SURROUNDED by some of the world’s most beautiful women, lingerie tycoon Michelle Mone couldn’t have felt more out of place.
Wearing unflattering clothes to hide her “fat butt” and bingo wings, she envied the models posing in her skimpy designs.
She recalls: “I wanted to be like them and have people look at me and say, ‘God, she’s gorgeous’. That was never me, I was never gorgeous.”
But now, having shed an incredible 8st and shrunk down from a size 18 to a trim 10, Baroness Mone is beginning to believe the rush of compliments.
She says: “I have never thought of myself as a glamorous woman but I look at the pictures now and think maybe I am a wee bit glamorous.
“I read comments saying I look like my 26-year-old daughter’s sister. If someone had bet me £1million that I’d get comments like that, I would have bet everything against that.
“I used to pose next to models for publicity pictures and when I saw them in the papers, I was happy for the brand but I’d be in tears, thinking, ‘Look at the state of me’. My face was like two footballs and my eyes were sunken in my head.”
Now Michelle, who sold her underwear brand Ultimo five years ago, treats her body with the same discipline she uses in business. She has a business plan for it, as well as a 29-point dietary list of dos and don’ts.
‘BIGGEST ELASTICATED TROUSERS EVER SEEN’
She says: “You have to be a perfectionist in business and run everything like clockwork. Now I run my body and mind like clockwork too.
“You have an office party at work — well, my office party is the occasional treat.”
The inspiration for her approach was Rod Stewart’s ex-wife, model Rachel Hunter.
Michelle, 48, says: “We were on a shoot on a beach in Miami and I looked at Rachel and thought, ‘We’re the same age — and three of her would be me’.
“She was so gorgeous and happy and I was there wearing the biggest elasticated trousers you’ve ever seen in your life, dressed like a tent.
“I was wearing a long cardigan to hide my fat butt and I had so much cellulite you could even see it through the black trousers.
“One day I got so upset and Rachel took me for a coffee. Even though I had so much to be grateful for, I felt I was stuck in a horrible life.
“She grabbed me by the tops of both arms and said, ‘You’re an incredible businesswoman, why don’t you treat your body like you treat your business? Why are you abusing your body?”
It was that “lightswitch” moment in 2006 that triggered the will to make a change. But the road has not been easy.
At her heaviest, Michelle weighed 18st 2lb. Now, at 10st 1lb, she says: “There have been ups and downs. I’d get the weight off and put it back on again.”
A messy split from husband and business partner Michael in 2012 sent her spiralling into comfort-eating and depression.
Michelle, mum to Rebecca, 26, Declan, 23, and Bethany, 20, recalls: “I was eating anything I could get my hands on — junk, processed foods. I turned to alcohol and put on even more weight, so I’d feel even more depressed. It was a vicious circle. I would sit on my own and eat when I wasn’t hungry, it was horrific.
“At your lowest point, you can’t even get out of bed. Depression is an illness and I know that if I don’t work on myself every day, it would be so easy to go back there. I can’t go back there.
“It was the darkest, loneliest empty room of my life.” She took anti-depressants and got help from her mum, who told her she had nothing to feel down about.
One of the other biggest influences in her transformation has been her fiancé Doug Barrowman, 55, who she had planned to marry last month before coronavirus put a stop to proceedings.
The billionaire businessman proposed in December 2018 and naturally Michelle was determined to look the best she possibly could for her big day.
She says: “I was on my way before I met Doug but since I’ve been with him, which is four years this September, my mental determination has got stronger.
“I’ve learned about different foods and what they do to your body and what exercises you need to do. In the last ten to 12 months I’ve really upped my game because of the wedding.”
Prior to lockdown Michelle exercised six times a week, and now has upped that to three times a day — throwing herself into circuit sessions and weight- training among other activities.
With advice from nutritionists, she has transformed her diet, cutting out bread, pasta and potatoes. Nothing after 7.30pm and meat just once a week.
She has a daily shot of apple cider vinegar, followed by a green juice, then a protein shake. Lunches are home-made soups. Michelle, who drinks five to six litres of water a day, says: “If you get hungry, either brush your teeth, drink water or chew gum. If you’re eating a balanced diet, you don’t need to snack.”
She used to put snaps of herself at her heaviest on cupboards to stop her lapsing and plastered her walls with pictures of the Ultimo models she wanted to emulate.
‘EXERCISE CAN BE BORING SOMETIMES’
Treats aren’t banned but they are enjoyed in moderation now.
Michelle, who was awarded an OBE in 2010, says: “I used to be like an alcoholic, or a foodaholic. I’d go away in a room and binge and then feel depressed about it.
“Now it’s about moderation.
“On what was supposed to be our wedding day, we opened a bottle of pink champagne, and when it was finished, we were finished. You can’t deprive yourself, as you’ll crave it even more.”
Lockdown has delayed the wedding until August, but the pair have been keeping busy, training together at their home on the Isle of Man.
Michelle says: “Do you sit on the couch eating popcorn and crisps or do you get up and walk?
“In the morning we do a circuits session or boot camp, and there’s another workout after lunch, then a 90-minute power walk in the evening.
“We’re both competitive in business and you can imagine we’re the same when exercising. I tell Doug, ‘I’m going to kick your ass today’, and even when I want to stop, I won’t, because I don’t want to be shown up and nor does he.
“We hold each other’s feet while doing crunches. It makes it fun because exercise can be boring sometimes.”
Michelle’s hard work has clearly paid off, and not just in how she looks.
- Get rid of all the rubbish foods in the house. If it’s there, you’ll eat it.
- Start walking. Begin by going to the end of your street and increase your distance every day. Keep a diary of what you’re doing, plus your weight and measurements.
- When tempted by chocolate or chips, think about what made you start getting healthier and how you’ll feel once you gorge on that food. It’s all about the mind.
- Avoid low-fat foods with sweeteners.
- Eat as much veg as you like, but eat fruit in moderation due to its high natural sugar content.
She says: “I feel so young, so full of energy and positive mental energy. I just feel on fire, it’s amazing.
“If only people could take a leaf out of my book, they would see how much fitness and weight affect you mentally and physically.
“If you’re happy being a size 18 or 20 that’s fine as long as you’re healthy but it’s what you want to achieve in your life.”
As for her youthful appearance, Michelle says she has her genes to thank, and the odd shot of Botox.
She says: “My mum is 72 and has no lines. I think I’ve been blessed. I haven’t had surgery.
“I’ve learned a lot of make-up tips, I have my eyebrows done, and facial peels. I’ve had laser treatment on my face, as I was getting broken blood vessels around my nose. I also had my teeth fixed. They’ve always been that shape but I’ve had them filed, whitened, polished and some have veneers.
“I read that a doctor said I’d had fillers — but I haven’t. Anyone can search my scalp and behind my ears for scars.”
Now Michelle looks at the photos that she used to keep herself motivated and barely recognises her former self.
She says: “I was a different person then. I was building one of the biggest lingerie brands in the world but, without the business, I was sad and lonely and hated looking at myself in the mirror.
“I could cry, sometimes, that I wasted ten years of my life. But why look back? It’s all life experiences, which change you.”
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