‘All the GAA Mammies were talking about me’- Irish woman who lost seven stone in nine months
An Irish woman has admitted that she was the talk of the town after losing seven stone in less than a year and was the subject of gossip by friends who were inspired by her dramatic transformation.
After battling with her weight for more than 12 years, Tracey Houlihan (37) from Kildare shed almost 100lbs in nine months and said that her friends were thrilled to see her back to her old self.
“After losing the weight, a friend of mine came up to me after the kids’ training and said ‘All the mammies are talking about you Tracey’.
“I got such a fright! But she said that it was just because they were all so happy for me and that they were happy to see the old me back again,” she said.
The mum-of-four revealed that her weight began to pile on following the sudden death of her mother 14 years ago after which she became the rock for her dad and two younger brothers.
“My weight began to pile on when my mam died. She passed away really suddenly while she was on holidays and it was a huge shock to our family. Suddenly I found myself flying abroad to help my dad get her body home and it was very traumatic.
“We have two younger brothers and my sister and I took on the role as caregivers and minders of the house. I really began to grieve through food. In the evenings when the boys would come home from school I’d have big, warming curries on. It was complete comfort eating.
“People were always calling over to see how we were and I became somewhat of a Mrs Doyle character, always baking cakes and pulling biscuits from the cupboard.
“A year and a half after my mam died, I married my childhood sweetheart, but by that point I was wearing a size 14,” she said.
Tracey revealed that each of her pregnancies were difficult because of her weight and she suffered from pre-eclampsia, a condition which places both the baby and mum at high risk.
“Before my smallest girl was born I was wearing leggings that were a size 22 and I was tipping the scales at almost 18 stone.
“The night she was born really scared me. My blood pressure sky-rocketed during labour and the doctors told me I was lucky that they were able to regulate it. After that I was advised not to do activities for several months that would raise my blood pressure. I knew I had to do something about my weight, but it took several more months to gather that motivation.
“After my youngest was born, I was always in the doctors. I had my gall bladder removed, I was diagnosed as a coeliac, I was just a bloody mess. I was suffering from depression but I wasn’t confiding in anyone.”
The final straw for Tracey was a photograph taken with her daughter at a wedding. She struggled to find a dress that would fit her for the occasion and was forced to borrow an unflattering alternative.
“The week before joining Slimming World, I was a guest at a wedding. My daughter Maggie had been asked to be flower-girl and I just couldn’t avoid going. I couldn’t find anything to fit me and I was in such despair. I had to borrow a dress I didn’t like and get it let out so that I could wear it on the day.
“At the wedding, somebody took a photograph of Maggie and I, and I hated it so much I asked for it to be deleted. When she heard me say that I could see her little face drop in disappointment and I knew I just couldn’t keep going on like this anymore,” she said.
Although it took courage to join up to a local Slimming World class, Tracey hasn’t looked back.
“Before joining Slimming World I was a bag of nerves. Although I had tried every type of diet in the past, nothing had ever worked in the long-term.
“But in the midst of looking after my brothers, my dad and my family, I had forgotten to look after myself and it was time to do that.
“Within nine months at Slimming World I had dropped from a size 22 to a size 8. I had lost seven stone in nine months.
“I was out shopping one day and I thought I saw my sister across the way. However, I realised after a few seconds I was waving at myself in the mirror,” she said.
“I’ve been at my target weight for more than two years now.”
Tracey has now made the move from hairdresser to Slimming World Consultant and now runs classes in Ballyteague in Kildare, which have doubled due to demand.
“I was so grateful to Slimming World for helping me change my life and somebody suggested that I would make a good leader considering my long struggle with weight.
“I decided to just bite the bullet and just go for it. I began making the moves to start a class in my Mammy’s home village of Ballyteague which is in the middle of nowhere right in the bog.
“I was shocked that on the first night more than 104 cars turned up and it’s just been a whirlwind since,” she said.
Tracey opened up about her battle with depression and urged those struggling with mental health to confide in someone.
"I was a hairdresser for years and that took its toll. I was forced to put on this happy-go-lucky exterior when really I was so upset and down. I didn’t confide in anyone about my depression and I kept my emotions a secret. It’s such a silent disease.
“I felt like I was holding everybody else up but I realised that even if you don’t want to tell your family and friends about your struggle there are so many other options. There is always somebody there to listen and help.
“When I was heavy I just had this hatred of myself, and that wasn’t okay either. At the time I really didn’t like her, but looking back I realise she wasn’t too bad after all. She just needed a little bit of help,” said Tracey.