking at home, whipping up healthy recipes like turkey stir-fry for her parents, sister and nephew. She lost 11lbs in her first week and 4½st in just three months. Bríanán loves that she doesn’t have to feel hungry and can still enjoy treats like a small bar of chocolate, a bag of crisps or a vodka and diet cola.
As she slimmed down Bríanán, who suffered from painful knees and legs as a result of her size, began walking more. She says: “Before I would struggle to walk even 500m so I couldn’t do too much to start with. I began by walking between one lamppost and another and building up slowly. Now I can walk three miles a day and I’m hoping to take up Zumba and start shaking my hips a bit.”
Bríanán’s recently reached her target weight, dropping from 32st 11lbs to 12st 6lbs, and was named Slimming World Woman of the Year 2014 at a ceremony in Birmingham on Saturday November 8th. What she’s lost in weight, she’s gained in confidence; she successfully applied for a job with an online training company, discovered a love of shopping and has swapped staying in for nights out on the dance floor with friends.
It was on a night out in summer 2013 that she met fellow Slimming World member Keith Lynch, who has lost 5st himself, and the pair soon became a couple. They’ve recently moved in together and are planning a future. Bríanán says: “I honestly believe that if it wasn’t for my Slimming World group I wouldn’t be alive today, I would be six-foot under and my parents would be visiting my grave. My doctor is over the moon and so am I. I’ve always loved reading but now instead of burying myself in a book all the time, I feel like I’m finally starring in my own fairytale. These past three years have been the best years of my life and I can’t wait for everything that’s still to come.”