A woman says she lost more than 20 stone with the help of a unique personal trainer – her HORSE.
As a teenager Faith Riley, 42, loved riding horses, competing in eventing, cross-country and shows every weekend.
She ballooned to 33 stone after an adverse reaction to contraceptive injections led to crippling depression and agoraphobia, meaning she eventually had to give up riding altogether in her thirties.
After making a firm decision to lose weight, Miss Riley, a former professional cleaner and horse riding instructor of Warrington, turned to her horse Rocky for inspiration for daily exercise.
She said: “I cut out all the junk food from my diet and decided to get back out there again.
“Even though I couldn’t ride Rocky because I was afraid of being too heavy for him to carry me, I put his bridle on and walked alongside him every morning and night
“Walks became runs and soon I was losing loads of weight. I have him to thank for everything.”
Miss Riley was prescribed contraceptive injections when she was 23 after the pill caused her to experience extreme nausea and migraines.
She said: “In my late teens I was a size ten but the injection caused me to put on four stone in one month.
“I was horrified. The doctor, who suggested my weight gain was simply down to my diet, sent me to a nutritionist, but I knew I hadn’t been eating lots of chocolate or junk food.
“After a year of visiting the nutritionist the doctor agreed the injection had been a cause of my weight gain after all. By then, I’d stopped taking the injection, but it was already too late.
“My weight had reached the point where I felt I couldn’t do anything about it. I became extremely depressed and couldn’t face leaving the house. I had to give up work and couldn’t even bare to see friends.”
Over the next decade Miss Riley, who was also diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis when she was 26, saw her weight increase to the point where she had to stop riding.
She said: “When I topped 30 stone I had to stop riding. Rocky would have been able to carry me because he was strong, but I was terrified that I would be too much of a burden to him.
“I thought it would have been cruel to ride him so although I was heartbroken I decided to stop riding.”
In 2006 Miss Riley’s mood hit its lowest point and she attempted suicide by taking an overdose of tablets.
Shortly afterwards, following the breakdown of a relationship, she made a lasting decision.
She said: “I was 33 stone and wearing size 38 clothing. I spent some time on my own before I decided to get back to being me – the person I was before I became overweight and depressed.
“I knew it would be extremely difficult but I aimed to get back to the size 10 I once was.”
Miss Riley turned to her faithful four-legged companion, Rocky, for the push she needed to make her lifestyle change happen.
She said: “I knew Rocky would always love to go out with me. Although I couldn’t ride him, I knew that spending time with him would always be useful to me.
“I put his bridle on and led him along the road for a walk every morning and every evening, without fail, for months.
“Sometimes motorists would pass and make horrible comments, but I didn’t care because I knew I was trying my best and making a difference. I was determined to shed the weight to get back to riding Rocky properly.
“I also completely changed my diet, getting rid of all the high-fat, high cholesterol food and replacing it with high-fibre and healthier options.”
Before beginning her weight loss regime, Miss Riley ate nothing for breakfast, followed by chips, peas and gravy with energy drinks for lunch, followed by lasagne with garlic bread for her evening meal. She would snack constantly on chocolates and packets of crisps.
She began typically eating a bowl of bran flakes for breakfast, followed by a ham salad sandwich for lunch, with grilled chicken and vegetables for her evening meal. She cut snacks out of her diet completely.
Today, Miss Riley weighs 12st 8lb and wears size 14 clothing.
She has been with her current partner, gardener Paul Bigg, 31, since August 2012.
She said: “I met Paul when I was still a size 20, and I’m happy to say I’ve lost even more weight since then. I’m very confident in myself now. I know I’ll never go back to the bad old days of being overweight and depressed.
Although Rocky sadly died while Miss Riley was on her weight loss journey, she is now looking forward to getting back in the saddle.
She said: “I’m now light enough to sit on a horse and ride without any concerns. I’m currently recovering from knee surgery but as soon as I’m healed I’ll be back our riding as regularly as I ever was.
“I have Rocky to thank my weight loss. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and goodness knows what state I’d be in. I owe him everything.”
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