A mum who felt “ugly and invisible” when she started having menopausal symptoms during lockdown now feels like a new woman – thanks to her “guardian angel” husband’s suggestion to join a diet group to improve her mental health.
Prone to grazing on food when she feels stressed, benefits consultant Bonny Payne, 45, of Cannock, Staffordshire, ate her way through a deep depression in January 2021 during the second lockdown – ballooning to 17st 9lb,
Adding self-loathing to her menopausal symptoms as a result, she felt as if she was “fading into obscurity,” hiding her size 18 figure beneath shapeless clothes and feeling undervalued.
But when her IT director husband, Matthew, 45, bravely suggested that losing weight might make her feel better, it was the wake-up call she needed and she joined the Cambridge Weight Plan – the start of a lifestyle overhaul that saw her taking up exercise and slimming down to a 13st 2lb size 14.
Bonny, who is mum to Lillian, 16, and Edward, 13, and has lost four and a half stone since March 2021 using the 800 calorie a day 1:1 diet plan, said: “I’m not sure if I became invisible or I started hiding away as I hurtled towards the menopause.
“Either way, I felt like I was fading into obscurity. I felt undervalued, unappreciated and ugly, which made me turn to food for comfort.”
She added: “Now I feel so much better. Not only do I like what I see in the mirror, but I feel so much happier about myself. I don’t fear the menopause anymore.”
Bonny’s comfort eating began in earnest after her second pregnancy when, already someone who struggled with her weight, she started grazing and eating up to six slices of bread a day.
“I have always struggled with my weight,” she said.
Breakfast: Toast and butter.
Snack: bread and butter
Lunch: Sandwich and crisps
Snack: Bread and butter
She added: “But after my second pregnancy I ballooned. The weight became harder to lose and it crept up.
“I think it was a mixture of stress eating and the fact that we didn’t go out after having kids. Instead of going down the pub on a Friday night we would grab a takeaway and it just spiralled massively.
“Any diet I tried wouldn’t work. I’d lose about a stone, then I would just plateau and I’d lose the will to do it.”
And when Bonny started experiencing symptoms of the peri-menopause, including sleepless nights, brain fog, anxiety and heart palpitations in 2021 during the lockdown, her anxiety sky rocketed and she stopped caring about what she ate.
Weighing 17st 9lb at her peak, 5ft 5in Bonny had a body mass index (BMI) used to gauge a healthy weight of 41.1, compared to the NHS healthy range of 18.5 to 24.9 – meaning she was obese.
She said: “I knew that I was starting the menopause journey.”
She added: “When we went into the second lockdown, I knew the menopause was having an impact on my mental health and making me very anxious.
“Winter’s horrible anyway and facing a second lockdown it was really hard on the kids as well as on my husband and me.
“I didn’t feel strong enough to support my family, because I wasn’t strong enough for myself anymore.”
She added: “I stopped looking in mirrors or buying clothes. I stopped standing on scales. I didn’t even take photos anymore.”
Wanting her to adopt a healthier lifestyle, her husband Matthew became her guardian angel – advising her to sign up to Cambridge Weight Plan.
“He just turned around and said, ‘Look, I really think you should try Cambridge’,” she said.
She added: “He said it worked for his mum and, knowing I’d hit rock bottom, I was totally on board.
“It was the drastic change I needed.”
So, in March 2021, swapping her carbohydrate-laden diet for 800 calories a day, she instantly lost weight – ditching the weight and her menopause blues.
“For starters, I swapped out the bread,” she said. “I needed a big change. We sat the kids down and said, ‘We’re throwing the junk out of the house.’
“I lost weight really quickly. The change in me was huge and I quickly felt stronger to help my family.
“I was able to take control of my life again and face my fears about the menopause and lockdown.”
Starting the NHS Couch to 5K running plan for beginners alongside her diet, Bonny now runs daily and has slimmed down to a healthy size 14.
But she says her biggest transformation has been in her attitude to life.
“I’m a massive advocate for looking after your mental health,” she said.
Breakfast: Porridge/Cambridge weight plan milkshake
Dinner: Salt and pepper chicken with vegetables, or fish, asparagus and poached eggs (never more than 200 calories)
She added: “This has had such a positive impact on mine – it’s the most positive thing the weight loss has done for me.
“I love running. If I’m feeling slightly down or anxious, I know that going for a run helps me with that.”
Still, without the help and support of her amazing family, Bonny says she would never have joined the weight loss plan that has had such incredible results.
“It’s completely changed me,” she said.
“If it wasn’t for my husband, I wouldn’t have done it. I’m so grateful that he realised I needed a change and advised me accordingly.”
Now feeling fantastic, Bonny is ready to face the menopause head on.
“I have found the fun, outgoing Bonny who had disappeared,” she said.
“I find myself laughing more, I take more pride in my appearance and I’m stronger in my mental health – controlling my self-doubt and even standing up for myself in difficult situations again.
“This change in my outlook and attitude is also reflecting positively on my family. I have noticed a change in how they respond to the challenges life throws at them.
“It’s been an incredibly emotional and difficult process, but the menopause is no longer a stage in my life that I fear.”