IF she ever feels tempted to dig into a packet of biscuits, Niamh McMahon heads upstairs and eyes a top, hanging loosely on the back of her bedroom door in Flagmount.
When she was six stone heavier, she regularly pulled on this top. These days, Niamh and her husband, Seán, would fit into it but not into her size 12 to 14 tops that she wears now.
“That’s the size I was. I wore it for Jamie’s communion three years ago. That’s what is keeping me motivated, looking at that. Every time I feel like I want to eat something, I go upstairs and look at the top,” the 40-year-old Tulla woman and mother-of-three confirmed.
Her journey to losing six stones started in January 2014, when Niamh joined the Weight Watchers class at Maria Assumpta Hall in Ennis. Although she has reached her target, she is going to continue attending the classes for fear of slipping backwards.
To maintain her new figure, Niamh walks regularly and can be heard pounding the floorboards at home. In fact, Seán saw them shaking at one point but probably guessed what his wife was at.
“If I don’t go walking, I go upstairs into my room and go Zumba dancing for an hour on my own. There is generally nobody in the house and I turn the music up to the last. Seán said he heard the ceiling shaking one day and he didn’t know what I was at. In fact, he could see it shaking. Although he heard the music, so he must have known I was dancing,” Niamh speculated laughingly.
Prior to losing so much weight, Niamh was regularly sick and had been diagnosed with diabetes.
“I was getting sick all of the time when I was heavy. Anything that anyone had, I’d get it. Last week was my first time getting sick, with a chest infection, since I started this diet. I met a woman who asked me did I find I was getting sick a lot since I lost the weight? I said no, it was when I was heavier I was getting sick,” she explained.
Lighter and fitter, Niamh is also simply happier with life these days.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to go into a shop and buy a dress. I bought a dress for my young fella’s communion next month. My mother [Mary] said that the last time she saw me in a dress was the day I made my confirmation. I wore a two-piece for my wedding,” she recalled.
“I’m happy with where I am now. I’m nine stone, ten pounds. I’m aiming to lose another pound and that would be the full six stone that I’d have lost. I’ll get there and then I’ll stop because people are telling me ‘that’s enough’. I think that’s right, they don’t want to see me getting sick or anything.”
While it is a great achievement to lose so much weight, Niamh is mindful that losing too much can be potentially dangerous.
“It could. I was told that. They advised me to stick with what I wanted to lose. My Body Mass Index (BMI) is 23 at the moment and I’m four pounds under my goal. Since last February, my weight has been up and down a bit. I had a couple of bad weeks. I ate right and hit targets but I had a few problems. But I still came into the Weight Watchers class every week. I still haven’t missed a week. The girls are asking me am I going to keep coming. I am, I’m going to keep going because I think that’s how you keep focused,” she feels.
“I’m afraid that if I missed a week or two, I’d put up a couple of pounds and say ‘I won’t bother going back now. I’m at target’. And then I’d feel the weight piling back on again. I don’t want that happening any more,” she added.
There are times when Niamh has been tempted to break out but talking to a friend or two has helped her to defeat that urge.
“There have been days when I was in a foul mood and I was tempted to go to the press and bring out a box of chocolates and sit down. But I didn’t. I rang a friend and talked to her and she said ‘don’t go near the sweets’.
“It’s great to have people to talk to, message them and text them,” she smiled.
“Before this, I would sit down at night and I’d eat Taytos, toast, cereal, you name it, until I went to bed. I don’t do that any more. I might have a green tea, popcorn or a Weight Watchers bar or a fruit salad. Something just to keep me occupied. I’m also thinking of taking up knitting or crochet.”
Even her mother’s friends are pumping Niamh for information on how she did it.
“My mother’s age group are asking me in Tulla. Every Friday I bring my mother for her pension and I meet them in SuperValu.
“My father thinks I’m gone overboard on the exercise but I wouldn’t have done all this a year ago. I’d have been at home watching telly, with my feet up. I just feel so good in myself that I’ve achieved this and I don’t want to fall back.
I want to go forward, keep at it and encourage other people as well,” she reiterated.
Niamh looks forward to Wednesday rolling around for her weekly trip to Maria Assumpta Hall.
“I can’t wait for Wednesday mornings. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Even when I was young, I was heavy. I said to my mother and family that it’s better than winning the lotto. I did ask Seán would we renew our vows but I got a ‘no’ there,” she laughed again.
What Seán has had to accept though is his wife bouncing out of bed at all hours of the morning. “I wake now in the morning at around 6.30am. Before I’d be saying, ‘do I have to get out of the bed?’ It’s just so good to be able to get up and have energy for the whole day,” Niamh has found.
The Clare Champion would like to thank the following businesses who helped with Niamh’s makeover:
Thanks also to Weightwatcher leader, Kathleen Shannon and to Michelle Barrett.