Like any loving mum, Julie Way has always tried to do her best for her children.
That’s always meant making sure they eat a healthy diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables.
But Julie’s good intentions didn’t quite stretch to taking care of herself.
The single mum of three fell into bad eating habits – and her waistline was soon paying the price.
During the day she’d do her best to be a good role model. But when her children had gone to bed, Julie would snack on unhealthy, calorie-laden treats.
‘I started comfort eating,’ she explains.
‘From a health point of view, my children were going to outlive me and I didn’t want to embarrass them.
‘I needed to have a life and look good – and I didn’t look good.’
With childhood obesity on the rise in the UK, what parents serve up to their kids has never been more important.
But many experts now agree that being an overweight parent can be just as damaging.
By October 2010, Julie was dangerously overweight. At just five foot two, she weighed 17 stone three pounds and her health was suffering.
Motivated by a desire to set a good example for her children and feel better about herself, Julie joined a slimming club.
And as thousands of people wake up this morning and decide that today’s the day they’re going on a diet, Julie happily declares: ‘Losing weight has totally changed my life.’
The 36-year-old used to be so appalled by the way she looked and felt that she would never have her photograph taken.
She hated what she saw in the mirror when she joined her local Slimming World club in Gosport.
Her confidence was low and she worried about not being around to take care of her children Molly, nine, Lucy, six, and four-year-old Samuel, in the future.
But despite knowing that she wanted to lose weight, she wasn’t confident that a slimming club would work for her at first.
‘I was very pessimistic at the start,’ admits Julie. ‘I thought “There’s no way this is going to work, I’m going to be miserable”.
‘But I took my sorry backside down there. I knew nobody at the club. Going through those doors was absolutely terrifying.
‘I thought “If I can lose a stone I’ll be happy”. I lost half a stone in the first week. I came home and cried.’
Today Julie’s celebrating after losing an incredible six stone. She cut out the junk food, sugary drinks and late-night snacks and began cooking meals from scratch instead.
‘The only thing I used to do was walk and I would avoid walking great distances at all costs because I got out of breath,’ she adds.
‘I would eat rubbish when the kids went to bed. It was crisps and ice cream, things that I shouldn’t have been eating, and I used to hate myself for it.
‘I’ve always been curvy. When I was single I was probably about a size 16 and I thought I looked good then.
‘But I feel so much better now. I’ve been doing sit-ups and that’s really given me a boost. I don’t mind looking in the mirror now.’
Julie and the children use the Nintendo Wii together as a fun way to exercise, or she puts on music and dances around the living room with them.
As well as a new slim-line figure she’s got bags more energy and confidence – and that’s something she hopes her children will see too.
‘I think they’re proud of me,’ adds Julie. ‘I want to see them grow up but the way things were going that wasn’t going to happen.
‘I was constantly out of breath. I didn’t want to be one of those mums who couldn’t play with their children.
‘Now I practice what I preach. It’s important for them to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Now that I’m eating it too, I can take the moral high ground.
‘I love being able to dress without being a frumpy mum. It has totally changed my life. I’m never going back to the way I was before. I’m so much happier.’
Gosport-based nutritionist Di Johnson, who runs her own business Coriander Food (corianderfood.co.uk), says parents like Julie set a good example for their children.
She believes encouraging families to eat well is still a huge issue for the UK and stresses that parents have a responsibility to make healthy eating habits a way of life from the very earliest age.
‘It’s often only something that occurs later in a child’s life,’ she adds. ‘If from day one fruit and vegetables are introduced, it’s just part of the routine and it won’t be an issue in later years.
‘Role models are so important and that’s not just parents. If teachers are eating with the children at school, it’s really important that they are good role models too.’
And for all those who want to make some changes, Di says starting the new year in a panic with some hastily-made promises isn’t the way to go about it.
‘You don’t want to wake up and start throwing stuff in the bin,’ she explains. ‘There have been quite a few TV programmes that have done that for dramatic effect but it’s so easy to slide back.
‘Make lots of little changes and gradually introduce them.’