‘I have a new lease of life after weight loss. It is like I have blossomed’
One local woman who has lost almost ten stone in the last sixteen months has said that the Covid pandemic and lockdown has given her a ‘new lease of life’.
Debbie Walker, who is originally from England but has lived in Derry for the last 17 years, initially started losing weight as part of a fundraiser for a local Irish dancing academy.
She continued her weight loss journey through ‘sheer will power and determination’ throughout the pandemic and lockdown.
Debbie said she has struggled with her weight for most of her life and after losing her mother and other family members, giving up smoking and going through menopause her weight creeped up.
“I was carrying the weight of everyone’s grief and I didn’t have time for me,” Debbie said. “Big people are always judged and I just wish some people would take the time to ask why they are the weight they are.
“A lot of big people don’t just sit there and eat all day. Many of them have underlying issues but there is such a stigma about being overweight which is just not fair as we are all human beings and we should respect everyone.”
It was a trip to Florida in 2019 where Debbie had to use a wheelchair to get around that convinced her to lose weight.
“In Florida my feet were so badly swollen I couldn’t walk, my husband David had to push me around in a wheelchair. By January 2020, I couldn’t walk upstairs without sweating or struggling to breathe.
“When the McConomy, Bradley, Doherty Irish Dance Academy began doing a biggest loser to raise money to send the kids to the World Championships I decided to go along to the weigh in.”
Debbie opted not to find out what her starting weight was, as she feared she would become ‘so down hearted’ that it would affect her efforts.
The Waterside woman began counting calories, walking and using reflexology to aid her weight loss.
“It was baby steps. At the beginning I could barely walk the length of my street. Since then I have walked over 50 miles in eight days to raise awareness of Autism, walked to the highest point of Scalp Mountain and have done the Stairway to Heaven.
“I am so proud of what I am now able to do. When I got to the top of the Stairway to Heaven I just broke down and cried. Covid has changed my life in many good ways. I have a new lease of life and it is like I have blossomed.”
Debbie eventually took the step of finding out her starting weight, which was 24 stone and eight pounds. In the last sixteen months she has lost almost ten stone and has set herself a target of losing a total of 12 stone.
“It has just been sheer will power and determination, but I am never going back to the person I was before. It is hard and I do have bad days where I hit a brick wall, but I have had a lot of good days.”
When she is finding it tough, Debbie said her late mother is “right there with me saying ‘go on girl.’”
Debbie, who has worked in Primark for the last 16 years, said her colleagues were ‘very shocked’ by her weight loss when she returned to work after being on furlough for a number of months and she is now encouraging some of them in their own efforts to shed the pounds.
She is also looking forward to visiting family in Lincolnshire in the near future to show off how much weight she has lost.
“I haven’t seen them in quite a while, so they will be shocked too!”
She has one piece of advise for anyone wishing to lose weight - to do it for yourself.
“You must do it for yourself, not for anyone else. Take one step at a time and you will get stronger and get your confidence back.
“There are a lot of people struggling with weight problems and there is always someone there to help and support you. I am here if anyone needs support.”
Debbie said that her family, friends and colleagues have been a huge help to her throughout her weight loss journey so far and she hopes to be able to do something special when she reaches her target weight.
“My daughter Gemma has suggested getting a makeover and doing a proper photo shoot,” she says.