JUST 12 months ago, 16-year-old Meisha Smith was a different person.
She had low self-esteem, hated clothes shopping, and seldom went out with her friends. As a teenage girl, she was missing out on the best years of her life.
But she’s since caught up - quickly.
And the low self-esteem is far behind her, thanks to shedding two stone in weight in a matter of months.
At the start of last year, Meisha weighed 21 stone. Now, after joining the successful Shine Health Academy to help combat weight problems, Meisha weighs 19 stone and is on target to drop a further three stone this year.
“It was my dance teacher that started it all off - she knew the problems I was having and suggested I went to Shine,” she told The Star.
“They were so good - I didn’t know anyone there but everyone got to know each other and we all got on really well.”
Not only did Shine help Meisha, from Firth Park, lose weight, it also boosted her confidence.
“I’m more outgoing now, I’m doing much better at school and I am involved in loads of extra-curricular stuff - especially dancing,” she said.
“Before I joined I was really insular, it was as if I was closed in.
“I didn’t really talk to people unless I knew them really well.”
Meisha has had weight problems since primary school.
“My eating habits were bad.
“I was eating loads and loads of all the wrong stuff.”
She now eats less than half of what she used to, yet because of the weight loss Meisha - who attends Firth Park School - says she feels more energetic.
“I’ve joined two after-school clubs and am choreographing a dance as part of another project. I’m always doing stuff.”
She’s converted the experience of feeling ostracised to feeling confident.
“There are hardly any really fat people at my school and I’m only on the moderate side so it made me feel isolated and insular because it felt I could only talk to people I knew about it.
“Now I feel I can talk to everyone.”
And, as a teenage girl, one of the things that makes Meisha most excited about her weight loss is the prospect of clothes shopping.
“There are a lot more styles available to me now. Since I’ve lost that bit of weight I can have a bit more fun with fashion.”
Meisha’s doesn’t need to explain that she has a new-found enthusiasm for life - it emanates from her like a bright glow.
And she’s harnessing her positive attitude to become fitter and slimmer still. “I know I am going to lose more weight and want other people to know that it can be done.”
Meisha has plenty of tips for the rest of us. “I always say to people wanting to lose weight to stick to it, even when it gets to the really hard part when you feel you’re about to cave in.
“It helps to stick a picture of your old self on the fridge and, every time you are about to reach for an unhealthy snack, remind yourself that eating that snack will mean you return to your bigger size.”
Meisha believes her weight shot up after the death of her grandad, to whom she was very close.
“After my grandad passed away three years ago I became really cut off from people and started eating more. I was really close to him and after a while it struck me that he would have wanted me to have a better life than the one I was having.
“That alone prompted me to start losing weight.”
And after losing two stone, Meisha’s now keen to drop down to 16 stone.
But Meisha’s not alone in her quest to lose weight. As the New Year begins, thousands of people across South Yorkshire will be making resolutions to lose weight and get fitter.
But for some, losing weight is more than a statement of intent.
It has to be - obesity can lead to a range of life-threatening health conditions including type two diabetes, heart disease and infertility in women.
Yet in spite of the critical consequences of being overweight, one in four Britons is obese, making the nation one of the most overweight in the world.
One in three children is overweight by the time they leave primary school and, more alarmingly, four in seven obese people believe they are ‘healthy’.
Meisha believes the near-epidemic level obesity crisis in Britain is a result of the proliferation of takeaways and junk food outlets.
“There are a lot more takeaways than there used to be and more and more junk food available in the supermarket,” she said.
“People’s diets are becoming more and more unhealthy and they are less active.
“I’ve seen people jump in their car to go to a shop that’s a two-minute walk away from their house. It makes a big difference if you do things every day like walk home from school.”
Obesity - the facts
Obesity is when Body Mass Index, or weight to height ratio is above 30.
A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. A BMI below 24.9 is classed as underweight.
An estimated 60.8 per cent of adults in the UK are overweight.
Almost a quarter - 22 per cent - are men and 24 per cent are women.
Obesity can lead to type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Excess fat and weight can lead to osteoarthritis and sleep apnoea