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I had to leave my partner to lose weight

Celena and Pete

Celena gained five stone (32kg) during the first three years of her relationship with her partner Pete. Here she describes how they broke the cycle of unhealthy eating by spending 10 weeks apart.

A year ago I refused to look at myself in a full-length mirror. I was a size 26 and my large belly repulsed me. I lived in leggings and baggy tunic tops that I bought at plus-size shops to try to hide my shape.

But if you had known me then you wouldn't have guessed. I always tried to put on a happy front even though I was unhappy with myself. Not even my partner Pete knew just how bad I felt. But then Pete was one of the reasons I weighed 22 stone (140kg).

Pete and I met three years ago. I was already overweight but during our relationship I put on another five stone. He would do most of the cooking and made huge portions, it was how he showed me he cared. If I asked him to bring back a chocolate bar he would bring back a selection of five.

Image copyright BBC/Renegade Pictures
Image caption Celena now does more of the cooking at home

We encouraged each other in our bad habits. We would also get two takeaways a week, like Chinese or pizza. We each have a child from previous relationships and on weekends we would often eat out and have treats like ice cream. When I had our son Cameron a year in to our relationship I didn't lose the baby weight.

That's one reason why I wanted to do BBC One's Lose Weight For Love. As part of the show we separated for 10 weeks while we worked on our own issues around food and exercise. I thought that if we tried to tackle it together we would sabotage each other. I stayed at our home in Warrington with the kids, while Pete moved to his sister's house in the Wirral. It was tough as we hadn't spent a night apart since we had got together but I knew it was something we needed to do.

I had just started training to be a midwife and I didn't want to feel like a hypocrite advising women about the dangers of obesity during pregnancy when I couldn't manage my own weight.


Find out more

Lose Weight For Love was broadcast on BBC One on Wednesday 25 May - watch it on the BBC iPlayer.


I met Tanya Byron, a clinical psychologist, who encouraged me to face how I felt about myself. I'm not really an emotional person but during our chats I always seemed to end up crying. She said: "You can't wait to become happy. If you think 'I'll be happy when I lose x amount of weight' it will never happen."

We did some exercises to build up my confidence. On one occasion the show producer rang me up and told me I'd be seeing Tanya the next day. He said: "Wear what you want but Tanya says you may want to shave your legs." I thought we were getting pedicures.

Image copyright BBC/Renegade Pictures

However, when I arrived the next day I was told I would be posing as a model for an art class. I had a sheet wrapped around under my arms down to my calves to cover my body but I still felt absolute panic. I knew the artists would be studying my every lump and bump rather than focusing on my personality and it made me feel so vulnerable. I was shaking during the first sitting.

Then I had a chance to look at the pictures the group had drawn. They saw me so differently from how I pictured myself. I thought they would have drawn me a lot bigger and it made me realise how wrong I was. I felt empowered and even enjoyed the second and third sitting. By the end I was showing most of my legs! It was a really important turning point for me, especially as it was something I had done on my own.

We also went to a bridal shop. I had refused to get married as I was too embarrassed to try on a wedding dress but I managed to face that fear with Tanya's help. Once I put one on, I realised that I actually looked nice.

Image copyright BBC/Renegade Pictures

As my confidence grew, so did my motivation to stick with the nutritional plan and exercise routine the experts had drawn up. I was able to focus on eating the right things as I didn't have to worry about what Pete thought about the meals. When I tried to lose weight before, he would suggest a takeaway to celebrate if I had been doing well, which undid the work. My friend Trisha joined the gym with me and we also did circuits in the garden.


Pete's vegetable diet

My family always had bad eating habits. Every Friday we would have a chippy tea and the vegetable drawer in the fridge was full of chocolate. It was our way of showing we cared about each other.

I didn't realise I had been making things worse for Celena by buying her chocolate. When I realised how unhappy she was I felt angry with myself for not having thought about it.

I grew up hating vegetables and wouldn't touch them as an adult. As part of my new regime I ate some raw vegetables every day for two weeks. I dreaded it but the more I was exposed to them the easier they were to stomach. Now I will eat anything.

My biggest motivation for improving my healthy was my kids. My dad had been big for as long as I could remember and he is very poorly now. I don't want my kids to have to go through that with me. I want a long and healthy life for my family.


I'm a trainee midwife and work regular night shifts - this was always tough as I'd be eating at funny times. I'd crave carbs in the early hours and there were always boxes of chocolates and biscuits left by new mums to say thank you. I began bringing in carrot sticks and cucumber to snack on instead.

After 10 weeks Pete and I reunited. I was so emotional when I saw him. He had tackled his own issues while we were apart and had lost two-and-a-half stone (16kg) of fat and put on one stone (6kg) in muscle. He looked a lot fitter and had got over his fear of eating vegetables. Now there isn't anything he won't try. He didn't tell me all the details of what he went through though, as he wanted it to be a surprise when we watched the programme together.

Image caption Celena and Pete before (left) and after (right) their 10-week separation

During the final weigh-in I found out I'd lost three stone (19kg). I still go to the gym. I have a family membership now and I often go with my teenage daughter Kailey. I go to my local slimming club to keep track of my weight. For meals Pete and I have a plate which has a third of vegetables, a third of protein and a third of carbohydrates. If I have a treat it will be something like a Curly Wurly rather than one of those large bars of chocolate.

I now weigh 17st 8lbs (112kg). In this last month I haven't been able to exercise as much as I've had my midwife exams but because of my diet I've been able to maintain my weight. That's something I've never managed to do before.

I went shopping on the high street yesterday. I'm a size 18 to 20 (US size 14 to 16) and I felt good in everything I tried on. Now I wear dresses or trousers with a fitted top. I can also look at myself in the mirror. When I see my stretch marks I think: "This is a body that has had two children." That's something to be proud of.

Celena spoke to Claire Bates.

Follow Claire Bates on Twitter @batesybates

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