A Northampton grandma who couldn’t work because of her weight has won the 'Slimming World's Greatest Loser 2017' title after shedding 18 stone and bagging a job.
Back in November, the Chronicle & Echo spoke to Tracey Topping about her weight loss journey and today she has beaten 900,000 Slimming World members to claim a £3,000 cash prize for being so inspirational to other dieters.
Three years ago, at nearly 30 stone, Tracey of Thorplands struggled to walk short distances and couldn’t stand for long periods of time, making it impossible to find employment.
After losing a whopping 18 stone – 60 per cent of her body weight – she has bagged a job working as a sales assistant in Sainsbury’s and runs her own Slimming World group in Cogenhoe.
The 47-year-old said: “Before I wasn’t active at all because I was too big, now I’ve done a Race for Life 10k, I can walk for miles and enjoy playing with my grandchildren.
"My weight loss has completely changed my life – and I love it. I want to show other people who might be feeling the way I was that there is hope and they can lose the weight.”
Tracey has not always struggled with her weight and as a teenager she was a slim size eight.
However, after falling pregnant with her first child at 16, the now mum-of-four saw her weight balloon and at the age of 44 found herself wearing a size 34/36.
Following her remarkable slimming campaign, she is now a size 10 or 12.
She added: “When I was younger I could eat whatever I wanted without putting on weight, but that all changed after having my eldest daughter.
"At my heaviest, I weighed 29st 6lbs and everything was a struggle – I had pains in my knees and ankles, I got out of breath easily and found it hard to walk from the front door to the car. I couldn’t even fit in the bath and couldn’t work. I felt useless.”
She remembers one horrible incident at her son’s school when another parent moved seats after she sat in front of him, complaining she was "too big for him to be able to see".
“That stayed with me and when we went on holiday soon after and I knew I had to lose weight, so I told my husband I was joining Slimming World when we got home,” she said.
While her husband Jason, 47, and two youngest children enjoyed family walks and other fun activities during the break to Skegness in October 2014, she could only watch from the sidelines where she nursed her swollen ankles in the caravan.
Tracey would often indulge in doner kebabs, beef curry from the Chinese takeaway, fish fingers and burgers and knew that when she returned home, she needed to join a Slimming World group, based in Weston Favell.
“I knew I had nothing to lose but that didn’t stop me feeling nervous. I was worried that I’d be too big for the scales and they wouldn’t be able to weigh me, that wasn’t the case though.
"Now I tell everyone that there’s nothing to fear because everyone at Slimming World is so friendly and there’s absolutely no judgment or pressure, just loads of help and support. I’ve made so many new friends and I don’t think I could have done it without them.”