A woman has revealed how the closure of KFC during lockdown spurred her on to start cooking her own meals for the first time in years – and she has now lost over nine stone.
Samantha Taylor, 32, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, was 25 stone and a size 30 back in May 2020, with a diet filled with chocolate, crisps and a takeaway almost every day.
But when KFC, McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants shut for a few months at the start of the pandemic, Samantha had to face cooking her own food.
As things started opening up again, she decided not to go back to her old ways and officially started her weight loss journey in May 2020.
Now, 18 months on, she’s lost over nine stone and dropped seven dress sizes to around a size 16.
“I thought that if I didn’t do something, I was going to end up twice the size coming out of lockdown as I did going into it,” she told Jam Press.
“My diet before was KFC, takeaway, chocolate – anything I wanted. Nothing was off-limits.
“I was having food delivered pretty much every night. Then everything shut and that was taken away from me.
“When things started opening up again, I realised I quite liked cooking for myself and knowing what was in my food.
“It completely changed my eating habits.”
Growing up, Samantha was always larger than her peers but when she was 19, her mum died and she piled on more and more weight.
Samantha said: “Even as a child, I remember being overweight. I went on a school trip when I was about seven and we did so much walking, I came back and my mum hardly recognised me.
“When I was 19, my mum passed away very suddenly and I became a guardian for my two sisters.
“Eating was just about convenience and as I slid deeper into depression, I ate what I wanted to make myself feel good because nothing else really did.
“No one could tell me what I should and shouldn’t eat because I was an adult, looking after two kids.”
She had tried to lose weight at different points in her life but had never managed to do it in a sustainable way.
She said: “In 2018, one of my best friends got married and I was asked to be a bridesmaid alongside girls who were a size 8. We ordered these dresses online and I got a size 28.
“It arrived and mine was too small to fasten so I took it to a seamstress but she looked at it and looked at me and told me there just wasn’t enough material.
“I searched for a bigger size but it was the biggest they went so I knew the only way I could go to the wedding was to lose weight.
“I went full throttle lost two and a half stone in six weeks and went to the wedding but I did it in a really unsustainable way and I couldn’t keep it up. After the wedding, I went straight back to how I was eating before.”
By early 2020, Samantha was eating takeaway most nights, rarely cooked for herself and snacked on chocolate throughout the day.
Working full-time for her local council as well as caring for her grandad, life was busy and she didn’t put time into thinking about what she would eat.
But when everything closed down due to lockdown, she started cooking at home, mainly eating chicken, fish and salad for the first time in her life.
She would look for alternative low-calorie recipes for her favourite flavour-filled foods, such as Nando’s and KFC.
Although not actively trying to lose weight at that point, lockdown was when her mindset started to change.
In May 2020, restrictions started to ease and Samantha’s old favourites like McDonald’s and KFC were serving up food for takeaway again.
But Samantha decided to take everything she had learned and focus more on losing weight.
At the time, she asked some friends about meal replacement shakes and used those for a while, which started her journey but over time, she realised she wanted to ditch the shakes.
She said: “I knew someone who sold the shakes and initially I did it more for the structure and nutritional advice but I did realise they weren’t the best thing long term so moved towards counting calories.
“It did give me some structure to start with that I felt I was missing.”
Initially, she wanted to just get control of her eating habits but by the autumn, she was able to incorporate exercise into her routine as well.
She took her grandad to a local park for some exercise, as they were bubbled together, and she realised how much she was struggling at first.
She said: “The lap is about half a mile and I think the first time I did it, I had to sit down about four times.
“I was doing it every day and trying to push myself a little bit with it each day until I was able to do multiple laps with ease.”
Now, 18 months on, Samantha has a nutritious protein shake for breakfast, a sandwich or omelette for lunch, a healthy colourful meal for dinner, which will include chicken, fish, veg, salad and sweet potato, and she snacks on fruit, hummus and protein bars.
She also works out four times a week and tries to get 10,000 steps in every day.
Although she has lost 9 stone 6lb, she hopes to lose more so she is able to get surgery to remove the loose skin.
She said: “I would like to get my BMI below 30 so it’s safe to have the surgery. I have loose skin all over because my skin was just so stretched and it will never go back.
“You do see the benefits in clothes but sometimes I do look in the mirror and think what was the point because of it so it does make me want to have the surgery when I can.”
Despite this, Samantha feels much more confident in her body and says she now has lots more energy.
She said: “I love buying something a little smaller that I don’t quite get into and then being able to wear it a few weeks later.
“That feeling is something money can’t buy. It’s not all about the scales.
“I’m exercising four to five times a week and don’t feel tired. Before I would want to nap all the time and I just didn’t have the energy for little things like cleaning.
“You don’t realise how bad things were until you’re not in it any more.
“I feel like I am the person I always should have been now.”
Now Samantha shares her journey on Instagram and TikTok to encourage others on their own journey.
She said: “If I were to give any advice to somebody that is starting a weight loss journey, it’s to not rush into things too soon
“I built this up over 18 months. If you hammer it right at the very beginning, it’s something that you’re not going to stick to it because you’re not going to enjoy it.”