Kim Freshwater beams as she studies a picture of a gorgeous fitted gown with intricate embroidery and crystal detail.
This beautiful dress, with its elegant silhouette and wisps of luxury material, is what the 45-year-old will be wearing when she renews her wedding vows later this year.
It’s a far cry from her original wedding dress which, Kim says, ‘made me look like one of those dollies people put on toilet rolls’ and those dolls people put on toilet rolls’ and which she chose ‘just because it fitted’.
At 20 Kim was 20 stone and a size 24 and found what should have been the magical experience of wedding dress shopping a long and horrible chore.
‘I put on this dress and thought I looked like Little Bo Peep. It was one of those puffy-sleeved 1980s-style dresses. Think Sarah Ferguson,’ she says.
‘I absolutely hated it but there was hardly anything in my size. By that time I just thought “fine, it fits”.
‘I was really excited about marrying my husband, but the thought of wearing that dress and being the centre of attention was awful.’
Without putting any pressure on her to lose weight, husband Lee promised they would do it all again if she ever found a dress she liked.
Over the years Kim’s weight crept up until she reached 29 stone. But now a trim size 10, Kim will be renewing her vows for the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary in her dream dress.
‘We’ll either go abroad with the children and come back here for an evening party or actually get married here,’ says the mum-of-three.
‘I’m really excited of course and this time I absolutely love the dress.’
The big event follows a special 2013 for Kim, who was named Slimming World’s Woman of the Year after shedding 17-and-a-half stone.
The award is given to the weight loss organisation’s most inspirational member and Kim beat 600,000 other slimmers to the title.
She enjoyed a whirlwind of publicity, a grand ceremony at the ICC in Birmingham, an overnight stay at London’s Ritz and a pampering session fit for the stars to prepare for a national press call.
Lee and Kim’s Slimming World consultant Georgina Winter went along with her to the ceremony and it proved to be an emotional occasion – especially for Lee.
Kim was on stage with 10 other finalists when her name was announced, but she looked for her husband in the audience.
‘He was crying, his shoulders were shaking, he was a blubbering mess,’ she says, laughing. ‘The husbands and partners of the other finalists were hugging him.’
She also laughs as she reveals how difficult it has been to get used to her new look.
‘I went into a changing room the other day, caught a glimpse of this lady in the mirror, said sorry and walked out. Then I realised I was apologising to my reflection. I’m not used to this body yet.’
Then there was the acquaintance who hadn’t seen Kim for a while and asked a mutual friend if Lee and Kim had separated because she’d seen Lee with someone else (that someone being slim Kim).
She has plenty of funny stories but behind the smiles there are years of struggle.
Kim’s weight problems started at the age of 14 when she lost her dad.
A fit and healthy man, he died suddenly, possibly due to a blood clot.
‘He was my best friend, we were inseparable, they used to call us the two musketeers,’ she says.
Kim started comfort eating and the problem escalated. ‘My mum, like all mums, loved to give me nice food. But for me it was starting to mean love, I suppose it filled the hole in my life just a little bit.’
She gained weight gradually through her adult life, but says it wasn’t a problem for many years.
‘I was always beautiful to Lee, it was never an issue. And the children and their friends, they all just thought of me as Kim. There wasn’t a problem.’
But in 2010, Kim fell down the stairs and damaged her knee.
She was too scared to call paramedics because she knew they wouldn’t be able to lift her and ended up hardly able to move.
She eventually began walking with sticks, but there was no chance of an operation because her weight would have made it ineffective.
It was after the accident that she piled on the last five stone and her life really took a turn for the worse.
Kim had to crawl up the stairs, do the ironing sat down and rarely left the house.
She decided to join Slimming World after not being able to go to her youngest son’s school awards ceremony for fear of breaking a chair.
‘I’d been to my eldest son’s and the chairs were those collapsible fold-away things. I was holding on to my husband, trying not to put too much
Slimming World uses a system known as food optimising. This means it encourages a diet based on ‘free foods’ (most fruit and veg, very low fat dairy, fish, potatoes, rice and pasta), ‘healthy extras’ (milk and cheese for calcium, for example) and treats known as ‘syns’. There are Slimming World groups throughout the UK. For information about the way the plan works and to find a local group, visit slimmingworld.com or call 0844 892 0400.