A Christmas photo in size 20 pyjamas crushed the festive cheer for a mum who then went on to lose six-and-a-half stone during the pandemic.

Yo-yo dieter Harriet Bedford, 45, had always been an “emotional eater” – losing four stone after joining a slimming club in 2015, only to gain two stone when she stopped going.

The healthcare assistant started her triumphant weight loss journey in January 2020 and has gone from 18 stone 11lb to to 12st 2lb.

And her weight loss success has not only boosted her health and confidence, it has inspired her partner, tech analyst, Ron Mulder, 63, to lose four stone – simply through healthy eating.

Harriet, of Limerick, Ireland, who has a daughter, Shauna Mulder, 14, with Ron, said: “That horrible Christmas picture in 2019 did me a favour.

“When I saw it, I thought, ‘Oh my God, how did I ever get like this?’

“Then I vowed, ‘OK, by this time next year, I want to have lost five stone.'”

She added: “So, I did – and some more!”

Harriet first attended Slimming World in 2015, and was a size 20 at her heaviest.

But, after losing four stone, she felt confident that she could “go it alone” without support – only to pile back on two stone “in no time.”

So, returning to the slimming club in January 2020, she weighed 18st 11lb and wore a dress size 18 to 20.

This Christmas photo taken in December 2020 forced Harriet to join Slimming World
This Christmas photo taken in December 2020

She said: “I’d left the group thinking I could just slim at home, but I was clearly completely wrong.

“When I walked back in there, I was feeling horrible.”

She added: “My weight made me feel uncomfortable in my own skin.

“I hated looking in the mirror and, normally really sociable, if I went out, I didn’t even like leaving the table to use the loo, as I felt like everyone was staring at me because of my size.

“I’d get panicky about having to go for a night out and would get a headache, after spending the day feeling anxious about what to wear to cover up my lumps and bumps.”

She added: “Most of the time, I’d wear the same clothes – leggings and long tops.

“People would say things to make me feel better like, ‘You carry your weight so well,’ or ‘Look at your lovely face.’ But I felt terrible.”

Harriet enjoyed sweet treats
Harriet enjoyed sweet treats

Going from being the life and soul of the party to “the woman who sat in the corner,” the more Harriet’s waistline grew, the more her confidence shrank.

She said: “I longed to be able to slip on a nice pair of jeans and a top and go out feeling good about my body.

“Instead, I felt really uncomfortable in my own skin.”

Describing herself as a “chocoholic,” it was what she ate between meals that was her real downfall when it came to food.

She said: “Breakfast wouldn’t be too bad – toast, cereal, that kind of thing.

“But I could easily eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as my proper meal.

“I would also sit down and, rather than having one biscuit, I’d polish off the whole packet.”

She added: “A proper emotional eater, I’d scoff chocolate if I had a problem, but I was fooling myself.

“After downing a few bars of chocolate, I’d feel better for a split second – then I’d have added to the problem as it would make me feel even worse!

Harriet weighed over 20st at her biggest
Harriet weighed over 20st at her biggest

“Mars, Snickers, you name it, I’d eat it. It was chocolate, chocolate, chocolate all the way for me. I could get through four or five bars a day, no problem – especially when I was pregnant. Not that I needed an excuse.”

Eating pre-packed rolls with calorific fillings like chicken and mayonnaise, chips, or a Big Mac at lunchtime, she would then have processed foods like pizza, or fry-ups at night.

But all that changed just before the pandemic struck, when she returned to Slimming World – this time vowing to lose at least five stone and to keep it off.

She said: “When the lockdowns started, I was determined not to go backwards, so I started walking everywhere, too.”

She added: “I couldn’t control Covid but I could control what I put in my mouth.

“The great thing about Slimming World is that there are alternatives to the high calorie foods I like.

“I’d eat things like low calorie chocolate bars, so I still got my fix and didn’t feel deprived.”

Harriet lost six and a half stone
Harriet lost six and a half stone

Harriet also started doing more food preparation from scratch – having things like Quark – a kind of low-fat cheese – with fruit and crunchy bran for breakfast.

If she wanted a snack, she would have a low calorie bar of some kind.

For lunch, she would have salad or a toasted bagel with ham and cheese and for dinner she might have a stir-fry, but would use Frylight spray to cook with.

She said: “By October 2020 I’d lost five stone and weighed 13st and felt like a different woman.

Harriet now loves dressing up and going out
Harriet now loves dressing up and going out

“I’m wearing jeans and dresses now, instead of shapeless, baggy tops, and can fit into a size 14. It’s amazing.

“All my tops before were an XXL and now I just need a medium.”

Proud of her weight loss, Harriet now loves dressing up – and not just for nights out.

She said: “I dress up every day now.

“I’ve bought lots of new clothes and love wearing them.”

She added: “I dress up to meet people, but I also dress up just to go to the shops!

“I love opening my wardrobe and just looking at my clothes. It feels amazing to be able to pick anything I want out!”

Yet, after years of being overweight, Harriet still finds it hard to accept her new figure.

She laughed: “When I go clothes shopping, I still tend to go for the larger sizes, then I realise I’m much smaller now.

Harriet and Ron have been together for 18 years
Harriet and Ron have been together for 18 years

“It’s great being able to go to shops like River Island and find clothes that fit.

“If I won the Lotto, I’d get a walk in wardrobe and fill it with clothes. I love them!”

And her healthy eating habits have rubbed off on her family.

Harriet and Ron have collectively lost 10st
Harriet and Ron have collectively lost 10st

She said: “Ron has been incredibly supportive and he’s been much more diet conscious, too.

“Since I started slimming, he’s lost four stone – going from 19st to 15st – just by healthy eating.”

Harriet has now hit her 12st 2lb target and feels fantastic.

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She said: “Feeling healthier and looking so much better has also made me far happier.

“My family are really proud of what I’ve achieved and I am, too.

“I’m hoping there will never be any more horrific Christmas pics in our family album!”

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