A dental receptionist in Lokum, who thought she “might just die” around her 40th birthday because she was nearly 18, said she was “amazed” to have lost nearly half her body weight and would encourage anyone on their weight-loss journey to ” Just go for it.
Jo Stapley, 46, originally from North Yorkshire but now living in Bracknell, Berkshire, is 5ft 3in and weighed 17 stone 10lbs (112.5kg) when she was at her heaviest after having developed “very bad habits”. and lazy,” such as getting regular junk food and not exercising.
While Jo said she was always “fairly confident” and “never felt really fat”, she said she could not walk up a flight of stairs or an incline without out of breath, and when she bent over to tie her shoelaces she would “get a really horrible pain” in her ribs.
Jo, who has two children, Jack, 22, and Harry, 20, and lives with her husband, Roger, 55, an IT software engineer, said she didn’t realize how unhealthy she was until she reached her 40th birthday and realized it. She needed to prioritize her health.
She said, “I’m very lucky, I have a very healthy family…and I just thought, maybe I’m just dying because I’m so old, and that’s something I can do something about.”
After joining WW (formerly Weight Watchers) in 2016, Jo lost 42% of her body weight, went down from a size 22 to a size 10 and came down to 10 stone 3lbs (64.9kg) — and her shoe size has dropped even a size. 6 to size 5.
“It was the most amazing feeling, I was really amazed,” she said.
“I was like, ‘Wow, I actually did that. I just couldn’t believe it.’”
“I’ve seen so many people over the years get to this point, and I guess I never thought I’d get there. It was amazing, it was the best feeling.”
Jo explains that she was “very fit and healthy when she was young”, practicing martial arts, exercising frequently, and eating well.
But after moving out of the house at 18 to live with her then-boyfriend, Jo says “that’s when things started to spiral out of control” — unhealthy habits started to creep in, like getting junk food and buying packages of prepackaged food and willow and her body just wouldn’t move.
She later split with her boyfriend, but the “lazy habits” continued into her first marriage, and since Jo was an “emotional eater” as well, she said the weight “slowly crept” until she reached her heaviest point of nearly 18 stone. After the birth of her two children.
“I just got into really bad habits, being lazy with food, not doing any exercise at all; (I was) very sedentary, eating only comfort foods,” she said.
“It was an emotionally stressful time, and one of the things that worked for me was that I’m quite an emotional eater, so if I was upset or angry, all different emotions, my answer to that at the time was ‘D-go eat a box of cookies.’”
“I would be very happy to open a box of biscuits and eat them all… (and) that was the way I handled it, I think.
“I was also drinking more than I should have, and it was getting out of hand.”
Jo explained that she “never really felt fat”, and it wasn’t until after she lost weight that she thought, “Oh my God, how could I let that happen?”.
“I’ve never been upset, I’ve never been depressed, and I’ve never felt uncomfortable,” Joe continued.
“I wasn’t overly confident, but I didn’t sit there one night, thinking, ‘You’re lazy, you’re out of control.’” “
“I was really happy and didn’t really care at that point what size I wore.”
But, after being prescribed blood pressure pills in her mid-30s and then reaching her 40th birthday, Jo suddenly realized that she knew she needed to change her lifestyle, because she feared she “might just die because (she’s) so old”.
She said: “I just started thinking, I have a real life to live and I don’t want to die early.
“I thought, right, I have to do something now because I don’t want to die.”
In August 2016, Jo joined WW and attended weekly meetings, where she would participate in group discussions and weigh-ins.
Joe said the coaches were “fantastic” and everyone who attended the meetings was “really encouraging” and supportive.
“You never felt judged, you never felt like the biggest person out there,” Joe explained.
“I wasn’t always the biggest person out there, there were other people older or younger than me.
“I just thought I got into this group… I’ve never looked back to be honest.”
Jo said one of the things that’s helped her is setting “achievable” goals, like losing one stone at a time, and making small adjustments to her diet and food portions by following WW’s recipe and points system, which takes a food’s specific nutritional value and turns it into a single number.
She gradually began incorporating exercise as well, and with the support of WW and her friends and family, the weight began to come off.
“I just kept going and I kept trying and trying and trying,” said Joe, “It takes a long time, but eventually it gets a little bit easier.”
Nearly seven years later, Jo has lost more than seven stone and her relationship with food has changed dramatically.
But she said she doesn’t “deprive” herself and still has treats, including a glass of Prosecco and a weekly bag of elf gems.
“You have to have something that you can make work for the rest of your life,” she added.
The mother-of-two said she feels a “tremendous sense of accomplishment”, both physically and mentally, and will “never go back to her old habits”, because she is “really happy with how it feels”.
She also no longer takes blood pressure tablets.
Jo said her weight loss journey has never been about “what you weigh,” and that she would encourage anyone trying to lose weight or improve their health to “move on,” because “it feels so good.”
“Even if my story helped someone else start their own journey on this, that would be great because I think it’s understandable that it works and it’s hard, but even if you’ve had a really bad day, and you go tracking, don’t worry about it,” she said.
“Start the next day over again, don’t beat yourself up, don’t write the week off; don’t feel bad about it, move on from it…and just go at it.”