Every bride wants to look her very best on her wedding day. And as Jen Mant glided down the aisle that’s exactly how she felt.
Glowing with happiness – and wearing a stunning strapless gown that showed off her slim figure – she’d never felt more beautiful.
But nine years earlier it had been a very different story.
At her first wedding she was overweight and unhappy. People told her she looked nice in her size 28 dress but she didn’t believe them.
‘This time I wanted people to say “Wow, she looks really good”. Nobody would have said that the first time I got married. People said “You look nice” but I knew what they meant was “You look nice – for Jen”.’
Today, Jen’s half the bride she was after losing an incredible 11 stones.
When she and husband Matthew tied the knot in April at Portsmouth Register Office, Jen weighed a trim 11 stones and was wearing a size 12 dress.
Before, she’d tipped the scales at almost 22 stones and hated the way she looked.
Her diet included no fruit or vegetables. Healthier options went ignored in favour of fatty treats like fish and chips or carbohydrate-laden meals of pasta and rice. Exercise just wasn’t part of the mum-of-two’s life.
‘I was always really active when I was a kid,’ recalls Jen, from Gosport. ‘When I was 10 I swam four times a week and danced three times a week. But I remember at the last year of junior school, I was wearing my older sister’s size 12 trousers.
‘Year to year the weight just crept on and got worse. I put on four stones when I had my first son, a year later and I was 20 stones and I got married when he was two.
‘I had a rubbish diet. It’s not how much I ate, it was more what I ate. I wouldn’t eat any fruit or vegetables. I always meant to eat properly but then I’d have fish and chips.
‘I was feeling pretty rubbish. I hated going clothes shopping. Now it’s easier because more shops do bigger sizes. For years and years the only shop I could go to was Evans.’
At the age of 22, Jen got married for the first time. Sadly, that marriage didn’t last and Jen’s memories of being a bride for the first time aren’t happy ones either.
Buying her plus-sized dress hadn’t been an experience she’d enjoyed and she hated the photos so much that she wouldn’t order any to put up in the house.
Once her marriage was over, 30-year-old Jen decided it was time to sort herself out. In January 2008 she was determined to transform her lifestyle and shed the weight she was carrying once and for all.
‘I got to the point where enough was enough,’ explains Jen. ‘I couldn’t stay like that forever. I wasn’t happy and I don’t believe anyone who says they are happy being that size. They just haven’t got that thing about them to make them do something about it.
‘You know that doing something about it isn’t going to be easy. A lot of people don’t have the strength of willpower. You think “I’m hungry, I’ll go and eat a packet of crisps” but it’s never just one packet.
‘A lot of the time people mistake hunger for thirst. When I heard people saying that I thought it was stupid but it’s true.’
In the past she’d joined slimming clubs to try and tackle her weight problem but this time she decided to do it alone. She set herself a strict calorie controlled diet, made herself eat the fresh fruit and vegetables she’d always avoided and worked out to an exercise DVD in the privacy of her own front room.
‘It was hard, I really did feel like I was starving myself and I felt hungry for a year but you kind of get used to it,’ says Jen.
‘I was really strict and cut down to 1500 calories a day and I did go down to 1200 calories. I’ve got a Ministry of Sound exercise DVD and that’s absolutely amazing. It had to be a lifestyle change, I had to get off the sofa, so we’d go for a walk down the beach as well.
‘I’d done other diets and I’d follow the plan. But as soon as I stopped following the plan I’d go back to what I was eating before and put weight on.
‘I’ve had to re-educate myself. If I want to have a Chinese take-away at night I will but it means I’ve got to be more careful the next day.’
The weight quickly began to come off and in 2009 she met Matthew.
She adds: ‘When you’re that big the weight comes off a lot quicker so I was losing five or six pounds a week. As I was losing weight, I started getting my confidence back.
‘I used to go out and feel that everybody was looking at me. I would only go to town if I’d got a pushchair to hide behind or if I was with someone.’
The weight continued to come off and Jen also instilled the healthy regime in the rest of the family.
‘I don’t ever want my kids to go through what I’ve been through,’ she says. ‘I want them to be able to go into a shop and pick whatever they want. I don’t want them to go in and think “They’ve not got that in my size” and go out feeling terrible.
‘It’s important for me to make sure that they eat properly. When they’re older they’ll be able to go and eat whatever they want but I want to introduce them to good food now so that they can make the right choices for themselves.
‘The stupid thing is, this has been my fault. I could have stopped it happening.’
Jen and Matthew were married on April 23 at Portsmouth Register Office and the pair had a great day celebrating with family and friends.
Wedding dress shopping was a whole new experience and Jen knew she’d found the gown of her dreams as soon as she put it on. When she first tried the size 12 dress on it didn’t quite fit but Jen was positive she could slim into it before their big day – and a week before the wedding, the dress actually had to be taken in.
‘One of the proudest moments for me was my sister taking a picture on the wedding day and then putting it on Facebook and showing everybody what I look like now.
‘My nan used to say about my weight “It’s such a shame because she’s got such a pretty face”. Well, I’m not fat any more and that’s such a big thing for me.
‘I’m really proud of my wedding pictures. That’s the day you know you’re going to look your best, you’re never going to look better than that and I felt pretty.’
Jen and Matthew went to Rob Paul Studios in Havant to have their official photos done. In the past Jen had avoided having her photograph taken at all costs. She wouldn’t even look at photos from her first wedding and certainly wouldn’t put any up on the walls. Now she plans to display the pictures of her and Matthew around the house.
‘I was nervous about having my wedding photos done,’ she admits. ‘I used to have about five chins but I haven’t got a chin now.
‘It would have been awful if the pictures were bad but I was in my beautiful dress and my hair was really nice and you know that’s the best you’re ever going to look.
‘In the end I was happy about having my photos done because I wanted be able to look back and be proud.
‘I just wanted to look like the person I’d always wanted to be, rather than the person I was.’