Emma Barraclough

“People can be so vicious”

At her biggest, Emma was a size 26. Her weight resulted in strangers verbally abusing her in the street

I wasn’t really conscious of my size until I was about eight or nine. Up until then, I had always been fairly small and I came from a slim and active family.

Then, the name-calling started at school. Terms like ‘fattie’ – the usual stuff – and suddenly there was no escaping the fact I’d put on weight.

From then on my school years were a misery due to the endless bullying. There was one particular boy in my class who picked on me all the way through.

I never felt pretty at school and was an easy target. I became more and more withdrawn.

It was very painful, though I pretended I didn’t care. What the bullies didn’t realise was that I knew how to fix myself – or so I thought. I would literally eat my feelings.

Emma Barraclough

Food gave me a temporary release, and when I munched on chocolate and crisps, bought with pocket money, I didn’t need to think about my tormentors. Of course, the problem was I’d end up piling on more weight and the bullying continued.

My parents did complain to the school, they could see I was struggling. But nothing changed. Children can be incredibly cruel. Adults aren’t much better!


In my early twenties I worked as a waitress in a pub. I was a size 26 by then and the other staff gave me wary looks and kept me at arm’s length. I knew their behaviour was because of my size, which was upsetting, but still, my reaction was to comfort eat.

To be fair, I was used to being stared at. I sometimes caused a stir when I walked along the street, or went in shops. Eating in public was embarrassing because I could feel people judging me, wondering how I dared to tuck in at all.

Once I was sat on a park bench and this girl started mouthing off about the fact my T-shirt was riding up my back. (When you’re fat, you get used to badly-fitting clothes.) It was a shock, but I said nothing. I thought to myself: ‘I might be big, but at least I can lose weight. You’re stuck with your personality.’

While I was working at the pub, I became pregnant with my son, Lawrence, now seven. His father and I weren’t living together – and hadn’t planned to. Part of me was frightened, but I thought I could manage.

“I might be big, but at least I can lose weight. You’re stuck with your personality”

It was around this time something happened that I will never forget. A customer I was serving, along with his wife, delivered what he obviously thought was a hilarious comment.

He said: ‘If we popped you with a pin like a balloon, would you go whizzing around the room?’ I was speechless. My insides turned to ice and my cheeks burned. I gave a weak smile and hurried back to the kitchen.

It hurt terribly, but in a way it was the rock bottom I needed. I realised how much harm I was doing to my body and that if I carried on, I may not see my unborn baby grow up. I had to turn my life around – if not for me, then for my child.

Emma Barraclough

It’s hard to explain what it’s like being fat to someone who has never been fat. Do you ever get used to it? Not in my experience. You do get used to walking around feeling like you’re at the bottom of the world.

My mum found out about a weight-loss plan that includes group counselling because one of her friends had done it. She encouraged me to give it a try.

I liked the idea of being in a group that helped you change the way you think about food. I needed something completely different from the usual diets.

It was nerve-racking going to my first weekly group, but I ended up loving them and learning so much about myself.

It really worked for me. Altogether, I lost 10st 12Ibs in ten and a half months. I felt like a burden had been lifted from my mind. For once, I actually liked the way I looked in the mirror. I was literally half the size I’d been before.

After the weight loss, I split up with my partner – to be honest, we were never going to last the distance. I don’t think he liked the new, stronger Emma.


Then, in 2012 I started a relationship with an old boyfriend, Alex, from school.

We were delighted when I became pregnant in June 2013 and made plans for a wedding in August 2015. It was then that my old eating habits started to return. I was pregnant, which I thought gave me an excuse to overeat and reward myself.

I’m pleased to say, after giving birth, I did recommit to my weight-loss plan and got married in a size 12 dress. The wedding was unforgettable. I’ve never felt more beautiful in my life.

“The wedding was unforgettable not least because I was half the size I used to be”

I’m really so happy with my life now and glad I left that nightmare behind. It feels really freeing just being able to be me without batting off hostility and weird looks.

I don’t ever want to go back to being the person I was before. I don’t want my kids to ever be picked on like I was.

In my opinion, obesity is an addiction, and it’s not until I realised this and took the right action that I finally managed to beat it.

Find out more about how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and a Very Low Calorie Diet helped Emma lose weight.