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Mum who was so heavy she couldn’t walk sheds more than 15 stone in one year after taking up new hobby


A woman who was “close to death” after her weight spiralled to the point where she could hardly walk has lost more than 15 stone in a year after taking up wild swimming.

At her heaviest, Kathleen Wotton weighed 40 stone, and couldn’t get dressed or stand without help.

The 48-year-old mum-of-three and grandmother-of-two was reliant on two walking sticks to get around and just taking a few steps would cause her to fall over, with her mobility issues meaning she rarely left the house and missed out on family gatherings.

Read more:‘Morbidly obese’ woman’s astonishing transformation after losing almost 7st

However, Kathleen, from Merton, County Durham, has turned her life around after joining her sister Sarah’s outdoor swimming group, with the full-time carer losing 15 and a half stone in just 12 months.

Initially nervous to join the group, Kathleen cried as she walked into the water for the first time – but soon felt “incredible” as she began to swim.

She said: “Wild swimming has 100% saved my life. My family believe that too because they thought I’d be dead by now.

“Walking up to the water for the first time, I was in tears. I was crying because I was ashamed about the way I looked and felt. When I got in, it was like a huge fog had lifted off my head and I felt like my body moved again. It was surreal.”



After her weight spiralled to 40 stone, Kathleen struggled to walk or even stand unaided
After her weight spiralled to 40 stone, Kathleen struggled to walk or even stand unaided

Since Kathleen took up her new hobby, she has spent almost every day since in the water and the weight has continued to fall off her. Now, she wants to use her story to inspire others struggling with their weight and even has her sights set on swimming the English Channel.

“Water holds anyone, no matter your size or shape. It’s incredible,” she said. “I want to keep motivating other people and helping others through my journey”.

Kathleen’s weight climbed due to osteoarthritis and mobility issues, which made it difficult for her to exercise. At home, family members had to help her with even basic tasks like putting on her shoes – and she worried a gastric bypass would be her only option to lose the weight.

“Before the first lockdown, I was already struggling with my weight even though I was still trying to physically exercise,” she said. “The weight slowly crept on but no matter what I did, I wasn’t losing anything. I couldn’t do the exercise that I should have been doing to lose enough.

“I’ve got two sticks and it was really hard because I had severe back pain. I’m always in pain but the back pain happened a few years before. From that onset I could barely move.”



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When the first lockdown happened, Kathleen’s mobility declined as she had fewer reasons to go out and about.

“I couldn’t stand for long, not more than a couple of seconds with my sticks because the pain was so horrendous,” she said. “I was losing everything and if I hadn’t found wild swimming, I wouldn’t be here now. I wouldn’t be alive or I’d be close to dying.

“I’m 48 and I couldn’t even get up the stairs. All I did was go on about my weight and cry all the time. I was sleeping on the sofa which didn’t help my back and when I walked up the stairs, I’d fall up them.

“I just want to live. I want to lose weight. I don’t want to lose it to be slim, it’s not an image thing, because I believe every body’s beautiful.”



The grandmother-of-two said she wept when she first stepped into the water as she was ashamed of her body
The grandmother-of-two said she wept when she first stepped into the water as she was ashamed of her body



Kathleen has spent almost every day in the water since starting wild swimming - and says it has saved her life
Kathleen has spent almost every day in the water since starting wild swimming – and says it has saved her life

During her first session, Sarah helped Kathleen with stability and confidence to get her in the water, with the mum-of-three soon realising that swimming helped her to manage the severe joint pain she suffers from every day, as well as lose weight.

“I did it for the first time at Seaham Marina,” Kathleen recalled. “I fell over on the sand numerous times and struggled massively but once I was in the water, I thought ‘oh my goodness, I’m not in pain’,” Kathleen recalled.

“When my body was in the water, it felt incredible. There’s no other word.

“I’m always going to have trouble with my joints and pain – I have severe hypermobility, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and lipoedema. My body image still bothers me massively but it’s mine and no one else’s opinion matters but mine really.”

However, Kathleen’s confidence has skyrocketed since she took the plunge and uploaded a photo of herself in a bikini online.

“In the picture of the bikini, I’m bursting with happiness and confidence,” she said. “At first, I was nervous.

“On the first picture I posted, I thought I was only posting on a little group thinking ‘it’s only a few people. I’ll try and see if I get any nasty comments’.

“Then my phone went crazy and I realised I’d posted to 54,000 members at the time. The response was incredible.”



After losing over 15 stone, Kathleen is now healthier than ever
After losing over 15 stone, Kathleen is now healthier than ever

As well as wild swimming, Kathleen has received some help with nutrition and is now healthier than ever and able to keep up with the children in her family.

“I had some help from a kind lady who has given me some nutritional help,” she said. “I used food as an enemy. I didn’t really eat and when I did, I had to eat for necessity. I’d go for bread or something that was quick and easy.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect. If I’m having a bad time, I slip back into it and have to pull myself out.

“It wasn’t the amount I was eating because I wasn’t eating anywhere near enough nutrition to fuel me, that’s why I was worse with the tiredness. If you don’t eat, your body stores it as fat.

“I’ve got two grandchildren and three children. I want to enjoy spending quality time with them which I wasn’t. I still can’t do everything with them but I can do more and more.”

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