‘I watched my gorgeous sister battle to lose seven stone’ – The Sun

TV-star sister Christine Bleakley helped me shed 7st

SLENDER Christine Bleakley and her equally slim younger sister Nicola look
like they have never experienced the agony and humiliation of obesity.

But the pair know more than most about how tough it can be to shift excess
weight.

Nicola, 30, shed an amazing seven stone in her late teens and credits the
support of Christine, 32, for helping her lose the weight.

The pair are incredibly close and have now collaborated to make a workout DVD
to help others lose weight and tone up.

Christine — fronting the new series of Dancing On Ice with Phillip Schofield
from Sunday — says: “I watched my gorgeous sister battle with her weight for
years. It was tough to see someone you love go through the humiliation of
being obese.

“But Nicola has achieved so much with her weight loss and the most
important thing is that she has managed to keep the weight off for nearly
ten years. Now we want to help other people do the same.”

Nicola’s weight problem started when she left school for college at the age of
16 and was suddenly able to binge on junk food throughout the day.

She says: “I had the freedom to buy food and eat whenever I wanted.

“All of my friends were very slim but they gorged on sweets and chocolates
from the canteen and tuck shop all day.

“They obviously had different metabolisms to me, as they remained skinny while
I piled on the weight.

“The more I ate, the bigger I got. This made me sad, so I ate more to cheer
myself up. It was a constant cycle of eating.”

Within two years, Nicola’s weight had rocketed to 17st 7lb.

She says: “At 5ft 11in, I was able to carry the weight, but I was still
enormous.

“I kidded myself that I was a size 14 and thought I probably weighed about
13st.”

But when Nicola’s mum Mina took her shopping for an outfit for her 18th
birthday party, she realised just how large she was.

Slimmer Of The Year with photo of how she used to look” refid=”1433413″ version=”a” alttext=”Nicola Bleakley”{amp}gt;

Christine accompanied her sister on that fateful shopping trip.

She says: “Nicola would always cover herself up with huge jumpers and layers
of clothes, so I hadn’t seen her figure for years.

“When we went to get her an outfit for her birthday, she would try things on
in the changing room, but not come out in them.

“She just kept saying they didn’t fit.

“After hours of trying on outfits, she bought a pair of men’s 42in waist
trousers and a size 24 maternity top.

“She was bright red, tearful and humiliated. I hated seeing her so upset —
it was devastating for all of us.

“It was obvious how uncomfortable she felt in her own skin. I wanted to make
things better for her but she was the only one who could do that.”

Christine also remembers jumping to Nicola’s defence when people commented on
her sister’s weight.

She explains: “Some people would refer to Nicola as my ‘big sister’, which was
a cruel dig at her weight.

“I would always defend her and could never understand how people could be so
mean to such a lovely girl.

“Still to this day, I am shocked at how vile some people can be towards people
who are overweight.

“If I hear that kind of cruelty, I will always interject and tell that person
off for being so rude.”

Nicola, who is now married to Johnny, a fireman, recalls how difficult it was
being an obese teen.

Christine Bleakley
She says: “I was self-conscious all the time and I hated showing my body in
any way.

“When I went to a disco with my friends, they’d all be in tiny dresses while I
would wear two fleeces.

“I’d always be flushed and boiling, but I was too scared to show my arms, so
I’d keep the clothes on.

“But having to buy men’s clothes and maternity wear was the push I needed.”

With the support of her family, Nicola joined slimming club Unislim when she
turned 18 and started exercising.

Christine says: “We were very proud of her for taking such a big step to lose
weight.

“Exercise was a huge part of this and Nicola felt far too self-conscious to go
to a gym.

“So she started walking and doing weights at home.

“It was a big step, as she could barely climb the stairs.

“But when the pounds started dropping off and her confidence grew, it was
fantastic to watch. With each pound she lost, she gained some self-belief.”

In just one year, Nicola shed seven stone and to mark the achievement she
was crowned All-Ireland Unislimmer Of The Year at the age of 22 — the first
time her club was eligible to enter the contest.

Nicola, who now works for the slimming club in Northern Ireland, felt that
exercise was the most intimidating part of losing weight.

She says: “The diet part was easy really, but starting to do exercise for the
first time in years was very daunting.

“As a fat girl, I couldn’t just walk into a gym and start working out.

“Christine, who was always slim and sporty growing up, encouraged me to go on
walks with her.

“After I had lost some weight, I was then able to start running.

“But if I hadn’t had the support of Christine, I may not have had the courage
to exercise. This is why we feel so passionately about the workout DVD.

“Although it’s for people of all different fitness levels, the DVD is
something that can be done in the safety and security of the home, so people
never have to feel that intimidation.”

Christine — engaged to Chelsea footballer Frank Lampard, 33 — claims she has
not set a date for the wedding, but is sure she will not turn into a
demanding bride.

She says: “I honestly don’t care whether the napkins match the colour of the
bridesmaids’ dresses, I just want a low-key, relaxed day surrounded by the
people I love.

“Or at least I think I do — all my friends used to dream about their wedding
day from childhood, but I never did so I haven’t got much to go on.Christine Bleakley

“In a couple of months I could surprise myself by emerging as a crazed,
monstrous bridezilla.”

Christine and Nicola worked with a trainer to produce the DVD and wanted the
workouts to be broken down into sections.

Christine says: “We wanted to make sure it could be used for a quick, intense
workout or a longer session.

“We’re very aware that people have busy lives, so with this DVD they can do
some great, fun exercises when they have spare time in the day.

“Seeing Nicola’s transformation and the fact she has managed to keep the
weight off over the years has been such an inspiration.

“She has managed to do it through self-control, changing her eating habits and
keeping her metabolism up by exercising.

“She has lived through the pain of being obese and has come through it as a
fit and healthy woman.

“Nicola is the perfect poster girl for these exercises, as she has done them
for ten years and kept the weight off.

“If we inspire just one person to do the same through this DVD, it would be
the greatest reward of all.”

Christine Bleakley: The Workout DVD is out now on 2entertain.

Christine Bleakley and sister Nicola have always been closeChristine Bleakley and sister Nicola have always been close

Today the two women, from County Down in Northern Ireland, are astonishingly pretty with the same olive skin, doe eyes and wide, white-toothed smiles. So it is hard to imagine Nicola, now 30, battling to lose 7st from her size 24 frame.

Nicola says: “Whereas Christine was slim, I’m big boned. I’m 5ft 11in so I was destined to be a big girl.”

When Nicola turned 15 the pounds really started to pile on. “I realised I was becoming bigger than Christine but I was in denial,” she admits.

“When I was stressed I’d snack on chips, crisps, bars of chocolate and bottles of Coke, as well as the homemade meals mum prepared.”

At that time Christine was a runner at the BBC in Belfast. “I spent the day running all over the city fulfilling the demands made by actors and Nicola was working in a sweet shop all day,” she explains.

When I was stressed I’d snack on chips, crisps, bars of chocolate and bottles of Coke, as well as the homemade meals mum prepared.

Christine Bleakley’s sister Nicola

By the time Nicola reached college she couldn’t zip up her size 18 trousers but instead of admitting she was a size 20 she just wore them with the zip undone.

“It’s hard to cope with weight gain at any age but being only 17 was tough,” she says. “The only pressure on me should have been exams, not men commenting on my weight.

“They would tell me I had a pretty face while giving me a sympathetic look that said ‘Shame about the rest of you’.”

Hearing these jibes about her sister was difficult for protective Christine. “I’ve never fallen out with anyone in my life but people commenting on Nicola’s weight was the one thing that could drive me to it. I’d get cheeky and tell them she wouldn’t look at them twice.

“We were at the age where we’d be getting dolled up for a Saturday night out and wanted to feel good about ourselves but I watched my sister’s bubbly personality trickle away with each nasty remark. It got to the point where she refused to take her coat off.”

Nicola tried to hide her feelings, only letting the tears fall when she was alone in her room. “I’d still hear her crying though,” says Christine. “I couldn’t say anything about her weight in case it pushed her the other way towards anorexia.”

At her 18th birthday party, Nicola had to wear men’s 42in trousers with a size 24 maternity top. It was then she knew she had to do something about her weight.

The ultimate decision came a few months later when she bumped into an old friend who had lost weight using Unislim, a healthy-eating and exercise programme based in Northern Ireland.

In February 2000 Nicola joined her local group, weighing in at 17st 7lb. “I thought I’d weigh around the 14st mark,” she says. “To find out I weighed 2st more than my daddy was frightening. The shock must have been obvious because when I stepped off the scales my class leader gave me a hug.”

Nicola lost 7lb in the first week by eating porridge for breakfast, soup for lunch and homemade cottage pie or steak for dinner. She also made calorie-cutting changes such as swapping full-fat milk for skimmed.

“I didn’t realise how much that was until my mum threw a 7lb bag of potatoes at me to catch.” Christine helped boost Nicola’s confidence, encouraging her to go for a walk every evening. “We started out walking to a lamppost only 100m from our house but each night we would go a bit further,” she says.

When Nicola lost 3st she started to notice a difference in her clothes and found the confidence to exercise more. She says: “I started going to the gym and jogging.”

A year later Nicola reached her target weight of 10st 7lb, taking her total loss to 7st and making her a size 12.

“The nicest thing for me was being able to wear Christine’s clothes again,” she laughs.

Nicola was made All-Ireland Slimmer of the Year in 2004 aged 22 but the greatest award was becoming a Unislim leader. Now she has teamed up with Christine to release an exercise DVD.

Christine says: “I know of people who have released DVDs in the past but have had personal trainers on hand and a chef as well. As much as that is wonderful for them it’s not feasible for a normal person. Nicola was a normal person and I knew her story would appeal to real people.”

While Christine wanted to include exercises that toned the figure, Nicola wanted a fat-burning workout. They contacted personal trainer Maria Fenn who managed to combine the two elements in the 66-minute DVD which features moves such as the Bleakley Blaster, a full-body routine lasting six minutes.

The One Show star’s sister talks for the first time about their shared diet battle

Nicola Bleakley has sister Christine Bleakley to thank for supporting her in her battle to lose an astonishing 7st.

The 28-year-old was a morbidly obese size 24 when she was a teenager but is now an enviable size 12.

‘I felt depressed every single day. I found myself going to bed every night with a full-fat fizzy drink, a bag of crisps and some chocolate,’ Nicola tells Now in an exclusive interview.

Determined to slim down, Nicola joined a slimming club.

Christine really helped me,’ she says.

‘She’d come to some of my classes with me and we’d go walking together at the start when I was too big to do anything more strenuous.

‘We walked our dog Benji together and it was lovely to have her company.

‘Even now, when she’s at home or if I’m in London with her we still like to go for walks and runs together – but now I’m able to run or walk a lot further, for longer!’

Nicola, who is 5ft 11in, was even crowned Slimmer Of The Year in 2004 after dropping 12 dress sizes and reaching 10½st.

‘Every time I see Christine now she’ll always comment on how fantastic I look,’ says Nicola, who’s an ambassador for Unislim in Ireland.

‘Your family’s always going to be the most honest, so I know when she says it, she means it.’

PICTURE GALLERY – Christine Bleakley‘s style file{amp}gt;{amp}gt;

See the full story about Nicola and Christine Bleakley in Now magazine dated 24 May 2010 – out now!

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