SNACKING as a student sent Melissa Richardson’s weight soaring to more than 19 stones.
Burying herself in her books for long evenings, she just couldn’t resist another bit of chocolate or a bag of crisps – and she would always have a fizzy drink too.
I deleted my graduation photos from Facebook because I didn’t want people to see themMelissa Richardson
But when she looked back at her graduation photos after leaving Queen Margaret University with a degree in business management, she felt embarrassed at her size and decided something had to be done.
Her resolve was boosted when a stranger at the gym called her “fat” and said she looked like a whale.
Now after stepping up her exercise and changing her diet she has lost seven stone and dropped five dress sizes.
Melissa, 23, from Stockbridge, has slimmed to 12 stone 12lbs and gone from a size 22 to a size 12.
She said: “I decided to change my lifestyle after looking at my graduation pictures a couple of months afterwards.
“I deleted them from Facebook because I didn’t want people to see them because of the way I looked and I was totally embarrassed.
“I used to love swimming but when I put the weight on I was embarrassed to go and strip off to a costume in front of people as I couldn’t handle what they thought.
“For the first time in a year I was able to go swimming last weekend and didn’t feel worried or conscious about the way I looked.
“I think initially the graduation photos worked wonders to motivate me but then one day whilst at the gym someone called me fat, saying that people like myself shouldn’t be in the gym and that I looked like a whale which really hurt.”
Motivated by the comments, Melissa, who works at a property management company in the Capital, decided to stop eating what she liked when she liked and start going to the gym on a more regular basis.
She admitted: “I was never the skinniest girl, but it was when I was at university and working at the same time that I really put on weight.
“I was doing a lot of studying in the evenings and just snacking on stuff.”
At her heaviest when she was 21, Melissa weighed 19-and-a-half stone. But she has spent the last year sticking to regular gym sessions and following the LDN Muscle Bikini Guide, a downloadable series of exercise plans and healthy recipes.
She said: “I was always under the impression that if you exercised you lost weight, but then I found nutrition is the most important part of the whole process.”
She admitted it had been hard at times. “I have a sweet tooth and snacking between meals has been the biggest issue for me.
“If I’m having a snack now, I can’t just grab a bar of chocolate and if I’ve had a long day at work I can’t just decide to get a takeaway instead of cooking.”
Melissa has recently found out that she has an allergy to dairy products and gluten so has had to adapt her diet to reflect these changes.
She said she was pleased to have lost so much weight. But she added: “I want to lose more and then do some bodybuilding.”