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Fern's story

Fern's fabulous dresses were the perfect motivation for losing weight

When Fern started wearing black baggy clothes to hide her weight instead of her much-adored bright, quirky dresses, she felt like her cheery personality was being hidden too - and knew it was time to change... 

I have always loved colourful, unusual dresses, it's what everyone knows me for. Favourites include an Otter print, a dinosaur dress and even one with a Halloween-themed Addams family skirt!  

My dresses are fun and make me feel really good about myself. Friends and family know that if I am not dressed well, I am not fine. My motto is: dress and be happy. 

I started a new job working in healthcare and wanted to look good, to make an impression, but nothing I had, none of my special dresses, fit me.  I went to order a new one in a size I never thought I would get to – a 20 - and just couldn’t do it, something had to change. 

I bought all these dark baggy tops and trousers – shapeless stuff – not how I dress at all. I suddenly felt like I had lost my whole personality. I was not myself anymore. The dark clothes had literally drained all the colour out of my life. I felt dragged down and flat. 

I realise now there are no photos of myself for about a year. It was unconscious. I didn’t want a picture of myself in these clothes that weren’t me. 

My new job involved researching healthy lifestyle support for Dorset people which was how I found LiveWell.  I was a hypocrite. I was sharing and promoting these topics on social media, yet I wasn’t making any changes myself. 

Then one day I said no. I reached that moment when I had to draw a line.  I had tried slimming group previously but wanted other options. LiveWell appealed to me because it offered coaching, -1-2- and I strongly felt like I needed someone to keep me on track, to be a bit strict and scary even! When I started sessions with my coach, Susan, I told her: “I need you to tell me off if I need it.”  

I registered with LiveWell in December and began my coaching sessions in the New Year. Coming off the first call with my coach I felt impassioned and motivated. I did not want to be a January statistic, one of those people who lost lots of weight in the New Year but then piled it back on, but the way Susan approached it, it seemed sustainable. 

I set myself a target – a 3st marker. At the beginning I did not expect much but I could see a steady graph of weight loss. And it stayed off. Instead of being overfocused on how much I weighed, we went by dress sizes, how I looked and felt. Tying the weight loss to the dresses I loved was just the perfect approach. 

I was losing about half a stone a month and month by month it felt like a little bit of me was returning with every pound I lost. It was lovely that when I was two stone down, I did a little catwalk with my partner saying: “this fits, and this fits!".  I was starting to enjoy my favourite clothes again. It was the best moment. 

When I started wearing my nice dresses back to work, it felt fantastic. I felt like I could finally be myself, reveal the real me to colleagues. Every day I could show off a new dress. I remember the first time, I wore my polka dot, figure hugging dress. I strutted in, so proud, and got so many lovely comments. Everyone said how nice I looked and was so supportive.  

I have lost so much weight now my favourite otter dress is too big on me, but I am just thrilled, and I can get a smaller size.  

I have clothes in so many different sizes and that is one of the downsides of diets that don’t stick. If you keep yo-yoing it can work out very expensive. Every change in size and you are having to buy everything new – and not just dresses: new underwear, new coats, etc. 

I want to be a size 12-14. I am about a 16 at the moment. My Halloween outfit is my next thing to fit. My Morticia Addams skirt! I think I am half a stone off that. It is just a bit too tight.  

 I started exercising more too. I got up earlier and would have a pint of lemon water and then do some hoola hooping to some cheesy tunes and stretching. That small workout chirps me right up. I knew that getting more active would really support my weight loss.  

In the beginning I was trying to do big workouts, following videos, and it was just too much, and I wasn't excited by it, either. Instead, I started going to a Konga class – it’s a bit with like Zumba burpees, squats, jabs, salsa, yoga. The place I do it is dark, so it is like being in a night club - no-one can see I am going tomato red! I go with 4 ladies from work, and I love it.  

I work on Highcliffe clifftop and do laps at lunch time – going up and down the zig-zag, it is real cardio workout and I get out puff. If there are any muddle puddles, I jump over them too! This workout breaks up the day, reframes my thoughts and refreshes me for the rest of the afternoon.  

It has been a total mindset switch. I work 8-6 and a very sedentary job so Coach Susan came up with some ideas for quick easy meals – simple things. I made a poster of easy recipes that could be whipped up in an instant. 

Before LiveWell I had a bad bout of mental health and started comfort eating. I like to cheer myself up by cooking. At work got in the habit of buying treats at lunch time. Ice creams, cakes. I wrongly associated food with happiness. 

I also had a treat box which was full of cereal bars, sweets, and mini biscuits. I would always have something sweet after dinner, but never just one – that's 400 calories just in snacks. 

 But since I started with LiveWell I have only had a couple of occasions since when I have used food in this way. Once I had a Dominos and a full bar of chocolate and then felt rubbish afterwards. I didn't like how that felt. 

This new LiveWell system has been so stable for me. I have learnt how to balance the days so that if a big eating day, like a special occasion, is coming up. I prep myself and practice mindful eating. 

I now look at food as fuel, not as a comfort. I ask myself: do I really want this or am I sad? If I am sad, instead of eating a whole packet of biscuits, I stick the headphones on and play some mad music, then dance my way out of it. Cheered myself up with karate kicks to boost my endorphins. Silly and fun. I want to be able to move my body and celebrate the increased flexibility which weight loss has brought. 

Now I feel passionate about LiveWell and whenever I am talking to patients or it comes up at work, I always sing its praises. Although I have finished coaching now I am still sticking to my routine to live more healthily. 

Coaching gives you that accountability, a nudge and check-in to keep you on track. Susan was really intuitive and good at coming up with new ideas to keep me motivated. One of them was to have posters around the house reminding me of what I was doing and why.  

When I was trying to lose the first stone – I wrote down all the steps needed to get me there and stuck it on the treat box.  

I had another sign by my bed "you’ve lost all this weight” with the figure of how much. A visual reminder of what I have achieved which would be the first thing I would see every morning when I woke up. It was really encouraging. 

Weight loss regimes can make you feel like a square peg in a round hole. What I loved about the LiveWell experience was how personalised it all was. They created a square hole that worked around my personality and lifestyle.  

Want to feel healthier?

Be inspired by Fern and get support from our team. We can coach and mentor you to make better and healthier lifestyle habits, so you feel healthier and happier. Our team will help you find what works for you - and we won't give up on you.


How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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