Friends who bonded over a shared love of vintage and retro clothes say they now have curves in the right places to rock their Fifties look after losing six stone between them.
At her heaviest, Sophie Mitchell-Bradford, 26, was a size 20 and weighed 16st 12lb while fellow insurance adviser Liv Russell, 28, was overweight at 13st 6lb due to comfort eating because of depression.
Told to lose weight by her doctor after being diagnosed with high blood pressure, Sophie, of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, joined slimming group WW in summer 2018 and her friend decided to join her.
Sophie, who has dropped four stone to 12st 8lb and a size 14, said: “I’m so proud of how far both of us have come. It really helps having someone on that journey with you. We even did a photo-shoot together, recreating some of our looks when we were bigger, to show how much weight we have lost.
“I met Liv a couple of years ago when we started working together and we bonded over our love of vintage style and unique clothes, or ‘vintageish’ as we called it! Now we text every day.”
Sophie continued: “I told her I was joining WW and she said she wanted to lose a bit of weight too, so she did the same. Liv would really encourage me and we have an understanding of each other and what it’s like. We talked about lots of things like binge eating or how to keep motivated.
“She would come over to mine and we’d cook healthy meals together. She’s also vegetarian, so has opened my eyes up to lots of different dishes.”
She added: “If we go out for dinner with a group as well, there’s someone else ordering something similar, so you don’t feel like you’re being awkward. We can be awkward together!”
At 5ft 8in, Sophie had a BMI of 35.7, well above the 18.5. to 24.9 recommended by the NHS, classing her as obese.
While she reached a size 20 when she stopped watching her waistline after settling into married life with customer services representative James, 29, she identified with Liv’s emotional eating, as she had struggled with the same problem in the past.
“I was not a big child, but when I went to college at 16, I started to suffer a lot of depression and anxiety and would deal with that by binge eating,” she said.
“I’d eat big sharer bags of crisps, or chocolate. I’d go to the supermarket near college at lunchtime and buy a packet of doughnuts, which I’d eat for lunch. I was a secret eater and would hide chocolate bars in my room at home. Eating was a way of coping and I’d eat more snacks than meals.”
Sophie added: “I was lacking in confidence and think I accepted my role as the ‘big friend’. I felt quite aware that my friends were smaller than me. I didn’t like how I looked and it made me not want to go out.
“I knew I needed to lose weight but I lacked motivation. I would try diets and calorie counting, but I would always put it back on.”
After tying the knot in 2017, having lost some weight in the lead up to the wedding, Sophie gained two stone as she settled into married life.
“After our honeymoon, we totally forgot to be conscious about what we were eating. A lot of the problem was portion control. I’d eat huge bowls of pasta,” she recalled.
So, in the summer of 2018, after stepping on the scales and seeing she was the heaviest she had ever been, she was determined to do something about it.
“I’d also gone to the doctor for a routine health check and been told I had high blood pressure,” she said. “Seeing that it had started to affect my health and that I might end up on medication for it in my twenties made me determined to lose weight.”
After a colleague suggested she try the WW app, Sophie started using its points-based system and slashed her portion sizes – sometimes to half of what they were before.
“That’s the biggest change I made, as well as cutting down on snacks. If I want a bag of crisps, rather than reaching for a sharer bag, I’ll have a low-fat version,” she said.
“It’s amazing how your body adjusts. As soon as I started eating less, I found I didn’t want as much. Before I would easily go out and eat a three-course meal, now I struggle to eat a starter and a main.”
“By the end of 2018, I had lost two stone, which was a good motivator. After a year I had lost 4st 4lb and I’m now 12st 8lb which I’ve maintained for a year,” she said.
Now reaping the health benefits, Sophie’s blood pressure is under control and she has started enjoying exercise for the first time.
“I would do the odd Zumba class to say I’d done something, but now I go running three times a week and before lockdown I was going to the gym,” she said.
“I always said I would never run, but now I really enjoy it. I never liked exercise when I was bigger and thought I never would, but now I go to jive classes with my mum and husband or dancing or rollerskating with my friends. I would never had done that before because I’d have been too self-conscious.”
Becoming more confident with her body has helped Sophie, who now has a far healthier BMI of 26.6, feel good in the clothes she loves too.
“Going out to events, people will look at me because I’m dressed a bit differently, rather than because I’m bigger,” she said. “I love bright colours, tea dresses and ‘vintageish’ skirts. I even started entering vintage dress competitions, which I would never have done before.”
Meanwhile car insurance adviser Liv, from Holmfirth, whose fiancé Davey Clegg , 33, is a team leader, says that when she switched from working in retail to a more sedentary office role three years ago, she started eating convenience food she picked up from the supermarket next door.
At 5ft 8in and weighing 13st 6lb her BMI was 28.5, classing her as overweight, but since joining WW in September 2018 she has slimmed down to 11st 12lb – dropping three dress sizes from 16 to 10 – and now has a BMI of 25.1.
She said: “It helped me massively having somebody to do it with, because if I was having a down day or a wobble, Sophie would be there to pick me up and vice versa.”
Admitting she had eaten because of feeling depressed and anxious, Liv says her doctor had encouraged her to lose weight, thinking it would help her self-esteem.
She said: “I was doing silly things like going to the shop and having a pastry for breakfast, then going back for a second breakfast, which would be something like a samosa.
“We had a snack drawer at work, which was really more of a tuck shop and I would get through multiple packs of chocolate. Then there was always a birthday or something going on, so there would be cakes and biscuits.”
Liv explained: “I went from standing up all day to sitting down and I put on about two stone. I loved dressing up and vintage clothes like Sophie, but I started wearing baggy jumpers and big dresses – anything to cover my stomach. I couldn’t wear anything fitted. I hid away and my confidence took a massive knock.”
Also suffering with fatigue and taking medication for her depression and anxiety, Liv went to see her doctor.
“That was when she suggested I lose weight,” she said. “I kept saying it was nothing to do with my weight, but actually, with hindsight, it really was having a big impact on me.”
And in September 2018, after Sophie joined WW, Liv decided to join her.
“It’s helped us both being able to go to the groups and get on the scales together,” she said.
Now, after maintaining her weight for a year, she hopes to shed a few more pounds and reach her target weight of 11 stone.
Liv, whose June wedding was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, added: “I was trying to maintain my weight, so I didn’t have to have my dress taken in for our wedding, which is scheduled for May next year, but it gives me plenty of time to save up to have adjustments if I need to.
“I never thought I’d be wearing a size 10 wedding dress”
Liv explained: “After losing weight, I noticed a huge difference in how I was feeling and have now been off anti-depressants for almost two years. I realised my weight was playing a big part in my depression.
“I’ve learned how to manage my thoughts now. Negative thoughts were leading to negative eating patterns, but now I ask myself why I want to eat something ‘am I actually hungry or is it because I’m angry, bored or sad?’.
“Instead of having a big bar of chocolate, I’ll have a small piece, or rather than ordering a takeaway and then a second takeaway, I’ll cook something nice that I want to eat.”
Liv continued: “Simple things like being able to wear shorts or a crop top, has made a big difference. I was always covering myself up, now I’m doing the opposite!”
And Liv does not think she could have done it without Sophie by her side.
She added: “Having her by my side has made such a difference. I wouldn’t have been where I am without her, she’s a superstar. We both feel proud to go out in our vintage clothes now, too!”
WW has launched a six-week challenge to get the nation fit after its research found 42 per cent of Brits had put weight on during lockdown.
To join the challenge, which encourages people to move for 30 minutes a day five days a week, follow WW on Instagram @ww.uk or Twitter @ww_uk or subscribe on YouTube where they will be posting free content including recipes, expert advice from WW coaches, weekly live workouts with online home workout channel FitOn.
Follow Sophie and Liv on Instagram @flickiesfrocks and @Liv2d2