Lisa Jackson, 29, from Co Durham shares her story...
Popping open the can of cola, I took my first sip.
It was 8am and I’d just eaten two slices of buttery toast and a few choccie biscuits.
Now I was washing it down with my favourite drink.
I started my day with a cola, and ended my day with one. There were also another three or four cans in between.
Now, though, as I got dressed for my admin assistant job, pulled on my ‘fat uniform’ – a baggy top with a baggy cardigan – my heart felt heavy.
All my eating and drinking came at a price.
I was only 27 and I weighed 25st, crammed myself into size-24 clothes.
I’d started piling on the weight when I started work. I’d munch continually at my desk, eat stodgy pasta with a creamy carbonara sauce for lunch, then at night still find room for large helpings of chilli.
All of this was washed down with cans of cola.
I’d been with my partner Martin since I was 20. I told myself he loved me for who I was, not what I looked like.
I had a good social life. I’d go out with friends at weekends, down cider and alcopops. I’d be the loudest, funniest…
But, deep down, I hated how I was. I got out of breath just walking up a few stairs.
‘You could always try a slimming club,’ my mum Lynn would say.
‘I’m fine as I am,’ I’d snap.
Then, in early 2013, my cousin Stephanie threw a birthday party.
Afterwards, one of her friends sent me some photos.
Suddenly, I realised just how awful I looked.
Standing next to my friend Rachel, a size-8, I looked like a giant – a horrid, obese giant.
I’d thought I looked pretty good in my jeans, blue top and jacket.
‘The camera doesn’t lie,’ I sobbed to Mum.
There and then, I decided to change.
I worked out the amount of cola I was drinking each day added up to 800 calories alone.
So I cut that out right away.
I missed it, though, and felt shaky to start with.
I swapped my heavy pasta dish for salad, and had grilled chicken for dinner. I also started doing Zumba twice a week.
Within six weeks, I’d dropped a staggering 2st.
I felt amazing. That was the only thing that was addictive now – the rush of losing weight.
Within two years, I was down to 13st.
Sadly, Martin and I split, but we remained firm friends.
I moved back to my parents’, started going to the gym more. It gave me a focus.
And it was there that one day I got chatting to Ryan Atkinson, 27.
He had a proper gym body.
Phwoar! I thought as he lifted weights.
He felt the same about me. We started dating and I showed him a photo of me before.
‘You’ve done amazingly,’ he grinned proudly.
‘I just can’t shift this, though,’ I moaned, grabbing my tummy.
My stomach had always been the thing I hated the most – well, stomachs. I had about five, and they seemed to start from my chin and all roll into one another.
Once, it’d been blubber. Now it was excess skin.
‘You’re still beautiful,’ Ryan insisted. And I believed he meant it. But I didn’t feel it.
‘It just feels like all this hard work has been for nothing,’ I sobbed to my dad Wayne one night.
‘Well, have something done,’ he said. ‘Me and Mum are so proud of how far you’ve come, we’ll help you.’
So I did some research, found a surgeon in Harley Street who’d carry out a tummy tuck for £8,500.
Mum and Dad gave me the money and, in July 2015, I went under the knife.
The operation took six hours.
When I came round, I was wearing a tight, white corset.
‘That went brilliantly,’ my surgeon said. ‘It all came off in one piece. I couldn’t resist taking a photo. It’s gory but worth a look.’
‘I want to see it,’ I said.
He held up his phone and my first thought was that it looked like a giant nose! He was holding up my skin.
‘Send that to me?’ I asked. ‘I’m going to keep that on my phone.’
Beware – this photo is seriously gory!
He’d even had to make me a brand-new belly button, as my tummy was so different.
I’d lost a stone by having the op. And once I was back on my feet, I blitzed the shops for size-10 dresses.
Now, 18 months on, I still look at that photo every day.
Ryan and I train together, and I couldn’t be happier.
Having my stomach chopped gave me back the last bit of confidence I needed.