When 36-year-old Paula Wilson left the Royal Navy in her early 20s she went from being extremely active and having a purpose to being a civilian again and being “completely lost and not knowing what to do with my life”.
She adds: “I struggled to adapt back to civilian life and became depressed and isolated from people. The only thing that brought me happiness was food and alcohol. My only friend was food.”
Paula says she would drink more than two litres of cherry cola a day. “How I’ve still got all my teeth is beyond me,” she laughs. She’d also eat takeaway five times a week and buy “copious amounts of crisps and chocolate and go home and sit alone in my bedroom and eat all the junk food that I bought while watching TV”.
There is ill health in Paula’s family. “My grandma died from a heart attack, my dad had to have a heart bypass, and just before his death he was wheelchair-bound because his heart was so damaged he just couldn't function.”
In addition, her mother has countless health issues: “Her weight had such a massive impact on her joints that she is now disabled and unable to do many things unaided.”
But it wasn’t until much later that Paula decided to change her own lifestyle. “You would think that being around so many unhealthy people, some of whom have died, would be enough to make me live a healthy lifestyle – but it wasn't.”
She suffered from asthma, sleep apnea, depression, anxiety and high blood pressure, as well as coughing fits brought on because of her weight: “I would wake up at night – pretty much every night – because I stopped breathing and it would cause massive coughing fits.”
She adds: “The doctors wanted to put me on all kinds of medication from antidepressants to high blood pressure pills but I would refuse any of them because I was in denial about just how unhealthy and overweight I was.”
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In December 2015 something clicked and Paula decided to change her life, realising that her family’s lifestyle and health issues didn’t have to be hers too. “I woke up and enough was enough,” she says. “I got up that day and joined a Slimming World group.”
After 14 months she’d lost 60lb and then joined a gym, where she turned her life around. She started working with a personal trainer who was also a nutritionist, losing a further 35lb.
“The way my body and mind has changed has been on a different level,” she says. “I have gone from being a size 22 to a size 10, I have strength that I only dreamed of, I have definition and muscles that I never thought my body could produce, and I am the fittest I have been in my entire life.”
Now Paula has no health issues and her anxiety has lessened dramatically. “I am no longer angry at the world,” she says. “I no longer hate myself and I don't feel lonely or isolated any more.”
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