A 15-stone footballer was who left mortified by a snap of herself on the pitch has overhauled her lifestyle – ditching over five stone in the process.
Despite having previously not struggled at all with her weight, healthy eating went out the window for Aimee Hopkinson, 25, after she welcomed her son Noah into the world in 2015.
Busy as a first-time mum, she survived on quick-fix junk food and takeaways, which she would have virtually nightly.
Eventually hitting 15 stone and struggling to fit into her size 16 football kit, the former Northwich Vixens defender tried to convince herself she simply had leftover baby weight.
But then, when she was tagged in an unflattering photo of herself on the pitch, she said it shocked her into action – and she has now beaten the bulge once and for all.
Revealing that she has shed five stone to become a 9st 7lb size six, Aimee, of Stockport, Greater Manchester, said: “The photo popped up on Facebook, and I’ve never been so mortified. It was without doubt the worst moment of my life.”
She continued: “Up until that point, my head hadn’t been in the game, but that all changed there and then.
“I turned my life around, and now, I’ve gone from being one of the worst players on the pitch to one of the best.”
Playing football for as long as she can remember, Aimee did not start struggling with her weight until 2014, after she married her childhood sweetheart James, 26, who is in the armed forces.
During the ceremony in Heaton Chapel, Greater Manchester, she wore a size 12 wedding dress.
But settling into married life, she said she soon picked up some “bad habits”.
Hotel manager Aimee explained: “Sitting in front of the telly on the sofa, spending time together as a couple, picking on food and eating junk – it easily happens.”
Around the same time, the newlywed started a new job working the breakfast shift as a duty manager for a local hotel, which proved detrimental to her waistline.
Eating between 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day, Aimee would kick start her day with a bowl full of sugary cereal at home followed by a full English from the work breakfast buffet, and would then have a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch, followed by a “meal out of a jar” for dinner, such as spaghetti Bolognese.
Then, when she fell pregnant with Noah at the end of 2014, she convinced herself she should eat for two.
“I saw it as the perfect opportunity to carry on eating what I wanted,” she said, adding that, in just six months, she went from a size 12 to a size 16.
After welcoming baby Noah on August 25, 2015, Aimee’s diet went from bad to worse.
She continued: “With the stress of the newborn, we found ourselves eating more takeaway than ever, sometimes up to four times a week.”
“We’d rotate all our favourite places, kebab one night, McDonald’s the next – whatever took our fancy,” she added.
“Unlike me, James didn’t put on any weight, but I was still eating the same amount as him – if not more.
“I think that’s because of his line of work. He’s always been very active.”
Following six months’ maternity leave, Aimee returned to work – and the football pitch – in early 2016, the latter of which the new mum found particularly difficult to adjust to.
While her teammates were supportive, she sadly found herself the target of cruel comments by others.
“During my first match back, I was called fat to my face,” she said. “It was soul destroying. I’d rather be kicked to pieces on the field by the opposition than have someone comment on my weight.”
She added: “But looking back, I don’t know how I even played. I was too big to fight off the competition.”
Around the same time, Aimee hit her heaviest weight of 15st.
Standing at 5ft 5in, that put her body mass index (BMI) – used as a gauge of healthy weight – of 35, compared to the NHS recommended level of between 18.5 and 25.
Squeezing into a size 16 football kit, she said she kept telling herself it was just baby weight from having Noah.
Then, in March of that same year, everything changed when she opened Facebook to find she had been tagged in a “mortifying” picture.
“I was with my dad, Frank Astbury, 65, and I showed him the photo,” she recalled.”
She continued: “He’s a straight talker and told me that he’d noticed my weight gain over the past few months.
“It was more of a reality check than anything else, I knew he was just being honest.”
Shocked by the sight of herself, Aimee signed up to fitness gym The Lean Body Project, Stockport, the following month.
There, with the help of a personal trainer, she overhauled her exercise regime, beginning to train in weights and cardio three times a week.
In just four months, she dropped three stone, slimming down to an impressive 12 stone.
But at that point, she had not yet done anything about her diet, and was still eating a daily fry up and snacking on sweet treats.
Soon, she hit a wall, and realised she would need to overhaul her eating habits too if she was to change her ways for good.
“I was the fittest I’d been in ages, and I could really feel the difference – but it was clear I wasn’t going to improve any more unless I did something about my diet too,” she added.
With the help of a new trainer, Aimee adopted a strict new meal plan in January 2017, and upped her work outs to four times a week.
Having swapped fry ups and takeaways for high-protein, low-carb meals, a typical day for Aimee now begins with chicken sausages and two eggs followed by chicken rice and veggies for lunch, steak and sweet potato for dinner and rice cakes with peanut butter for snacks.
The shake up to her diet worked and by November 2017, she was down to a svelte 9st 7lb, size six.
Then, in mid-2018, she discovered she was pregnant once again – but this time, was determined not to let her weight gain spiral.
Within a month of giving birth to baby Tilly in January this year, she was back in the gym and out on the field playing football for her new team, the Altrincham Ladies FC.
“I always wanted to lead by example with my children and to be an active mum – little did I know how close I was to being the complete opposite,” she said “Luckily, with the help of the Lean Body Project, I’ve seen a shift in my mindset and didn’t fall for the same traps as with my last pregnancy.
“If it wasn’t for them, or that terrible photo, who knows where I would have ended up.”