Ashton McHugh, 26, from West Bridgford, Nottingham, tells her story...
With my hair scraped into a ponytail and overalls on, I stood over the fryer, waiting for the next lot of chips to cook.
It was May last year, I’d just taken over my dad’s chippy, and was loving being my own boss.
Once I’d finished serving, I grabbed a handful of chips and went out the back to eat them.
An hour later, I had a fishcake from the hotplate. Later, another handful of chips and a few cod bites…
I’d never sit down to huge portions when I was working – but I’d pick all day long.
Sometimes, I’d help myself to a carton of curry sauce to dip chips in, and I’d often take home a kebab with all the trimmings.
It added up to thousands of calories – but I justified it by telling myself I was on my feet all day, probably burning it off.
It was true that running the shop meant I was more active than I ever had been before, although I knew the fried food wasn’t good for me.
Back home one night, my tummy was rumbling…
But, after making food all day, cooking a healthy tea was the last thing on my mind.
‘Shall we order a takeaway?’ I said to my partner Matt, 35.
‘Why not – curry?’ he said.
Half an hour later, we were eating creamy korma, naan bread and onion bhajis.
A self-confessed chocoholic, I couldn’t resist finishing it off with a family-size bar of Dairy Milk.
But, as I sat on the sofa later, I felt ashamed. The truth was, I knew I was overweight.
I hated buying clothes in a size-22, despised having my photo taken, avoided full-length mirrors.
Although I was confident and sociable, I secretly wished I could be slim. But I struggled to lose weight, so I went to bed feeling sorry for myself.
Next morning, I awoke still feeling fat and ashamed.
Right then, last July, I decided to do something I always dreaded – I got on the scales.
I’d been around 18st for a couple of years, but I was expecting it to have jumped up since I took over the chippy.
Amazingly, when I looked at the scales, it said I’d lost 1½st. That was without even changing what I ate – going from an office job to being on my feet all day must’ve made a big difference.
Imagine what I could do if I really tried, I thought.
‘Right, I’m going on a diet,’ I announced to Matt.
‘OK, my duck, but it might be hard working in a chippy,’ he said to me.
‘Watch me!’ I shot back.
Suddenly, I was on a mission. I stopped snacking on chips, cut out chocolate. At lunchtime, I ate chicken with pitta and salad. At dinner, I’d have a big fresh salad again.
A few weeks later, I’d lost more weight. I felt proud of myself for the first time in ages.
I carried on with the strict regime, limiting myself to 1,200 calories a day.
In three months, I’d lost 3st, a great result – but I knew I had a long way to go, so I set myself half-stone loss targets.
Plus I started doing exercise DVDs before work – and the weight kept falling off.
Three months on, it finally started to show…
‘You look amazing – what’s your secret?’ customers asked.
‘Working in a chip shop!’ I joked – but there was some truth to it.
Being surrounded by food was tempting, but it also made me even more determined to succeed.
‘I love myself more than food,’ I told Matt – and I meant it.
For years, I’d pigged out on junk for comfort. Now I’d hit my stride and there was no stopping me. By December, six months into the diet, I’d lost 6st.
I hadn’t been 12st since I was at school – and it felt amazing. But I knew I could do more.
Since then, I’ve lost nearly another 2st, weigh 10st 2lb.
If you’d have told me I could lose 8st at the start of my diet, I’d never have believed you.
It’s a fantastic feeling to go into any high-street shop and comfortably fit into a size-12.
Matt and I are getting married in a few months, and I’ll be excited to see the photos, rather than feeling full of dread.
I still enjoy the odd portion of chips – they’re too delicious not to! But I only ever have five or six chips at the most. I’m not going back to my old ways.
Being slim’s made me happier than fish and chips ever could.
And if I can lose weight while working in a chippy, I reckon anyone can!