An office clerk lost almost half her body weight after gaining weight because her health was so painful that she needed help putting on her bra.
Yvonne Stark, who is less than six feet tall, weighed the heaviest 16 stones and had a body mass index (BMI) that measured a healthy weight of over 45 – which makes her clinically obese.
When she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her mid 40s, an incurable condition that caused pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints, she soon got into a vicious spiral of eating from being fed up with being immobile and then unable to move to be able to shed the pounds.
The 55-year-old’s Eureka moment came home on a train when she was visiting her daughter in Redcar, North Yorkshire in April 2019 when she discovered she had a great family and had to lose just as much weight for her own sake .
Determined to achieve the NHS recommended healthy BMI of between 19.5 and 24.9, Yvonne, who lives in Kirriemuir, east of Dundee, Scotland, and her husband – 60-year-old driving school owner Ronnie – said, “Me knew that I was already obese.
“My great fear was that I would become morbidly obese.”
She said, “I had been to visit my daughter Cara in April 2019, and on the long train ride I started thinking about how I owed it to her and Ronnie to lose weight and get well.
“I was very happy in my marriage, but it was obvious to everyone that I was not happy with myself.”
With her son and daughter at school, Yvonne was working part-time in a community project office when she first experienced symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease.
She said, “I felt very tired and my feet were very painful.
“Then it got to a point where it was painful when someone shook my hand.”
While there are pain relievers for the condition, those affected are advised to rest the affected joints.
But in Yvonne’s case, this made her gain more and more weight.
When her pain was at its worst, she became so dependent on daughter Cara, 25, for help that she had to hook her mother’s bra together when she got dressed.
Yvonne remembered the train ride when everything changed and said, “I sat on this long journey and thought about how much Cara had borne the burden of my illness.”
She added, “I also felt like my husband deserved better than that I was so unhappy with myself because of my weight.
“When we got home from the train station, I looked up WW, which was formerly known as Weight Watchers and signed up before I could change my mind.
“I thought, ‘I’ll do this before I can find any excuses not to do it. “
Yvonne had lost a little weight, ready for her wedding to Ronnie in July 2018, so wasn’t the hardest when she got to WW, but at 14st 7oz she was still wearing a size 20.
In her greatest form, Yvonne would indulge in too much chocolate, with Lindt Lindor being her favorite. She said, “It was a combination of comfortable eating because that’s how I felt, and my condition meant I couldn’t move so I was less mobile than I should have been.”
Weighing 8 to 7 pounds and standing 6 to 8, she has a BMI of 23.2 and says one of the most enjoyable things about losing weight is having the dial on her doctor’s obesity chart in the “green” “Normal and healthy range falls.
“That was all I really wanted to get into the standard green zone on the BMI map,” she said.
“When I made the decision to lose weight from the start, I changed the way I thought about my goal. I didn’t focus on the numbers, but on getting out of the obesity realm. “
By the start of the lockdown in March, Yvonne had already achieved that goal – weighing 9 to 2 ounces – but since she and Ronnie could spend more time together, she continued to lose weight and drop another half a stone.
She praised Ronnie for his support and said he encouraged her as she tracked her meals with the WW app and while he never made her feel bad about her height, he supported her weight loss every step of the way.
“My wardrobe has changed from elastic waist jeans and oversized tops to leather skirts and pretty blouses,” she said.
“Without Ronnie, I really wouldn’t have made it and he can’t believe the difference in me – not just in my looks, but also in my confidence and self-confidence. He is very happy with the new me.”
While Yvonne used to use sticks to run, she is now doing very well without them, and while her rheumatoid arthritis hasn’t gone away, she says she has more good days than bad and is less in pain when it flares up.
“I would like to be able to say that there was a miracle and the pain went away, but it isn’t and I still have some health problems with it,” she said.
“It wasn’t eliminated by my weight loss, but it’s less debilitating.”
She added, “I want other people with weight problems to see that with the right support, you can lose and get to the place you want to be.
“I went from being a burden and a nuisance to my family to thinking that I had changed my life forever.
“I feel like I’m on top of the world and I want to take a coaching course next year so I can help other people regardless of their struggle and encourage them to believe that they can make the changes they want to make and too feel so ”