“IF you want to change the way you look and feel, you really can – just go for it.”
This is Grace Wiles’s message of encouragement to those hoping to get on a more wholesome path as World Health Day gets underway today.
The 21-year-old photography student, from Wroughton, shed four stones over the last 18 months and has now set out to share her journey and weight struggles to inspire others looking to follow in her sprightly footsteps.
Along with Swindon Council’s Health Ambassadors, Grace will be on hand at Swindon’s Central Library today as part of a special healthy living event to mark the international day of action.
“I have completely transformed my life inside and out – no one can even recognise me,” she said.
“It’s brilliant and I want to help others do the same, whether it means making large or small changes to feel better about themselves and be healthier.”
Grace’s self-esteem reached rock bottom after suffering years of bullying about her weight, which peaked at more than 15 stone.
“I shut myself away and practically lived on the sofa watching TV, always wearing a big black hoodie. I felt so down and turned to food, like pizza, chocolate and ice cream, for comfort.
“I was picked on and got all the silly comments like ‘she’s so fat,’ ‘she’s so ugly.’ I hated myself and started self-harming because there didn’t seem to be a way out,” she said.
“I confided in my mum and we went to the doctor, who got me counselling. That’s when the breakthrough came and things started looking up.”
After helping her explore various issues, her counsellor introduced her to health ambassador Melanie Bond.
In the first week of her new diet alone Grace lost half a stone by replacing junk food and fizzy drinks with regular healthy meals and snacks. She also started walking the 5km journey to Swindon College, which led on to going jogging.
As the extra pounds continued to fall off, Grace, who now weighs 10st 10lbs, regained her confidence.
The World Health Day free event at Swindon Central Library runs from 10.30am until 2pm. For more information about the Health Ambassadors, visit www.swindon.gov.uk/healthambassadors.