Watch: Meet the super-gran who saw 18st weight loss is now a bodybuilder
A grandmother whose size made it difficult to walk without a frame has seen an incredible 18st (114kg) weight loss and is now a super fit bodybuilder.
At her heaviest Dee Hodgson, 53, from Willenhall, West Midlands, weighed 28st 11 lbs (183kg) and struggled to squeeze into a dress size 34.
Her size left her in constant agony and doctors suspected she was suffering from fibromyalgia – a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.
The mum-of-four and gran-of-eight says her weight spiralled out of control after years of emotional eating of foods such as chocolates and sweets.
Believing her sugary diet wasn't helping her condition, Hodgson embarked on a "caveman diet" - eating only "natural" foods like fresh vegetables and high protein meats with little fat.
Within six months, she had lost 6st (38kg), without setting foot in a gym.
After a year, she was 12st (76kg) lighter and, feeling fitter, decided to join her local fitness centre where she discovered a passion for exercise classes and working out.
Now a trim size 10-12, and weighing 11st 11lbs (75kg), Hodgson has lost a whopping 18st (114kg) and says she "feels like a completely different person".
"My weight got out of control," explains Hodgson, a mental health peer recovery worker.
"At first, I wasn't dieting to lose weight, I just wanted to feel better and to help ease the symptoms of my health conditions, but the pounds quickly fell off me and it gave me the motivation to keep going.
"I started going to the gym and fell in love with working out. Then I tried my hand at bodybuilding – and absolutely loved it."
Hodgson says her weight issues left her struggling with several health conditions, including type two diabetes.
Her diet consisted of processed food, and hearty family meals such as pastas or pizzas, and she hadn't exercised in years.
"My lack of mobility was so limiting," she explains. "I was in pain all the time. I thought I was happy but I look back now and I realise I was depressed and in pain.
"My life was very limited and I was very dependent on people, which was hard as I’m very independent. It was embarrassing for me."
The turning point came in 2016 when Hodgson realised she had to make a change to her lifestyle.
After Googling fibromyalgia she found that processed foods, additives and preservatives may exacerbate the symptoms.
So she decided to cut out these foods and switch them for more natural foods.
"My new diet was very basic and that made it easier to stick to," she explains.
"I didn’t notice the weight loss at first, but when I lost around 6st, I realised that it was working and I might as well keep going.
"People started noticing the difference and I felt more mobile and healthier. I realised then that a different life really was achievable."
The confidence Hodgson gained from losing weight inspired her to join a gym.
"I remember looking around and thinking I didn’t belong, and I was so worried that people were judging me. But they really weren’t and I soon found my groove," she says.
Hodgson's newfound love for the gym quickly yielded results and she can now leg press 335kg, deadlift 80kg and bench press 46kg.
She's also due to compete in a bodybuilding competition in November in High Wycombe.
"I’m in the transformation class, so it’s all about the journey," she explains.
"They will show a ‘before’ picture before I come out on stage. It’s about showcasing the way you’ve built your body.
"I’m petrified but really excited! I’ve always had body image issues but this is all part of my recovery.
"It’s so far out of my comfort zone, I’ll be out in a tiny bikini with all my scars and loose skin on show, but I hope that it will inspire others.”
Having lost almost two thirds of her body weight, Hodgson says her weight loss has had an incredible impact on her health, both physical and mental.
"I have so much more energy, I'm so much happier – it's completely changed my life," she says.
“It’s been so beneficial to my mental health, but I’ve also seen such dramatic changes to my appearance – I barely recognise myself."
Looking back on her journey, Hodgson feels grateful she decided to make the change.
“My son, Will, 33, told me that he feared he would soon have to tell his children, my grandchildren, that I had died – that’s how bad my health had got," she explains.
“I remember about a year into my journey, I was playing tag with my eldest granddaughter, and she turned around and said: ‘Nanny, I didn’t know that you can run.’
“And it’s moments like that, that make it all worthwhile.
“Losing weight can be incredibly difficult, but I remember why I’m doing it and it keeps me motivated."
As well as switching up her diet and lifestyle, Hodgson credits bodybuilding for changing her life.
"I now look at myself with pride," she says.
“I’ve gone from hating my reflection to really liking the person looking back at me. I finally feel proud of my body.
"I had to make dramatic changes to my lifestyle and undergo two surgeries to get rid of two stone of excess skin that I had after I lost a lot of weight very quickly.
"It’s been a really challenging and emotional journey but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
“I’m taking back the years that were stolen from me and owning my future.”
Breakfast - Cereal or toast
Lunch - Graze through the day on sandwiches, cakes, or whatever was convenient
Dinner - Hearty family meal like rich cheesy pasta, pizzas etc
Snacks - Evening snacks of crisps, biscuits, cakes
Drinks - Loads of creamy coffee, hot chocolate
Breakfast - Protein smoothie, egg white omelette with chicken or fish
Lunch - Green salad with chicken sausage, yogurt
Dinner - Turkey Bolognese
Snacks - Cereal bar, rice cakes
Drinks - Black coffee, lots of water, protein powder in water (like squash)
Additional reporting SWNS.