A mother-of-three lost 6st 9lbs in ten months and saved £8,800 a year after banning herself from snacking and having takeaways two to three times a week.
Receptionist Gemma Montague, 38, also took up running as part of her lockdown health kick – before her fitness and weight loss journey was suddenly disrupted when she was diagnosed with a rare and debilitating disease earlier this year.
Gemma, from Rochester, Kent, once consumed 4,000 calories a day, reaching a size of 16st 4lbs at her heaviest – but has now gone down from a size 20 to a dress size eight.
She switched to a much healthier diet of lean meats, eggs, fish and pasta, and started doing regular exercise – until she lost mobility after developing a rare condition which has left one of her legs paralysed and her relying on crutches.
Mother-of-three Gemma Montague, 38, from Kent, once consumed 4,000 calories a day, reaching a size of 16st 4lbs at her heaviest. She lost 6st 9lbs in ten months and saved £8,800 a year after banning herself from snacking and having takeaways two to three times a week (right)
Before beginning her fitness journey, Gemma constantly suffered from chronic pain, bulging discs, disturbed sleep, extreme sweating and severe back issues.
She said she tried so many diets since gaining weight in her teenage years, and joined Slimming World four or five times in the past.
‘Something clicked this time. This needed to be a complete lifestyle change.’
A wake-up call came when in 2020, her father was diagnosed with cancer and dementia.
One of the nurses warned her that he did most of the damage to his body during his younger years, and that as ‘a product’ of her dad, it would be beneficial for Gemma to lose weight.
‘I thought it was quite rude at the time,’ she admitted. ‘But it gave me the kick I needed.’
Receptionist Gemma Montague, 38, took up running as part of her lockdown health kick and lost more than 6st (pictured before and after her weight loss)
At hear heaviest, Gemma would eat three takeaways a week, but her father being diagnosed with dementia and cancer prompted her to slim down (right)
Gemma’s fitness journey was unexpectedly halted in May this year, when she was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.
Gemma became an avid runner and fitness fanatic after she lost her initial three stone – completing the Couch To 5K run during lockdown
Gemma had tried a huge range of diets since she began struggling with her weight as a teenager, and joined Slimming world around four times in the past.
Lockdown gave the busy working mum much-needed time to focus on herself, giving her the chance to shed the weight and the extra expense.
Gemma became an avid runner and fitness fanatic after she lost her initial three stone completing the Couch To 5K run during lockdown before going on to do the Brighton Half Marathon for charity.
However, Gemma’s her journey was unexpectedly halted in May this year, when she was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.
It was discovered she had a rare disease, cauda equina syndrome (CES), which causes paralysis.
CES is a dysfunction of lumbar and sacral nerve roots which causes compression of the nerves and cutting off sensation and movement.
‘I had to be blue lighted to Kings College Hospital as the disks burst in my spine causing paralysis,’ she said.
‘I was running and it felt like I’d been hit by lighting.
‘I had chronic sciatica, I thought it was from the running. It got so chronic I couldn’t sit, couldn’t stand, and I got numbness in my saddle area.
Gemma has three children aged age 20, 18 and 10 and lives with her supportive husband, who joined her in her journey to get herself out of the fast food rut
‘I visited the doctors twice and they said I’d pulled a muscle, twice.’
While the bombshell news disrupted her dream of making the most of her newfound good health, Gemma said she is thankful she is fighting fit to take on the illness head on.
‘Fitness has been a big thing and I can’t do that anymore. The exercise was for my mental health and to tone my body.
‘Now I have a new challenge to face. I have to learn to walk properly again. I still can’t feel my left leg.’
Following emergency surgery at Kings College Hospital, London, Gemma is now on crutches, and is slowly learning to use her left leg properly again.
New confidence: Gemma said that before losing weight she ‘would try one million outfits’ and end up in tears when she was heading out
She receives physiotherapy at Stoke Mandeville hospital, over two hours away.
She hopes to begin running again soon and continue to maintain her improved fitness levels.
Last year, Gemma had a mastopexy, a breast lift, to remove lose skin as she reduced from a cup size K due to weight loss.
Size K breasts weigh approximately 10.5 pounds alone.
‘I had breast augmentation surgery. I was a K cup, and I went to having empty skin there. All over my body, everywhere went in but my breasts,’ she said.
‘For me it was confidence, nothing felt nice. Every time we went out I would try one million outfits and be in tears before we left,’ said Gemma.
Gemma after being awarded the Slimming World Diamond Member of the Year 2022. She said she had previously tried to start the programme four or five times, but with no luck until 2020
‘Sometimes I would have a few drinks to have the confidence to go somewhere.
‘We went to Iceland to the Blue Lagoon. This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I hate looking at the photos coz I look so enormous. I look 30 years older, so old and so overweight.
The Slimming World member has been awarded for her committment in the face of adversity this year, receiving an award from the company which she credits with helping her.
‘Through lockdown it was on zoom. Afterwards, it was amazing to see everyone had changed so much. It was like a big reveal when we meet in person.’
Gemma’s transformation has seen her go from a dress size 20 to a size 8, after she lost 95 pounds in just 10 months
Gemma has three children aged age 20, 18 and 10 and lives with her supportive husband, who joined her in her journey to get herself out of the fast food rut.
‘My husband and I started walking every single day as I was too heavy and too lazy to do anything else,’ she said.
‘Lockdown saved me as it was the one time, I had the time to focus on myself.
‘Being a mum of three, it’s hard to put yourself first.
‘I’ve always been an emotional eater, but I’ve always liked a challenge.
‘I could have eaten myself to death or lose weight and make my family fit and healthy.
‘It brought my family closer; we were trying new recipes, walking together.’
She advised people wanting to get healthier on a budget to invest in good, clean ingredients rather than opting for cheaper fast food.
‘A lot of people think eating healthy is really expensive. Initially, it is expensive to buy all the spices, but when you have everything you can make a whole array of things for 50p.
She added: ‘Be true and honest to yourself. Have a good talking and find the real reason you are so unhappy. Dealing with this will help you massively on your journey.
‘Be honest about what you put into your mouth. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day.’