By Scott Thompson

THIS WOMAN was branded a FAT CHEERLEADER after she couldn’t fit into any of the uniforms at high school – but she has since cheered herself on to lose EIGHT STONE.

Bank manager and fitness-trainer-to-be, Elizabeth Sanders (26) from Rogersville, Missouri, USA, had struggled with her weight ever since she was in high school where she was a cheerleader but weighed 14st and wore a UK dress size 17. After being told she needed to lose weight she reduced how much she ate and when the pounds wouldn’t shift from the scales she turned to bulimia.

Although she managed to bring her weight down to 12st 2lb and a dress size 14, when she looked in the mirror she could only see a fat cheerleader looking back at her as she constantly recalled people telling her she was too big. Feeling defeated, Elizabeth would binge on McDonalds, chicken sandwiches, fries, crisps, cookies, chocolates, candy, large bowls of spaghetti with three garlic breads, a large bowl of ice cream and large sodas until she ballooned to 15st 5lb and dress size 20.

Elizabeth has lost eight stone in total. MDWfeatures / Elizabeth Sanders

In 2013, Elizabeth was back to being bulimic and would throw up whatever she ate at work. She brought a toothbrush with her to freshen her breathe to ward away any suspecting eyes. To her surprise, in August 2013 she found out she was pregnant, so she stopped purging and put on 4st 4lb and weighed 16st 6lb.

In March 2014, her first son John (6) was born and desperate to ‘get skinny’ she jumped on the band wagon of trying fad diet after diet and her weight was up and down.

Elizabeth started dating her husband Dylan (28) in 2016 and in 2017 she found out they were expecting. She used her pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever she wanted.

Elizabeth says that during your weight loss journey you have to really love yourself to get through it. MDWfeatures / Elizabeth Sanders

At 19st 6lb and UK dress size 22, when she went into labour, Elizabeth was overwhelmed with thoughts of her weight killing her and not being there to watch her children grow up and she knew she had to make changes in her life before it was too late.

One of her biggest supporters is her mother Clare Sanders (42). Elizabeth called her mother and told her she needed help and wanted to change. Her mother was blunt with her and told her to ‘buckle down’. And so, she joined the gym for the first time in 2018. Then in January 2019, Elizabeth set herself some new year goals to become the mother her children deserved and by September 2019 she brought her weight right down to 12st 3lb and now wears a UK dress size 10.

“In high school I tried out for the cheerleading squad and was so happy to be accepted. I spent the whole summer learning the cheers and chants and had so much passion for it. I just loved it so much – until I had to try on the uniform. None of them fit me and I was told ‘you need to lose some weight, food might look good, but you don’t need to eat that much. Remember when you order a burger to just eat half of it’,” Elizabeth said.

Her husband has always been very supportive of her at any weight. MDWfeatures / Elizabeth Sanders

“This killed me. I realised that I didn’t fit the part and stopped eating as much but the weight wasn’t coming off. Desperate to make the team I turned to bulimia. I just ate a little bit and threw it up. This was hard in school because there were always people in the bathrooms. I used to do it in the locker rooms instead. It did bring my weight down to about 12st 2lb.

“But, those opinions of the other girls telling me I was fat never changed. I heard it so many times that when I looked in the mirror – I just saw a fat cheerleader. I thought ‘what’s the point? Why am I starving myself? I’m still fat anyway’. So, I started binging instead and the pounds piled on until I was 15st 5lb.

“Fast forward to August 2013 as an adult in work I was bulimic again and I was puking up everything I ate. I remember being at work, turning on the tap in the bathrooms, pushing a pen to the back of my throat, throwing up and brushing my teeth to hide it from my colleagues. I told everyone ‘I’m on a low carb diet, try it’. Nope, I was actually starving myself and lost 3st 3lb until I weighed 11st 11lb. That month I found out I was pregnant which was a surprise considering my eating disorder. I stopped throwing up and started eating too much again.

Before and after shots of Elizabeth’s front and back. MDWfeatures / Elizabeth Sanders

“After Big was born I jumped on every fad diet there was. I took diet pills and tried detoxes but my heart wasn’t in it. For years my weight went down a bit but went right back up again. I just kept thinking ‘I want to be skinny’.

“My husband and I started dating in 2016. He’s always loved my body at any weight and never tried to change me. In 2017 we found out we were expecting another little boy Hudson (2). During this pregnancy I put on loads of weight and on delivery day I weighed 19st 6lb. That number stole so much joy from that day. I remember thinking ‘I’m going to die. I am not going to get to watch my boys grow up if I don’t change now’.

“Straight away I still wasn’t making the best choices. Feeling helpless I called my mum to help me as she’s such a good role model and lost 7st 2lb herself. On the phone she said ‘sis, you need to buckle down. If you want this, you need to be serious because this journey is hard. But I know you can do it’.

Elizabeth was left with excess skin from her weight loss but says it’s toning up over time with regular exercises at the gym. MDWfeatures / Elizabeth Sanders

“So, in August 2018 I signed up for the gym and come January 2019 I made some new year’s resolutions. My biggest breakthrough was changing my mindset from ‘want to be skinny’ to ‘I’m going to be the mother my boys deserve’. That small change in mindset helped me to bring my weight right down to 11st 3lb.”

Elizabeth successfully shifted the pounds through simple changes in her life. She didn’t cut out some foods she loved as she says this made her crave them more. Instead she switched those foods with healthier versions.

Although she didn’t enjoy working out at first – she pushed through it and now loves physical exercise and is training to be a fitness instructor.

People can’t believe how different Elizabeth looks now. MDWfeatures / Elizabeth Sanders

On a typical day she now has overnight oats for breakfast, grilled chicken Caesar salad for lunch and grilled chicken, brown rice and roasted sprouts for dinner. If she must snack she has an apple with almond butter or strawberries, dark chocolate or nuts.

Her peers are completely amazed by her weight loss transformation and she loves being able to motivate and inspire other woman to make the changes she has.

“I had to switch from an unhealthy life of overeating and being stagnant. I had to start living a healthy and active life,” Elizabeth continued.

Elizabeth was worried she would die and not get to see her children grow up if she continued eating so much. MDWfeatures / Elizabeth Sanders

“I started small. The trick for me was healthy substitutions. I gradually slowed my sugar intake and when I got cravings I’d go for a healthier switch. So, for example I’d have brown rice, sweet potatoes and dark chocolate. The other important thing I did was limit how much of those I ate, being mindful to reduce my portion sizes.

“Before this journey I hated physical activity. I never thought I’d ever be one of those people who loved the gym, let alone train to be a fitness instructor. But now here I am, working out consistently, and loving every single minute of it. The stronger I get, the more definition I develop and the more personal records I break, which motivates me even more.

“When people see me now they are blown away. People say ‘you aren’t even recognisable’ and ‘you look great’ I get so many compliments when I go back home to a family who remember the girl I once was. I have motivated many women to better themselves and live a fit and healthy life.

When Elizabeth was accepted onto the cheerleading team at school she was told she was too fat and to lose weight. MDWfeatures / Elizabeth Sanders

“If you want to bring down your weight don’t focus on the big numbers. Set yourself small goals that are easy to break, then set a higher goal.

“Take your measurements, don’t just step on the scale because it doesn’t tell the whole story and it can really affect how we feel about ourselves and our body image. If you have other measurements, they can reassure you that things are happening.

“But, one of the most important things I have learned throughout this journey it that we must love ourselves through it all. True self love is not vanity or egotism. True self-love is delicate and humble and I believe if you don’t possess this you will struggle doing what is best for you.

Elizabeth shows how excess skin has affected her stomach. MDWfeatures / Elizabeth Sanders

“When you truly love yourself, you want to take care of yourself. You want to eat right and exercise, you want to get more rested, you respect yourself and expect others to do the same.”

You can follow Elizabeth’s story through Instagram.