THIS time last year, Alex Athienitou was a size 22 and weighed 17st.
The 33-year-old mum of two only wore baggy black clothes and did not have the confidence to follow trends how she wanted to.
Despite dropping to a size eight after gastric sleeve surgery late in 2020, she still could not find her style mojo.
Enter Fabulous Fashion Director Tracey Lea Sayer.
Alex, an Executive PA at a construction firm, is the first woman to take part in our new Challenge The Stylist series, which sees Tracey use her expertise to support readers.
Alex, who lives with husband Michael, 33, a surveyor, and their sons Byron, five, and Eden, one, in Leytonstone, East London, said: “Even though I was a lot more confident and happier in myself after the weight loss, I still had an issue with finding what was right for me fashion-wise.
“I didn’t know how to dress myself. I had been a certain size for most of my life, then to suddenly change is a big thing to deal with.
“I was 100 per cent lost. I had this new body and I didn’t know what to do with it.
“I didn’t have the confidence to try a crop top. That was not an option for me. I still liked to stick to baggy clothes because that’s what I was used to.”
Alex, who had been dieting for 13 years, added: “Food was emotional for me.
“I would eat everything from McDonald’s to KFC, or Greggs. I would have takeaways maybe three to four times a week.
“I ate when I was sad, I ate when I was angry, I ate when I was stressed out.
I would try all the diets: Atkins, Weight Watchers, juice diets, cleanses.
My problem was willpower.
Then in summer last year, I was so hot and uncomfortable. I couldn’t live like that any more.
“I had quite bad post-natal depression. You become someone’s mum or someone’s wife and not yourself.”
During the gastric sleeve operation, doctors removed 85 per cent of Alex’s stomach, meaning she could eat only tiny portions.
She also started an exercise regime called The Six-Pack Revolution and said: “I began feeling a sense of happiness and clarity like never before.
“The weight dropping off me felt amazing.” But Alex was still haunted by self-doubt when it came to fashion.
“I had a black T-shirt that I would constantly dress up or dress down,” she said.
“I would wear it for my birthday or on the school run. It was just my go-to. I have always had stacks of fashion magazines but I would never have been able to relate what I saw to my size.
“When you are big, you are limited as to where to shop. I found it hard to get out of that mindset. But I knew I didn’t want to limit myself any more.
“I remember my mum used to buy clothes at the end of the season in the sale and then it would be vacuum-packed and put into the loft for the next year.
I lost 7st but didn’t know how to dress my new body
“I could never do that because I had no idea what size I was going to be next week, let alone next year.
“What I really wanted Tracey to help me do is find a capsule wardrobe — something I knew suited me perfectly that I could wear year after year, knowing I would stay the same size.”
After her makeover, Alex said: “Since the shoot I have learnt to not be afraid of wearing colour.
“It has also opened my eyes to brands like Nasty Girl and Warehouse, which I never would have dreamed of heading to.
“Most shops stop at a size 18, so you end up having no idea what’s out there any more. I also went out and bought a crop top for the first time in decades.
“The makeover was emotional. My husband was blown away that his wife was there in front of studio lights getting made up.
“I wanted to be able to show off my body again and this has definitely helped me. Though I still have rolls, I’d like to think anything would look good now.”
- Head to @fabulousmag on Insta to watch Alex’s makeover video
- Work: Jumper, £49, Warehouse, Trousers, £69, Warehouse, Shoes, £159, Karen Millen, Bag, £60, Dune London
- Lunch: Jumpsuit, £39.99, Reserved, Shoes, £28, Pretty Little Thing, Bag, £36, River Island
- Party: Pink dress, £59, Nasty Gal, Shoes, £28, Pretty Little Thing, Bag, £26, Next