Kathleen Wooton, 48, whose weight spiralled to 40st to the point where she couldn’t walk, tried wild swimming for the first time and felt “incredible” – and she hasn’t stopped since
When Kathleen Wotton was at her heaviest, she couldn’t dress herself or stand without help.
At 40st, the 48-year-old gran was reliant on two walking sticks to get around and just taking a few steps would cause her to fall over. She rarely left the house due to her mobility issues.
She feared she was “close to death” as she missed out on family gatherings and struggled to even put on her shoes.
But thanks to the determination of her sister Sarah, Kathleen has turned her life around thanks to a new hobby – outdoor swimming – and has shed 16st in just 12 months.
Sarah begged her sister to join her outdoor swimming group in Seaham, Co. Durham, and even though she was nervous, Kathleen agreed.
But as she walked into the water for the first time, she wept at the condition she’d let her body fall into.
However, as soon as she was submerged, Kathleen says something changed and, suddenly, she felt “incredible.”
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From then on, the mum-of-three was hooked on her new favourite hobby, and spent almost every day in the water since.
The full-time carer 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.”
Since Kathleen took up her new hobby, the weight has fallen off her. Her total weight loss since August 2020 is 15 and a half stone.
She wants to use her story to inspire others struggling with their weight.
Now, Kathleen has her sights set on swimming the English Channel, as well as taking a deep in icy cold waters of Antarctica.
“Water holds anyone, no matter your size or shape. It’s incredible. I want to keep motivating other people and helping others through my journey,” she said.
Kathleen’s weight crept up 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.
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She said: “Before the first lockdown, I was already struggling with my weight even though I was still trying to physically exercise.
“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.”
When lockdown first 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, adding she was “losing everything.”
She said: “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.”
Kathleen is incredibly proud of her weight loss, although she still manages a lot of pain.
“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,” she said.
Kennedy News and Media)
Kennedy News and Media)
When she first started swimming, Kathleen felt jealous at her sister Sarah’s photos of frolicking in the sea. But when she called Sarah in tears wishing she could join in, Sarah replied: “You can.”
During her first session, Sarah helped Kathleen with stability and confidence to get her in the water.
“I did it for the first time at Seaham Marina. 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.”
She said as well as helping her lose weight, swimming helps her manage the severe joint pain she suffers from every day.
“I’m always going to have trouble with my joints and pain. I have severe hypermobility, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, lipoedema,” she said.
“My body image still bothers me massively but it’s mine and no one else’s opinion matters but mine really.”
But her 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. 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.”
As well as swimming, Kathleen has had some help with nutrition and is healthier than ever.
“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,” she said.
“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.
“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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