WHEN Leigh Thorpe’s partner of seven years proposed, they planned a three year engagement – so the size 24 lass could shed her unwanted pounds.
But, with just a year to go before the big day, the 28-year-old teaching assistant was as big as ever – and threatened to call off the big day after a horrendous dress shopping experience.
With a wedding venue booked in Malcesine on Lake Garda, Italy, for October 2017, her husband Craig thought she was mad to let her weight stand in her way.
But the determined mum-of-one shed four stone – and returned to the same bridal shop, where the sales assistant didn't even recognise her.
Speaking exclusively to Fabulous Digital, Leigh, from Carbrooke, Norfolk, tells her story…
When Craig, 44, popped the question in August 2015, I was over the moon.
We decided on a long engagement so that we could save for the big day and also to give me time to lose the weight I’d gained since having our daughter, Orla, now eight.
When we found the perfect venue on Lake Garda and named the day, I was so excited.
But two years on from Craig’s proposal, I hadn’t shifted an ounce of weight.
I slouched around in black leggings and baggy tops telling myself I had plenty of time.
But my mum and sister, Abbie, were desperate to go shopping for my dress.
The clock was ticking and, with just over a year until the big day, they had a point. I needed a dress.
I looked like a sack of potatoes – and I was ready to call the whole thing off
Walking into the bridal shop and looking around at rail after rail of beautiful bridal gowns, I was so excited.
I was about to see myself in a wedding dress for the first time.
I was like a kid in a sweet shop as I took in all the different styles – sheath, mermaid, jewel encrusted.
But the sales assistant directed me to a small rail at the back of the shop. The plus-size range.
Flicking through the selection of dresses, my cheeks burned with disappointment. No slinky fishtail dress for me. Just frumpy, loose styles to hide behind.
Reluctantly I grabbed a few dresses in size 24, and headed for the dressing room.
I winced as the sales assistant hoisted me into a vast A-line gown before throwing open the changing room curtain.
Mum and Abbie told me I looked beautiful as I frowned at my reflection in the mirror.
I knew they were lying. I looked like a sack of potatoes – and I was ready to call the whole thing off.
They encouraged me to try on other styles and I went along with it to keep them happy. But really I wanted the ground to swallow me up.
I went home empty-handed and told Craig sorry but I wouldn’t be able to marry him looking the way I did.
I was deadly serious. Craig reassured me I was beautiful whatever my weight.
But how could I stand up in front of all my family and friends if I was unhappy in my own skin?
I joined Slimming World, where I'd lost five pounds before, the following week.
My heart sank when I tipped the scales at 17 stone 4 and I panicked that I’d left it too late.
But suddenly I was determined.
I swapped my favourite pies, chips and chocolate for healthy jacket potatoes, grilled meats, salads and fruit – and the weight started to fall off me.
I continued to follow my Slimming World meal plans religiously and added in Zumba and Body Pump classes.
The sales assistant didn’t recognise me, until mum showed her photographs from my previous visit
As the months flew by, I’d chosen bridesmaid dresses and flowers. We’d decided on menus and sent out invitations.
But still no dress.
Mum was worried I’d left it too late but I dug my heels in. I wanted to leave it until the last possible minute.
LEIGH’S DIET: THEN/NOW
Lunch/dinner: Pie and chips
Lunch: jacket potato
Dinner: Grilled meats and salads
Finally in August 2018, exactly a year after the first shopping trip, I was happy with my size and ready to shop.
I returned to the same bridal boutique with mum and Abbie.
And I was thrilled when the sales assistant didn’t recognise me, until mum showed her photographs from my previous visit.
Now a trim size 14 and a whole four stone lighter, I was given the run of the shop. I selected ten dresses and headed for the changing room.
When I saw mum’s eyes fill with tears as I glided out of the changing room wearing a low cut, ivory lace gown with a fitted bodice, I knew that was the one.
My choice felt like a risk as I was really stepping out of my comfort zone. But I’d worked incredibly hard and wanted to show off my new figure.
After alterations to the length of the dress, it was ready in plenty of time for me to marry Chris on October 26.
We exchanged our vows before taking a boat trip around Lake Garda followed by dinner with our 30 guests.
And when I look through our wedding album, I feel so proud of everything I achieved.
We’re loving life as newlyweds but I’m determined not to pile the pounds back on. I’ve maintained my healthier lifestyle and my weight.
We previously spoke to a size 30 bride with 42L boobs feared she’d be branded an ‘attention seeker’ for choosing a wedding dress that flaunts her cleavage.
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