My doctor put me on slimming pills when I was 13... Headteacher Debbie Huxtable put her aching joints and breathlessness down to aging. But now she's lost six stone, Debbie, 58 and from Coventry, tells ZOE CHAMBERLAIN how she feels like a new woman.
It all started when I developed whooping cough.
I was poorly for a whole school term, which meant I couldn't do PE and wasn't doing anything active.
At around the same time I hit puberty and the weight just started to pile on.
The slimming tablets didn't make any difference and I was still wearing large clothes by the time I left school.
It affected my confidence, especially when I went out socially. I was always the wallflower. If I went to discos with my friends, I was conscious of what I wore and the fact I couldn't wear clothes other girls my age were wearing. Over the years my weight went up and down.
When I had my daughters, Beth and Megan, I found it hard to shift the extra weight.
I found it hard to run around after them when they were growing up because of my size.
Every time I did a diet and lost a stone, I'd pile on a stone-and-a-half afterwards.
I went up to 15st 10lb and was wearing size 22 to 24 clothes.
And I had every ache and pain going.
I had palpitations and breathlessness.
I had asthma and had to use an inhaler because my chest was so bad and I kept getting chest infections.
I put it down to aging.
It prevented me from doing things.
Even walking was a strain. I couldn't walk fast or far so it really limited me.
Then, in November 2010, my daughter was going to work as a nanny in America for six months and wanted to lose weight so I went with her to Weight Watchers.
I went for her sake more than anything else.
I'd tried every type of diet, pill and slimming club so I didn't think this would make any difference.
But I found I started to lose weight quite quickly.
After a month, I began to see a real difference in how I felt.
I was eating lots of fruit and vegetables and all the right things.
I gradually found the weight came off, especially when I started to exercise, too.
Initially I couldn't do much so I would just go for a little walk round the block at the quietest time of the day so no-one would see me.
Gradually, I got to the stage where I could do a couple of miles.
Then I joined a zumba class with Beth and Megan and I really enjoyed it. It was good fun and, what's more, I could keep up with other people which I really didn't expect.
We've since started doing tap dancing classes together every week.
My daughters both danced as children and I used to watch, always wishing I could get up there and dance, too.
But I never had the courage or the stamina to do it.
Now I love it. I recently dropped down to 9st 10lb and a dress ize 10 to 12, having lost six stone.
And I said to Karen, the class leader, I felt she had given me my life back.
I had a persona I used to hide behind.
I think everyone thought ''she doesn't worry about her weight'' but inside I was worrying about it constantly. Losing weight has given me more confidence and had a huge impact on me.
The pupils and parents at the school where I work have been really complimentary.
I feel so much better.
I love shopping now whereas before I loathed it because I could only buy clothes from certain shops.
The only items in my wardrobe were long, baggy and black.
I've always gone shopping with my daughters in the summer holidays.
I loved going round the shops with them but I could never buy anything.
Now I can go to the same shops, go into the changing rooms and try on the same clothes as them. It's a whole different experience.
For the first time, I'm wearing dresses, colourful clothes and tops that show off my waistline.
I'm enjoying wearing boots, too.
My calves were always too big to fit into boots before. It's silly things like that that you don't realise make such a difference.
Beth, now 29, and Megan, 25, are really thrilled for me. One borrowed a top from me the other day which was the greatest compliment.
When I felt tired and achy and out of breath, I put it down to getting older.
I realise now I used that was an excuse because my aches and pains have gone.
The truth was it wasn't my age, it was that my weight stopped me from being active.
In the past I'd just concentrated on the diet, always thinking about the time when I'd be off the diet and could go back to being able to eat as usual.
I think Weight Watchers works because it becomes a way of life rather than something you just tack on. It's about changing your lifestyle and it worked for me.
My husband Dave, who is a carpenter, has been so supportive. He hasn't complained that I've had to throw away clothes and buy so many new ones.
And he loves it because he can get his arms around me now!
Debbie's diet then... and now BREAKFAST: Toast SNACK: Packet of crisps LUNCH: Sandwiches SNACK: Chocolate bar DINNER: Pasta in a creamy sauce or something with chips followed by cake or gateaux BREAKFAST: Porridge SNACK: Banana LUNCH: Chicken salad or homemade vegetable soup SNACK: Fresh fruit DINNER: Meat or fish with lots of vegetables and not too many potatoes followed by sugarfree jelly YOU CAN BENEFIT WITH SOME GREAT TELEGRAPH OFFERS - SEE OPPOSITE
A NEW WOMAN: Debbie Huxtable with her daughter Beth, who's now 29, and (right) Debbie today, having lost 6st on a Weight Watchers diet.