A mum once dubbed Big Mac by bullies as she struggled with her weight has won a national award after losing 4st – and keeping it off for 17 years.
Now Zoe Mole, 38, is so fit and healthy she is planning to run next year’s London Marathon.
She says: “Now I’d love to inspire others to make a change too.”
Zoe was just nine when she began to balloon after her parents separated and she turned to sweet treats for comfort.
She says: “I lived off sweets and cakes and would sneak spoonfuls of golden syrup. It made me feel good for a minute or so.
“My dad worked a lot too so I would cook for us, which meant mainly oven or ready meals.
“I had no friends and would eat my lunch in the school toilets so no one would see me eating.”
Bullies would spit on Zoe and call her Big Mac, because her maiden name was McGregor.
After leaving school things got even worse as Zoe found herself in an unhealthy relationship for three years.
She says: “I was at rock bottom. I hated myself. One day my sister found me sobbing on the stairs and said, ‘Enough is enough. We’re joining Slimming World’.”
So in January 2002, weighing 13st 7lbs and wearing a size 18, 5ft4in Zoe went to her first Slimming World group aged 19.
She was nervous at first but now believes it was the best decision she could have made.
Following Slimming World’s Food Optimising eating plan, she swapped her diet of processed meals and sugary snacks for home cooking.
She says: “I don’t think I ever ate fruit and veg before. After all these years I still love discovering new recipes each week in my group and love that, despite what a lot of people thing, healthy eating doesn’t have to cost a fortune.”
By February 2004, Zoe had hit her target weight of 9st 7lbs, making her a svelte size 8.
She says: “It was a dream come true.”
She took up running and her incredible transformation finally gave her the confidence to start online dating, and soon she met now-husband, Matt.
They married in 2009 and have daughter Daisy, nine, and six-year-old son Max.
Now she runs a Slimming World group and been named Top Target Consultant 2021.
Zoe from Wimborne, Dorset, says: “I’m so grateful to have found Slimming World aged 19.
“It changed my life and I believe saved my life, as I really was at my lowest ebb.”
Zoe admits there have been times over the past 17 years when it has been hard to maintain her healthy weight – including during lockdown.
But she says the support of her group has helped keep her on track.
She adds: “When I look back at old photos of myself, even when I’m smiling I know I was miserable.
“I don’t want to go back to that.”
Weight 13st 7lbs…………Dress size 18
Breakfast: White toast with golden syrup
Lunch: Sandwich, crisps, chocolate bar
Snacks: Sweets, cakes, chocolate, crisps
Dinner: Chicken nuggets, chips and beans
Weight 9st 7lbs…………..Dress size 8
Breakfast: Overnight oats, yoghurt and berries
Lunch: Pasta with homemade vegetable sauce
Snack: Cadbury’s Twirl, fruit, yoghurt, cereal bar