By Hannah Phillips
An inspirational slimmer lost almost 11 stone in honour of her late mum after they vowed to fight the flab together – while battling motor neurone disease at the same time.
Zowie Lever, 38, from Radcliffe, Manchester, shrunk from a bulging 18 stone 12lbs and a size 26 to a slinky eight stone 2lbs, size 14 frame in five years after she and mum Viv, who passed away in 2015 aged just 53, promised to transform their lifestyle together in 2014.
At her biggest, she piled on the pounds spending almost £200 per month on fast food after falling into a depression when she discovered she and husband Ryan, 38, couldn’t have children in 2013.
Full time carer and mum-of-two, Viv, had lost eight stone through Slimming World, dropping from a size 32 to 16, before she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but after she died her devoted daughter was determined to continue her legacy.
Zowie, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) – a terminal neurological condition which gets worse over time and significantly shortens life expectancy –has now bought a bikini for the first time for an upcoming holiday after dropping 10st 10lbs.
She said: “One day my mum told me she was joining Slimming World and I was doing it with her.
“If it wasn’t for her I’d still be as big as I was now, and if I hadn’t gone back to it after she died I would have put all the weight back on.
“Mum lost eight stone before she died, so I felt like I owed it to her to keep going.
“She kept being sick and I was telling her to go to the doctors then she got really poorly and ended up in hospital.
“Within days she couldn’t even open her eyes so I demanded to know what was happening and the MacMillan nurses admitted they’d been seeing her for months. – WAS THIS SUCH A SHOCK?
“She would be absolutely thrilled to see my carry on losing weight and how confident I’ve become.
“When I was big there was absolutely no chance I’d be seen wearing a bikini.
“Losing the weight has made so much difference to me as a person.
“I don’t care what anyone thinks anymore. If they don’t like it they can look away.”
Before, Zowie would each three rounds of buttered toast for breakfast, snacking on packets of biscuits, crisps and chocolate before eating McDonalds, pizzas, kebabs or chip shop pies with chips, peas and gravy for dinner.
Zowie said the extra weight only made her illness harder to live with.
She said: “My diet was horrendous.
“I was gradually getting bigger and bigger and I didn’t see it. It was a struggle, the extra weight I was carrying did my legs no good.
“Since I got married in 2011 I just became comfortable, we were told we couldn’t have kids and I just became stuck in a rut.
“I’d eat kebabs, pizzas, chocolate, crisps. Just anything to get rid of the hunger.”
Viv didn’t tell her children she was battling breast cancer until days before she died, when they discovered she had been having treatment for four months.
After joining Slimming World, Zowie swapped the unhealthy junk food for healthy home-cooked carb free meals and saw the weight drop off, losing 5lbs in her first week.
Thanks to her illness she found it difficult to exercise but also took up water aerobics classes and now even enjoys going swimming too.
Zowie said: “I started losing the weight quicker and quicker, and got the blood to lose more.
“You’ve got to be dedicated; my motto is ‘you are what you eat’ so if you put crap in your mouth you’re going to be massive.
“Now, I wouldn’t dream of going to a takeaway because I know the fat content, you can literally feel a film of fat on the roof of your mouth.”
Newly transformed Zowie has booked a holiday to Malta in November, where she’ll show off her new size 14 physique in a daring bikini which she says she would never have had the courage to wear until now.
She even used the hundreds of pounds she has saved on unhealthy fast food and junk ready meals to pay for the trip, along with a holiday to Florida.
Zowie was told if she ever wanted IVF she would have to lose at least five stone, and her and Ryan are now planning to pursue this avenue to have a dream family.
She said: “I’m going to Florida and Malta now just because I’ve stopped buying generally unhealthy foods.
“I was told if I wanted IVF I’d need to lose at least five stone so I’m definitely going back to the doctors for tests.
“I never dreamt I would lose this amount of weight
“I never thought I would have worn a bikini and I can really see the difference in myself, I feel quite confident.
“I’m quite proud. Ryan is dead supportive. He tells me I look amazing.
“Losing weight has had a massive impact – now I enjoy exercising and feel more flexible.
“Before, I was buying clothes in what I call ‘the fat shops’ and I had to try them on before I bought them.
“Now I’m returning clothes because they’re too big and I can shop where I want.
“I’ll definitely maintain it. There’s no way I’ve done five years of work just to put it all back on again.”
ZOWIE’S DAILY DIET: BEFORE
Breakfast: Three slices of buttered toast
Mid morning: pack of biscuits, four cups of tea with milk and sugar
Dinner: McDonalds, crisps, chocolate
Tea: Kebab or pizza or pie, chips, peas and gravy
ZOWIE’S DAILY DIET: NOW
Breakfast: scrambled egg or omelette
Dinner: Jacket potato
Tea: veg and chicken
No chips/no bread