SUZIE Buccheri says she was overweight from a toddler, went on her first diet at junior school and would try any crash diet she could in the name of losing a few pounds.
She tried the cabbage soup diet, eating food that was only the colour purple and even resorted to not eating for days – made difficult by long shifts surrounded by food working in busy restaurants.
But nothing worked and the single mum-of-one knew she couldn’t allow her son, Bailey, to grow up asking why his mummy doesn’t eat on Tuesdays or Thursdays.
However today Suzie is proud that she is setting a good example to her son.
The pair love cooking healthy food together, running around outside and in the photos Bailey takes of his mummy, even she doesn’t recognise herself.
That’s because in less than a year, the 34-year-old has shrunk from a size 22 to a size 6.
“It is just amazing. It doesn’t seem real,” she says.
“Bailey took a photo of me the other day and I didn’t recognise myself even though it was taken the second before. I feel proud I can now set a good example to him and we can both enjoy so much more together.”
Suzie says she can’t remember ever being slimmer than a size 16 before.
At school she’d eat other children’s lunches, binged on junk food and would buy fish and chips on her way home before tucking into a family dinner. But when she was bullied over how she looked in a swimming costume and began dreading changing for PE, her addiction to fad diets began.
“People used to say to me I had a pretty face, it’s a shame I couldn’t lose the weight,” she remembers.
“I did have quite a jokey nature and I was always quite bubbly, but it was a front because I was so ashamed of being so big.
“I tried everything going. I was called Queen of the Fad Diets, but I was fattest out of all my friends.
“I was always just very round, like a barrel. They all failed though as they were never sustainable.”
Aged 30, Suzie, who has worked as a restaurant manager and a waitress, tipped the scales at 15 stone for her 5ft 2inch frame.
“My weight got out of control,” she says. “It got so bad I’d binge on food. I used to work at Pizza Express and when we took an order for a kids’ margarita pizza we’d write: ‘K Marg’ for the chef. One day a new waitress put in an order and her ‘k’ looked like the number 12 so the chef made 12 full size pizzas. I ate three in the space of an hour!
“Things got pretty terrible. "They say the weight falls off after you have a child, but for me it didn't. And it was hard being a single mum, I was single for a very long time and it was lonely. I blamed my weight for the fact nobody wanted to have a relationship with me.”
But it was her son Bailey who broke her bad habits.
“It suddenly dawned on me one morning when I had made Bailey’s breakfast and I was forcing down a bizarre breakfast meal concoction – ‘How could I explain that to him?’ He was my trigger.
“I feel sad that I spent a lot of my young life overweight and with issues with food,” she says.
“I didn’t want him to grow up and dread getting changed for PE. I always felt something was wrong with me and it’s not a nice feeling.”
Suzie joined a Slimming World group in March last year and by eating nutritious healthy meals lost six pounds in her first week and three in her second.
Suzie, right, on a night out with a friend before her weight loss
Before long, she was getting comments from her friends and colleagues at Jamie Oliver’s chain of restaurants in Winchester and Portsmouth.
She has now lost four stone, weighing 8st 11lb – and has the confidence to recently begin a relationship with Tom, a chef she has known for years.
“He knew me when I was quite big and used to always flirt with me telling me I was beautiful, but I didn’t believe it! It’s been a really accepting love, he’s extremely supportive and it’s really changed my outlook that I can be in a relationship.”
Now Suzie has vowed to help others who have problems losing weight by launching her own Slimming World group in Bishop’s Waltham every Tuesday where she loves seeing members lose weight. But it’s life’s smaller things that make her happiest.
“I have learnt to be kind to myself and not beat myself up and I feel a lot happier and it impacts on the rest of your life,” she says.
“I love it when Bailey stands up on a chair helping me stir something fresh and tasty for dinner we’ll eat things like healthy chicken chow mein and the other day we had salmon, pak choi and pea noodles! Just watching him eat some grapes, strawberries, apples, makes me feel proud. I’m so relieved I have ditched the fad diets and I feel like I’m the mum I want to be.”