A body-positive campaigner who loves the way she looks for ‘the first time in her life’ has been told she needs to lose weight to have children.
Samantha Halsall is desperate to have a baby with her husband and has struggled with her confidence over her plus size for years.
She has overcome a series of traumas in her life which led to her poor body confidence including childhood bullying and an eating disorder.
The 32-year-old said: “I was bullied at school. My dad was an alcoholic, my mum had depression. I suffered from an eating disorder. That stems from trauma within my family dynamic when I was growing up.
“I was bullied in school because I put weight on because food became my comfort. It was something I would turn to when I was really sad, it became a comfort blanket for me. I would punish myself for eating, I would make myself sick.”
Samantha, from Crossens in Southport, has spent the last 12 months working on her mental health and even flew out to Antigua before Christmas to film a new TV show for the Discovery+ channel – The Big Body Hotel – where she finally learned to love herself.
The eight-part series chronicles plus-sized tourists on their Caribbean holiday in the beautiful twin-island paradise of Antigua and Barbuda. The Discovery+ show sees guests check into the hotel designed with larger guests in mind and learn to embrace their bodies in a place where size is no obstacle to enjoying a care-free holiday.
Samantha said: “For the first time in my life I am happy with my body and how I look having dealt with my medical issues. When you have an eating disorder you hate yourself, it can be the most harrowing thing.
“When I was 21, I was in an abusive relationship and I lost seven stone in three months. Because of my bulimia, and through anxiety, I would inhale enough food to make myself sick.
“It took over my life – I couldn’t go to a shop or a restaurant because I was thinking I would need to find somewhere to throw up. It was hard because I would lose weight but then I would binge eat.”
The Big Body Hotel was a chance for Samantha to take herself away from everyday life and into a new environment where she could work with experts to gain confidence and change the way she thought.
She added: “The show was all about body positivity and embracing who you are no matter what shape you are. It is everything in a one-stop feel-good body-positive show that will leave you full of emotion. It felt like heaven on earth, there was no judgement.
“You go through the highest highs and the lowest lows when you are there. In this day and age, plus-sized people make up over 40% of the population of the world and to me even though I live through being a plus-sized female, and I have done all of my life, the mind boggles that people can still be so cruel over things that may be outside someone’s control because society has deemed a ‘normal’ person to be a size 10 size 12.”
Samantha said that being on the show was ‘a revelation’.
She said: “For the first time I could look in the mirror and love myself. It was like a revelation to wake up happy every day. I’m so more positive and that’s down to the TV show and help from a psychiatrist who I was seeing before I went on the programme.”
But after many years of trying for a baby, she was told by a specialist that to stand the best chance of conceiving that she would have to lose weight.
The support worker, who looks after children in care with emotional and behavioural difficulties, has previously lost two babies.
She said: “My husband and I have been trying for a child for quite a while. My specialist said that losing weight would help us and I understand that’s what I need to do now.
“Anyone going through any form of miscarriage, baby loss or still birth will know it’s absolutely horrendous. People might think that miscarriage doesn’t matter, but it matters more because you have that mothering instinct but no child to go with it. It has really affected me. All my friends and family say to me you’re made to be a mother.”
Samantha has joined a Slimming World group in Southport led by consultant Dee Wright as she started her weight loss journey to have a baby.
She said: “I’ve now lost three stone. Dee has been amazing, she is phenomenal. She is always there for you. When I came back from Antigua, I dipped mentally for about eight weeks. But now I have come back, my life has changed. I feel great walking down the street, I feel great being me.”
She is now also doing some plus-size modelling for Sparkles Boutique on Hart Street in Southport.
Owner Sheryl Flint said: “When I saw Samantha on The Big Body Hotel and I just thought she is beautiful, I would love her to come have a photoshoot and model some of our Curvy Couture range for us. So I messaged her and she accepted. I was so pleased as we like to show our clothes on real women of all sizes.”
Samantha is now keen to become a role model and help other people out there who might be struggling with how they look.
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She said: “People see plus-size people as different in many ways. We are not. I want people to feel as good as I do and change the perceptions of what people think. I want to say to people to embrace your body and to embrace your curves.
“I am overweight for medical reasons, not from eating too much food. I want people to be able to inbox me if they ever want to talk.”