Single mother drops six dress sizes after son was bullied in school: 'I was the embarrassing mother at school gate'
A single mother-of-three who recently dropped six dress sizes by changing her diet, says she knew she had to get in shape when her son was teased in school about her weight.
Stephanie Smith (34) from Kerry said she was so "devastated" when her son was taunted that she joined Weight Watchers in 2013.
"My son who was nine at the time was being teased at school because of my weight... They told him that his mum was fat. At that age, that would affect him. He didn't tell me, he told his twin and she told me a few weeks later."
"I knew I had to do something about it but that gave me the kick through the door that I needed. I was devastated. Obviously I never wanted to be the embarrassing mum at the school gates and I had turned into it."
"When I said to my son that I was joining Weight Watchers, I said I don't want you to go through it again. He looked at me and said 'you don't need to go, you're fine the way you are'."
However, Stephanie knew she needed to change, after years of eating the wrong foods.
"I cried in every meeting. My eldest daughter has been amazing support to me. In the shop she'd stand in front of the biscuits to stop me from buying them."
"My portion sizes had gotten out of control. I was eating double what I should have been eating."
But she said: "I couldn't tell you the last time I had a mars bar. My worst thing was ice cream. I would eat a tub to myself everyday. Now I just freeze bananas... you just blend it up, and freeze it, it's the same texture. You can add a bit of strawberry or cocoa powder to it to change it around."
As a family, Stephanie and her children all eat fresh food now, and she has rediscovered the joy of cooking.
"I made small swaps. I switched to almond milk which has less sugar in it altogether. Instead of chocolate I'd buy Weight Watchers bars."
"I got back into cooking. I love cooking so we eat all fresh now. Just out of convenience when the twins were nine and I also had a baby, it was easy to throw the chicken nuggets and chips into the oven."
"The kids now eat what I eat. It's all fresh: fresh chicken, fresh beef, stews in winter, and salads in summer."
Stephanie said her bad eating habits started when she had depression as a young teenager and she used food to cope.
"I suffered from depression since I was in my early teens. I was bullied in school. Food was my blanket. When you're a child you're rewarded with food. If you're bad you're bribed with food. So food is a big thing in your life. And it was completely the wrong thing. Now I'll do something else, I'll pick up the phone or read a book."
"It's just breaking old habits and creating new ones. If I could give anyone any advice it's just to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for the struggles, for putting on the weight. I spent a lot of time being angry at myself for getting to where I was.
But she said: "I spent so much time hiding and now I'm living and saying 'look what I've been missing'. The fact that my children were affected and it was damaging my friendships. But you have to forgive yourself."
Stephanie says her weight loss journey is still ongoing, but with the support of her Weight Watchers leader Sandra Maher she aims to reach her goal by early next year.
"I haven't actually gotten to the target yet, I've still a few steps to go. I lost a stone this month because I'd been struggling a bit this year with stress and just eating when I was feeling bored. I had a gain this year of a stone and I lost that now this month. If I can stay on track, maybe by the end of the year or March or April I'll have it gone."
In the meantime, Stephanie has many plans for living life to the full.
"Any kind of attention would have had me hiding me in my bed. I always had black clothes, no colours in my wardrobe. I'd make any excuse not to go out. Now I love going out."
"I had one old photo. Now I love the camera," she laughed.