A pal gasped when she saw me. I felt like a million-dollar bride; Paula Townsend reveals how the shame of covering up at pal's wedding in Spain made her change her eating habits to get in the shape of her life for her own big day. Now she's slim and confident, with a baby on the way.
A trip to sunny Spain for a friend's wedding should have been a happy occasion for Paula Townsend.
But she could barely smile or laugh during the celebrations and wished she could have been anywhere else.
Paula was miserable because she suddenly realised how overweight she was compared with friends and other guests.
She vowed there and then to go on a diet, slim down and get a new look. And only a few months into her diet, she was given a brilliant incentive to keep going when her boyfriend popped the question.
Paula, 31, a business support team leader from Aberdeen, said: "I didn't want to be a fat bride when I walked down the aisle.
"Every woman wants to look beautiful on their wedding day and I'm no exception."
She had tried her best to lose weight on her own before her friend's wedding in Malaga, where her boyfriend Jonathan was the best man.
"I didn't manage to lose a pound and I spent the whole time covered up and feeling embarrassed," added Paula, who was a dress size 18 at the time.
"It was a lovely place and should have been a fabulous sunshine break with loads of friends, as a guest at a happy celebration.
"I'd travelled abroad on holiday every year with my boyfriend and had always felt comfortable in short skirts and bikinis.
"But this was the first time I was on holiday with other people I knew from back home - and I didn't want them to see me in a bikini on the beach.
"I covered up as much as I could even though it was so hot.
"At the wedding, I felt terribly self-conscious in a big loose purple dress that didn't do me any favours.
"I spent the whole time hiding from the camera, while all my friends happily posed for pictures looking skinny and gorgeous in their lovely wedding clothes.
"Of course, I had to pose with Jonathan as he was best man.
"I hate that photograph - I looked awful in it.
"But going to that wedding in Spain was good for me because it forced me to face up to my weight problem, which I'd battled with since a teenager."
As soon as Paula got home to Scotland, she stuck the hated photograph on the fridge door and looked around for a slimming class.
Only three days after coming back from Spain, she joined Scottish Slimmers and was horrified to find she weighed 13st 5lb.
Instead of launching into the faddy diets she'd always done unsuccessfully before, Paula was encouraged to change her eating habits rather than dieting.
"I knew my diet wasn't good as I would have lunch at the burger van and a takeaway at night," said Paula.
"I was also addicted to drinking bottles and bottles of cola with every meal - and in-between meals- and not the diet version."
Paula started losing weight in August 2010 and four months later, her boyfriend proposed.
She said: "It was a complete and utter surprise when Jonathan asked me to marry him.
"We'd been together for nine years so I had been waiting a long time.
"Now I had a really strong incentive to lose weight for my own wedding.
"There was no way I was going to look back on the photographs of my big day and hate how I looked."
Paula was even more determined to stick to her new healthy eating regime and by the time her wedding came round in August 2012, she was 9st 10lb - a weight loss of three and a half stone.
"It took me two years to reach my target and it felt very slow - slower than I would have liked" she said.
"But looking back, I'm glad I lost weight gradually as the new eating habits became a way of life.
"I became used to eating more healthily and taking exercise and I knew I wouldn't fall off the wagon and go back to my bad old habits."
Paula lost weight so slowly she didn't realise how much slimmer she was - until she went to try on her wedding dress.
She added: "I had already picked out my dream gown a year earlier, a lovely fitted Justin Alexander dress.
"The staff at the bridal shop panicked when I went for a fitting a few weeks before my wedding as it fell down."
Luckily, Paula's dress could be altered to fit her new trim size 12 shape and she was delighted to walk down the aisle looking gorgeous.
Her wedding day at Maryculter House Hotel in Aberdeen was everything she had ever hoped for.
"I wore a designer dress and the best moment was when I walked down the aisle and heard a girl in the congregation gasp when she saw me" she said.
"She hadn't seen me since I'd lost weight and she was shocked at the difference.
"I felt like a million dollars.
"It was a brilliant day - I couldn't have asked for a better day."
Paula's weight loss regime meant that Jonathan, 33, an IT manager, also lost a few pounds by eating more healthily.
"He's so proud of me and so are the rest of my family," said Paula.
Paula also took up exercise as part of her new way of life.
"I ran my first 10k and started going to the gym most mornings to help me tone up," added Paula.
"I also love swimming and yoga now.
"It's a big change from my old couch potato days.
"At first, I was daunted at the thought of going to the gym but it made me feel so much better that soon I couldn't wait to pull on my trainers every morning."
Paula's weight loss has brought other significant changes to her life.
She said: "I'm much more confident and enjoy going out with my friends and buying clothes to show off my new figure.
"When you're overweight, you go into yourself and want to hide away from everyone. Now I spend more quality time with my friends.
"My confidence has improved so much that I was recently promoted at work."
The couple are now expecting their first baby and Paula, who is six months' pregnant, can't wait to be a mum.
But just as she was determined not to be an overweight bride, Paula has vowed to be a yummy mummy.
"I have been careful not to eat for two and stick to my healthy eating plan," said Paula.
"Obviously having a healthy baby is my number one priority and eating well will help me stay healthy.
"But I also know that I can lose any of the baby fat I put on while I'm pregnant.
"As soon as I can, I'll be back at my Scottish Slimmers class to get right back into shape.
"Being slim feels so great that I never ever want to go back to being overweight.
"Besides, I've thrown away all my old clothes and once the maternity gear is packed away, I'll be straight back into my size 12 jeans."
For more information about Scottish Slimmers, visit www.scottishslimmers.com or call 0800 362636.
''I love going swimming - it's a big change from my couch potato days
BRIDE AND JOY Paula and Jonathan on wedding day
COVER-UP Paula with Jonathan and the purple dress she wore to hide her weight in Malaga
SUCCESS Paula says her confidence has rocketed since she lost weight and she spends more quality time with her friends
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|Publication:||Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Mar 2, 2014|
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