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Name: Mary Riddle
Before Weight: 248.5 pounds
How I Gained It: I was actually pretty skinny until my late teens, when hormones and whatnot kicked in. I do have endometriosis, which tends to make it harder to lose weight. After I slowly started to gain in my 20s, I tried calorie-controlled diets, but they failed miserably because I was always hungry. I'd end up cheating because I felt deprived. When I gave in, I'd feel guilty and lousy about not sticking to it and think, "Oh, well, might as well stop." I'd go back to skipping breakfast, having a lunch of sandwiches loaded with cheese and mayo and a bag of chips. For dinner I'd have French fries or mashed potatoes with butter and milk, along with breaded chicken or something similar. Snacks were cookies or chips or chocolate. I kept trying to convince myself that it was OK -- people loved me for me, and it didn't matter what shape or size I was.
Breaking Point: I had a nagging thought that just wouldn't go away: Yes, it's true that my family and friends love me no matter what size I am, but I didn't love me for the shape and size I was. If you're not happy with yourself, it's time to do something about it. I had an epiphany: It's my time, and I'm going to do this for me.
The other reason was because my personal life had changed dramatically. About six years ago, I was living in Ireland. Bored at work one day, I started playing poker online with several other people. One of the players, Craig, who lived in Indiana, seemed really interesting to me. We started exchanging emails and instant messages, which led to talking on the phone, which led to meeting in person. It took off from there, and he proposed in March of 2011. He loved me then -- at my heaviest -- and still proposed. But the final straw for me was knowing that I'd soon have to walk down the aisle in my wedding dress, and I didn't want to feel uncomfortable and paranoid about my weight issues on the biggest day of my life.
How I Lost It: I decided to join Slimming World, which is really popular in the U.K. My cousins had started a couple of weeks before me, and they were having success. I couldn't believe all of the good things they were allowed to eat; I thought it could be something that would work for me, too. I then began swapping high-fat, deep-fried meals and sugary desserts for oatmeal or scrambled eggs in the morning, stir-fried vegetables with noodles for lunch, and pasta, lean meat and vegetables with a healthy sauce for dinner. I never felt I had to give anything up.
A whole year passed before I was reunited with Craig in person again. I'd lost 85 pounds in that time. When I arrived back in Indiana, he wrapped me in his arms and I felt tiny. We were married on June 2, 2012 -- and I felt super-confident in my dress. I put on my dress and looked in the mirror, and I couldn't believe how different I looked from the year before. It was amazing: I have a waist!
My adorable husband and I love working out now. Here in Indiana there are lots of beautiful state parks, and we love taking walks in them for hours. When I was heavy, I was always embarrassed about being out of breath. Now, I can climb a hill known as "Hell's Point" and reach the top and say, "Huh? That's it?" It's an awesome feeling to know you're capable of doing so much more than you could have dreamed of.
Losing weight is one thing, but keeping it off has its own challenges. Slimming World helps me stay on track with new recipes and inspirational stories. Because of what I've learned about healthy eating and with the support of the program, the thought of becoming overweight again doesn't scare me anymore; once you know what to do, and what works, you never forget how to take it off again. So when life gets a little hectic -- and believe me, moving to a new country and getting married is hectic -- things can slip and a few pounds may find their way back. But I now know that I can always do something about it.
Today I'm enjoying my life as a newlywed, and I'm also enjoying the new me: the slimmer, healthier, more confident me.
After Weight: 163 pounds The Huffington Post publishes photographs as they are submitted to us by our readers.
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