Agoraphobic to fitness instructor

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A woman whose anxiety led to alarming weight gain dropped SIX dress sizes after she managed to get her stress under control.

Michelle Bird, 34, dropped from exactly 13 stone to 8st 7lb in the space of just two years after doctors delivered a shocking diagnosis that she was clinically obese and on the verge of developing type two diabetes.

She now manages her stress through regular exercise.

Miss Bird, of Chatteris in Cambridgeshire, said the roots of her weight gain lay in anxiety disorders, such as agoraphobia and claustrophobia, which forced her to lock herself away and eat fattening, comforting snacks.

Miss Bird said: “When I was 21 I became ill and had developed panic attacks which I discovered were due to agoraphobia.

“I’d moved to Cambridgeshire from Grantham and was quite lonely at that point. I was in a town without any family. I ate constantly most of the time to try and make myself feel better.”

Miss Bird, who at her largest wore size 18 clothes, said eating became a distraction from her loneliness.

She said: “I would typically have a whole 12-inch pizza to myself. I used to buy a massive family size Galaxy bar and eat the whole thing.

“I was by nature an outgoing person – I’d participated in sport at school, but the agoraphobia took that away.”

At age 24 Miss Bird was told by health care professionals that she was clinically obese and if she continued to put on weight she would eventually develop type two diabetes.

Miss Bird said: “I was starting to feel fat. Before then I had never looked at myself in the mirror and seen a fat person. After the doctors appointment, that’s all I saw.”

Miss Bird was referred to Weight Watchers where she found the spark she needed to turn her weight problems around.

She said: “I had never dieted before so I didn’t know where to start. They put me on a scale, and it was a massive shock. to see the state I had gotten myself into.”

Miss Bird was encouraged to stop smoking and began exercising regularly.

She said: “Losing weight began to make me feel more confident and I stopped having the panic attacks.”

Before losing weight, Miss Bird typically ate three pieces of toast in the morning with tuna pasta with chips and mayonnaise for lunch, followed by a takeaway pizza for her evening meal.

Today, she typically eats porridge for breakfast, followed by tuna salad with sweet potato and red peppers for lunch, with noodles with chicken and prawns for her evening meal.

Miss Bird’s new-found healthy outlook encouraged her to make fitness the focus of her life.

She said: “A friend of mine joked I should become a fitness instructor – so I did.”

Miss Bird, who now wears size six clothing, has gained now gained qualifications to teach kettlebell classes and give nutritional advice.

She runs and teaches at her own Cambridgeshire-based business named “Bodymode.”

Miss Bird said: “The work is rewarding and makes me feel good. It definitely dealt with the stress.”

There are more than three million people above the age of 16 suffering from diabetes, the onset of which is often weight-related, in the UK.

The NHS advises that regular exercise reduces the risk of mental health issues, including stress, by up to 30 per cent.

More high resolution pictures are available on request. To discuss rates for using pictures and copy, contact news editor Tom Knight on 07815 004413 or tom@medavia.co.uk.

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