- Kelly Barker, 43, once weighed over 28 stone and her joints were in pain
A teacher who has lost a whopping 18 stone has said she thought she would die on the operating table if she opted for surgery and felt like a ‘hypocrite’ telling her pupils to eat healthily.
Kelly Barker, 43, once weighed over 28 stone and was worried that she would die if she opted for bariatric surgery.
But she has since lost almost two-thirds of her body weight and now loves kayaking, rock climbing and fell walking with her teenage son.
Kelly, who lives with her 15-year-old son, Josh, in St Helens, says she felt like a ‘hypocrite’ teaching children about health when she was regularly in a significant amount of pain due to her weight.
She explained: ‘I’ve always loved my job as a teacher, yet I often felt like a hypocrite – especially when teaching the children about healthy eating and being active.
‘My joints and back would be in agony after a day of teaching and although I’d plaster a smile onto my face, I just felt like a fraud.
‘There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve saved my life by losing weight – and these days it’s a life worth living.’
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Kelly confessed her wake-up call to kick start her health journey came when her GP recommended weight-loss surgery.
She said: ‘I researched the procedure and knew that my weight made me a huge anaesthetic risk. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would die on the operating table.’
Kelly admits weight has been something she has struggled with her whole life, and goes back to the days of her childhood.
She said: ‘As a child I was placed on a special diet and had to be weighed at school.
‘While the other children were eating fish and chips, I would have to eat a separate meal on my own – usually something bland like boiled fish and potatoes.
‘It made me believe that weight loss was miserable, embarrassing and shameful, and it didn’t work – I gained weight every year into my adulthood.’
Kelly admits her time at university only made her gain weight further, and she was left in a ‘vicious cycle of comfort eating’ that continued for years.
After Kelly had been recommended weight loss surgery – she got in touch with her cousin, Fiona, who is a Slimming World Consultant and decided to join in with the programme.
Kelly said she was ‘surrounded by warmth, kindness and compassion’ from the moment she joined the group – despite the new process being a little scary for her, it was the support she needed.
Kelly explained: ‘I can’t lie, standing on the scales for the first time was daunting – not least because I was terrified I’d be too heavy for them to weigh me (they could, thankfully).
‘Although that number was frightening – it also felt like the start of something.
Kelly began cooking from scratch and building healthier habits around food – which has now resulted in her feeling ‘proud’ to show others the fresh food she is enjoying, given her more confidence and has even improved her relationship with her son.
She said: ‘Obviously losing 18st has been fantastic for my health and my confidence but by far the best thing to happen is the relationship I now have with my son.
‘I no longer feel like I embarrass him, and he tells me he is proud of what I have achieved.
‘He is a county and regional level swimmer so being more in tune with my own activity levels and nutrition has brought us so much closer together.’
Kelly began to get active herself: ‘My activity levels before I lost weight were basically zero.
‘As my journey progressed, I found I had so much more energy – so when [my son] Josh suggests fell walking, rock climbing or kayaking now, I’m excited to get involved rather than worrying I’ll be over the weight limits.
‘We’ve recently been on holiday to the Lake District. As I sat on top of the fell after a tough climb, I looked out to the view of the lake below and tears came to my eyes. I was thinking about how much I had been missing out on, all these beautiful views and experiences.’
Kelly’s meals used to include pies, pastries, sandwiches, crisps, takeaway pizza and sugary snacks like biscuits, chocolate and cake, but now she makes overnight oats with yogurt and lots of fruit, soups, salads, rice, chips in the air fryer, homemade curries and ‘smaller’ chocolate bars.
She has been named Slimming World’s Woman of the Year 2023 for her incredible weight loss journey.
Robert Johnson is a UK-based business writer specializing in finance and entrepreneurship. With an eye for market trends and a keen interest in the corporate world, he offers readers valuable insights into business developments.