Lucy Penneck Credit: Courtesy of Lucy Penneck

When Lucy Penneck weighed 266 pounds, she used to dread traffic lights. “I always thought the people in cars would be laughing at watching this morbidly obese woman waddle across the road,” the Bournemouth, England-based 30-year-old tells Us Weekly. The mother of Emily, 13, Ben, 7, and Sophie, 4, also felt embarrassed for her kids. “I worried my children were going to be bullied for having such fat mom,” Penneck says. “I felt like I was letting them down.”

As a teaching assistant, Penneck would overhear cruel comments on the playground. “I would see them whisper as I would be sitting uncomfortably on a child-size chair,” she says. “One time when were talking about characters in Jack and the Beanstalk, one student said, ‘Mrs. Penneck, you can be the giant’s wife, as she’s fat like you.’”

So in March 2013, the 5-foot-1 Brit decided enough was enough and joined Slimming World, a program similar to Weight Watchers in the U.S. It was there that Penneck learned how to eat properly, trading chocolate bar breakfasts for yogurt and fruit. Within 18 months, she was down to 120 pounds. Now a size four, the petite blonde — who once skipped swimming lessons with her children for fear of being teased in a swimsuit —loves jumping on trampolines and taking long bike rides with her family. 

And she has a closet full of skinny jeans to show off her lean figure. “I used to hide under men's XXL T-shirts and loose sweat pants,” says Penneck, who has chronicled her journey on Instagram. “I always had long sleeves to cover my arms, even in the summer.” Indeed, when Penneck married her husband, Andy Penneck, in August 2007, “I picked the longest veil so that I could attempt to cover my gigantic arms.” She continues: “It was a boiling-hot day, and my thighs got so sore rubbing together under my dress, and the veil clung to me in the heat, but there was no way I could take it off, as I was far too self-conscious.”

Penneck is certain she will never go back to being the woman who gorged on ice cream every night — or the little girl who binged and hid the wrappers under her bed. Says the Slimming World success story: “It’s the memories that keep me on track.”