Natalie Degg walked out of the GP appointment in tears – and straight in to a WW slimming club meeting.
A size 24 woman who was so big she felt like she was carrying “a gorilla” on her back as she walked shed seven stone after a doctor warned her to slim down or be “dead within 10 years.”
Plagued by knee and back pain, when 20st 8lb operations manager Natalie Degg, 33, of Nottingham, saw her GP, instead of sympathising, she warned her she would die before she was 40 if she carried on gorging.
Shocked into action, the same day, 5ft 3in Natalie, whose BMI – used to gauge a healthy weight – at 51 was more than double the 18.5 to 24.9 range recommended by the NHS, making her obese, joined slimming club WW, losing seven stone in just under two years.
Now a far healthier 13st size 14, she said: “The doctor told me, ‘You will not live to see 40 if you carry on like this. You will have a heart attack.’
“That was the turning point. I thought, ‘I don’t want my parents to end up coming to my funeral. If it’s within my control I don’t want to put them through that.’”
Ironically, a gluten intolerance had made Natalie a size 12 in her late teens, as she struggled to keep food down, before being diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2007 – a digestive condition caused by an adverse reaction to gluten.
Natalie, whose boyfriend’s first name is Malachi, recalled: “I was allergic to gluten, but I didn’t realise, so continued to eat it.
“My body was rejecting food. I couldn’t keep anything down, so lost a lot of weight.
“I loved my food and going out for meals, so when I was diagnosed as coeliac in 2007, I then had to figure out what I was able to eat.”
She said: “I could still eat rice, potatoes and crisps, so I started to overcompensate for before. I didn’t feel poorly anymore so I just ate and ate. My problem was portion control.
“The weight crept up to a size 16 then gradually, over a period of about three years, I went to a size 24 and 20st. ”
Natalie’s biggest humiliation came after boarding a plane, ready to jet to the USA with a pal.
“In 2015, I went on holiday to Florida and had to ask for a seatbelt extender on the plane,” she said. “It was really humiliating, because I don’t think I’d realised how big I actually was.
“Still, even that was not enough to stop me from overeating. It just made me aware that I was a bigger person.”
Struggling to walk because of her size, her excess flab put a strain on her joints and any exertion left her out of breath.
“My knees were crippling me and I had back pain, which stopped me from sleeping properly,” she said. “I was waking up feeling like I’d been hit by a train and would constantly take painkillers.
“In December 2016 I went to a Christmas market with my friends and had to keep sitting down. It felt like I had a gorilla sitting on my back. I thought, ‘I can’t do this. I’m 30 but feel like a grandma’.
“I had never been bothered about what I looked like. I used to go out wearing what I called my ‘black sack’ – a big t-shirt style dress, which I would wear everywhere.”
Finally, her turning point came in 2017, when she went to the doctor for advice concerning her painful knees.
“I went to the doctor to talk about how bad my knees were,” she said. “I was asking, ‘Can you help me? Can you do some tests?’ I thought there must be something wrong with them.
“The doctor said, ‘You are massively overweight and you need to do something about it.’ I was hurt and thinking, ‘No, that’s not it.’ I was in denial but she said, ‘You will have a heart attack’.”
Natalie recalled: “I came out of the surgery in floods of tears. I left the doctors and went straight to the nearest WW meeting.
“I was really emotional – worried I would be the biggest person there and they would tell me, ‘There’s nothing we can do for you.’ I told them I was there to save my life.
“But when you’re there you do not look at the size of the others. They are the nicest bunch of people who all want to help each other.”
Using the WW points based system to cut down her portion sizes, Natalie finally took control of what she was eating.
“Before, I would eat huge Tupperware boxes full of rice or gluten free pasta. It was very carb heavy, but then I started to weigh out my food and soon realised I didn’t need to eat so much,” she said.
“At first, I looked at the size and thought, ‘I usually eat four, five, six times as much,’ but I actually found I wasn’t hungry after eating less. With WW you’re weighing things and it’s based on points, so you can still eat the kind of food you want to.”
“I lost 12 and a half pounds in the first week and just carried on losing,” Natalie said.
“I also started to introduce exercise. I was doing a lot of mini charity walks and hiking with my friend, then I joined the gym where I made a lot of pals and we’d do classes together like boogie bounce, spin and aerobics.
“I started WW in 2017 and by July 2018 I’d lost seven stone 5lb and was taking part in endurance events like Tough Mudder.”
She continued: “My resting heart rate went from 90bpm to 55bpm. The pain in my back and my knees had gone. I would go to bed knackered because of working and going to the gym, not from sitting around and eating.
“My doctor couldn’t believe it when she saw me. She took my blood pressure and it was fine.
“I went to New York in October and didn’t use public transport at all, I just walked everywhere – no stopping every five minutes and no painkillers.”
Her new slimline figure has even given Natalie the confidence to wear colours again, rather than always hiding her body in shapeless black clothes.
“I can now go into a shop without feeling dread that I won’t be able to find anything,” she said.
“I’m not quite at my goal weight, which is around 11st 5lb, but I have been travelling a lot with work which makes it hard to weigh my food.”
Natalie said: “And I’m the first to admit that if I’ve had a stressful day I’d rather reach for the chocolate than the salad. I still allow myself treats because it’s a lifestyle change.
“To me the main reason I did this was my health, when someone tells you it could kill you it really shocks you. Knowing I’ve done something about it makes me feel so proud. It was never about looking great in a bikini on holiday.
“Right now I’m the best version of me I can be. I want people to know it is possible, no matter how big you are. I want people to look at me and say, ‘She did it. I can do it, too.’
Zoe Griffiths, Global Director of Nutrition at WW said: “The new myWW programme enables people to live their lives and still lose weight. We will match you to the right plan, the one that is the most flexible for you and gives you the confidence to succeed.”
For more information visit WW.com or download the WW app and to follow Natalie’s weight loss journey search for @doingthisforme_wwnat86 on
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