For a while now, I have been wanting to pursue a new personal photography project. I've been playing with a few ideas and this one has been bubbling up and starting to take form. A lot has happened to me personally in the last six months, some of it good, some of it not so good. It has given me a new perspective - you can't control what life throws at you, but you can control how it affects you and how you react to it. I have taken the decision to give my all to life, to enjoy it to the full, to try my best, to cherish moments with my family. I feel inspired by strong women, women who do the same - who make a decision to take control of their own destiny.
And so to Sharon... Around the time I came up with my idea, I had been watching my friend Sharon literally disappear before my eyes. She set herself a goal and she has achieved an amazing eight and a half stone weight loss. I felt that should be celebrated, and asked her if she'd agree to be photographed. Luckily for me, she said yes!
Here, Sharon shares her story:
"I’ve always been a larger person, all my life, apart from a couple of years as a child when I lived in Trinidad and swam every day.
When I was 37 I got married to Neil and we started trying for a baby. Due to my many, many fertility issues having a baby was not easy. I tried all sorts of things to get pregnant… reflexology, appointments with nutritional consultants, and finally fertility treatment.
One of my fertility issues is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). One of the side effects of this is weight gain; it’s also not easy to lose weight when you have PCOS. One of the many treatments my fertility consultant put me on was Metformin which helps to control your insulin levels and can help with conception. Unfortunately one of the side effects of this drug is nausea and vomiting. I am the Queen of Side Effects, so of course I had every single side effect going. The nausea was constant and it got to the point when I didn’t really want to eat and even just passing a supermarket made me retch. At this point Neil took on the cooking and the food shopping every week. He’d bring me the food and I would do my best to eat it. It wasn’t always healthy food because sometimes all I could manage was carbohydrates. The good news is I did eventually get pregnant and I had identical twin boys!
Once the boys were born Neil suggested he carried on with the cooking and I looked after the children. I wasn’t about to say no to that deal, but we fell into a trap of always eating the same kinds of foods and not necessarily enough fruit and veg. It’s also very easy as a new mum to meet up with friends and eat lots of cake, and in my case drink lots of hot chocolate! I kept on getting bigger and bigger. Then we decided to book a fabulous holiday to Canada for April 2017 to have adventures with our boys. I decided that I needed to lose weight to be able to do things with my children and not just to watch them having fun. So in October 2015 I joined Slimming World.
I’d tried dieting before, but it was really hard to lose weight and I would lose motivation very quickly. I’d never tried Slimming World before but I had heard good things about it from a couple of friends and had been very impressed with their weight loss, so I decided I had to give it a go. It is all about food optimising and making sure that at least a third of every meal you eat are speed foods. That is foods that fill you up but that are low in calorific value such as vegetables, fruit and salad. You can still eat carbs like pasta, potatoes and rice, lots of protein but limit your dairy and bread intake. You have 15 syns a day to spend on things you love, in my case that is chocolate. I found that this way of eating really suited me and I didn’t feel like I was depriving myself of anything as I could still eat my chocolate and have the odd treat now and again.
By Christmas, I had lost one and a half stone and was feeling fabulous. By my Mum’s 70th birthday in February 2016, I had lost three and a half stone and was determined to keep going. I rediscovered my love of cooking and now really enjoy planning what the whole family is going to eat each week. It’s also expanded the variety of food my boys eat as they had become very fussy eaters. That is no longer the case as they will now try anything!
In February 2017, I was trying very hard to lose 3 lb to hit my 8 stone award. Unfortunately, I was struck down with a very nasty case of gallstones which caused me to become very ill with pancreatitis. I spent a week in hospital and during that time managed to lose a whole stone which got me to my 8.5 stone target. So that cloud very definitely had a silver lining.
I’m just back from my holiday to Vancouver in Canada. I had an amazing time and did things I wouldn’t have been able to do this time two years ago. I’ve been sledging on Grouse Mountain, flown in a seaplane and also wore a medium survival suit to go whale watching in Tofino. The last time I went whale watching in Tofino 17 years ago not even the XXL survival suit fitted me and I had to go in a covered boat… Although I wish I’d gone in a covered boat this trip too - it was freezing and very, very wet and rough!"
I would like to feature more inspirational women in my project - I am aiming to photograph four to five women this year. It may be in a studio setting like Sharon's photoshoot or it may be on location linked to your story. If you would like to nominate someone (or yourself!), then please contact me and share your story!