A young Leeds woman who used to hide in the toilets to escape school PE lessons has lost seven stone and become a personal trainer.
Jess Emmett, 21, has had crippling weight and body image issues since childhood.
“I remember having confidence issues from the age of five, I'd purposely ask for long tops to hide myself. The overweight side has always been there, but it got worse as I became more independent," said Jess, a part-time retail worker and student.
“I’d pretend to be poorly so I didn't have to do PE; I’d sit in the toilets and break down crying at the thought of having to go in a room with the athletic girls and the possibility of being laughed at, although this never actually happened. Obesity damaged me on a level I can't explain, but I'd avoid the classes where I thought the most attention would be drawn to myself."
Being overweight hugely affected Jess’s personal life and relationships, and she struggled to attend social events, including her own 18th birthday party.
“My weight certainly held me back - I'd cancel plans with friends, trips away, everything you can imagine, just because I was uncomfortable with the way I looked. I've missed hundreds of opportunities just because of my weight.
“I have photos from my 18th birthday; they are the ones that keep me motivated. Your 18th is supposed to be happy, a party, celebration…mine was me worrying for the entire week before about the best thing I could wear to cover myself up. Worrying about where I'd sit at the table, wanting to sit in the corner to try and hide myself some more.”
Since joining her local gym in Whinmoor last year, Jess has now lost 40kg.
“Leeds Xercise4Less North is the only reason I am where I am today, it's incredibly close to my house, which gives me absolutely no excuse to not do a workout almost every day.”
Jess now wants to lost a further three stone and study to become a personal trainer.
“Before I start my Masters degree, I want to volunteer at childhood obesity classes, do a PT qualification and start helping people who want to start the same journey I'm doing.
“The only advice I could give is to be patient, learn to love yourself from the inside out, test your limits, and to focus on your achievements more than your appearance.
“This journey is completely life changing, and to anyone needing any kind of motivation to either start or carry on, do it and don't give up.”