Student sheds seven stone to clinch award

A STUDENT, who was bullied at school because of her size and was once told to join a “fat club” by a classmate, was crowned young slimmer of the year yesterday.

Leanne Needham, 21, from Sheffield, lost more than seven stone and went from a size 22 to size 10 in the space of two years.

Ms Needham, who graduated with a first class degree in psychology from Sheffield Hallam University and is now hoping to become a teacher, went from 17st 10lbs when she started Slimming World classes in June 2007 to her current weight of 10st 7lbs.

“By the age of 17 I weighed more than my age – and more than my dad,” she said. “I’d been bullied since the age of 10 because of my size.”

“I couldn’t fit comfortably into the seats at uni so I began to skip lectures and my grades began to suffer. When my doctor said that losing weight could help me overcome these problems I knew I had to make a change.”

She lost the weight through exercise and eating a diet of predominantly fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice, potatoes, Quorn, pulses and eggs.

In December, she completed a 35km charity swim at a pool over a four-week period.

“When you are overweight and your confidence is low, you are easily knocked,” she said. “At the same time, people can be quite insensitive. Once, when getting into the inflatable ring to ride the slide at a water park, the lifeguard told me to go behind my boyfriend as the heaviest had to go at the back. I was so humiliated I wanted to be sick. I ran off crying and refused to go on any other rides.

“Now, though, I’m really outgoing and love socialising. My friendships have improved, people say I’m like a new person.”

Ms Needham was unveiled as Slimming World’s Young Slimmer of the Year 2009 at The Ritz hotel in London. Her mother, Eileen, 45, said: “It was when the doctor told her that she was morbidly obese that she realised that she had to change her life.”

The determined slimmer was supported by her father Ian, 47, a builder, her sister Rachael, 20, and boyfriend of five years Scott Staples, 21.

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