A bride-to-be has transformed her body with a £7.99 hypnosis app – and looks so different she must now replace her original size 18 wedding dress with one that is three sizes smaller.
Gemma Dunn’s weight has fluctuated over the years as she juggled her busy job as a specialist autism teacher with raising her children Loki, 18, and Keme, 12.
Gemma was a size 12 when she met her now-fiancé Keith Wilson seven years ago – but, settling into the happy relationship, the 44-year-old’s weight crept up as the pair enjoyed takeaways and meals out together.
At her 13st 8lb and size 18 heaviest, Gemma, of Leatherhead, Surrey, would get such bad heartburn that she would take up to eight Rennie indigestion tablets a day.
She said: “I’d eat the same portion sizes as Keith, not really thinking about the fact that he’s a strapping six-foot-something man, and I’m a 5ft 1in woman.
“It got to the point where I was struggling to bend down to tie my shoes up – my belly would get in the way.”
Then, when Gemma and Keith’s June 2020 wedding was postponed until June 2021 due to the pandemic, she decided to get into shape.
A week before she would have been walking down the aisle, she downloaded a £7.99 app called 12 Weeks to Wow ‘Virtual Gastric Band Hypnosis – Lose Weight Fast!’.
In four months, she lost three stone – and is now shopping for a new size 12 gown to replace her old size 18 one.
“I had the size 18 dress hanging in my wardrobe that I didn’t feel my best in,” she said. “I’d been worrying about the photos and how I’d feel when I looked back on them. But now, I know the day will be carefree, and I’ll feel comfortable.
“There will be no worrying about how to stand or pose so that I look slimmer – people can take as many photos as they like!”
Throughout most of her adult life, Gemma has yo-yo’d between being a healthy gym-goer, and falling completely off the wagon.
She added: “I’m a teacher and have been a single mum, too. I had a long list of people I needed to look after, and I was right at the bottom.
“I found it hard to find a balance. I was either healthy, or I wasn’t at all. There was no in between.”
When she met Keith seven years ago, though Gemma was a healthy weight, she had still not managed to shake her ‘all or nothing’ mindset when it came to food. In the years that followed, her waistline steadily expanded.
“It was the classic thing of settling into a happy relationship and enjoying lots of meals out and takeaways together,” she said.
“I did sometimes go to the gym to try and exercise away the weight, but the trouble was, I wasn’t fuelling my body properly.
“I was eating all the wrong things, and not moving anywhere near enough to work it off.”
Then, when the first national lockdown was imposed in March 2020, Gemma turned to treats and junk food.
And she is not alone, with a study by King’s College London and Ipsos MORI finding that 48 per cent of respondents reported putting on weight during lockdown.
Gemma said: “Because I wasn’t going anywhere else, I was treating myself to takeaways or a glass of wine in the evenings.”
Eventually, in mid-2020, Gemma hit her heaviest weight of 13st 8lb. Standing at just 5ft 1in, that put her body mass index at 35.8, compared to the recommended range by the NHS of 18.5 to 24.9, meaning she was classed as obese.
“I was wearing a size 18, but even that was a struggle to get into my clothes sometimes,” she said. “I was in a bit of denial. To me, being a size 20 seemed really scary.
“Similarly, I was 193.5lbs at my heaviest – and I knew the next step was 200lb. It seemed like a really big number.”
While planning her wedding, she had bought a size 18 dress – and though she was excited for her special day, the gown did not make her feel as confident as she had hoped.
She continued: “I’m not the sort of person who has been planning her wedding her whole life. I didn’t want to go shopping and have an entire Say Yes to the Dress experience, so I bought my gown from eBay.
“It just never seemed to look right. I didn’t want to look back and feel bad about myself on what should be a relaxed, happy day.”
So when the coronavirus outbreak meant Gemma and Keith’s June 2020 nuptials were postponed for a year, she made a vow to slim down.
Scrolling through the App store on her phone, she found a virtual hypnosis app by 12 Weeks to Wow, paying £7.99 to download it then and there.
She said: “I listened to the app as I fell asleep, and I can’t describe it, but by the next morning, I felt completely different. I was suddenly much more mindful of what I was eating. I used to drink three to four Diet Cokes a day, but it didn’t even occur to me to have one. I was having water instead.”
“It was only when I went into the utility room and saw the multipack of cans that I realised I hadn’t had the craving at all,” she added.
With a month, Gemma had lost 17lbs. She continued: “The app teaches you to only eat when you’re actually hungry and to eat what you want, not what you can.
“I learned to stop eating when I was no longer hungry, rather than pushing myself until I was uncomfortably full.”
Between lockdowns, Gemma and Keith were able to enjoy a holiday to France in August.
In the lead up, she worried she would be tempted by French cheeses and wines, fall off the wagon and find herself back in her old pattern of abandoning her healthy regime altogether.
But after reaching out for advice in a support group, she was able to stay on track.
She said: “I wanted to be able to enjoy myself without feeling restricted, but I also didn’t want to undo all my work.
“Someone in the support group put it perfectly. She told me I could make the choice to fall off the wagon, but that I could also make the choice to get back on.
“Having a wobble didn’t need to mean abandoning my regime altogether. I felt really encouraged by that. I had a couple of treats on holiday, but got back on track.”
After four months, Gemma hit her target weight of 10st 7lb, which she has maintained ever since.
She has even had to get rid of around six binbags of clothing because they are now too big.
“I found all my old clothes from when I was a size 12 before and they fit me – it was like getting a whole new wardrobe,” she said.
Now, she still listens to the app most days, and does not believe she will ever fall back into her old habits.
Ditching snacks and nightly glasses of wine, she now starts her day with muesli and yoghurt, before enjoying a salad for lunch and a home-cooked dinner served up on a small plate, to better control her portion sizes.
Restrictions permitting, she hopes to finally tie the knot in June this year – marrying Keith in a size 12 gown.
She concluded: “Before starting on this journey, I’d recorded some videos for work to help with remote teaching.
“Now when I look back on them, I can’t believe it’s me. I look and feel like a different person.
“I no longer get heartburn, and I have so much more energy. I ran 5km the other day without even thinking about it. I’d never have thought of myself as a runner. I’m happy, confident and the size I’m meant to be.”