Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 13:12 UK

Bullied woman wins slimming award

Leanne Needham before and after
Leanne Needham skipped lectures as she could not fit into university seats

A woman from Sheffield who was bullied at school because of her size has been named Slimming World's Young Slimmer of the Year.

Leanne Needham, 21, lost 7st 3lb (46.36kg) and went from a size 22 to a size 10 in two years.

She was taunted at school from the age of 10 and said a classmate once told her to go to a "fat club".

Miss Needham, who graduated with a first class degree in psychology, now wants to be a teacher.

She went from 17st 10lb (108.6kg) when she started Slimming World classes in June 2007 to her current weight of 10st 7lb (67.95kg).

"By the age of 17 I weighed more than my age - and more than my dad," she said.

"I'd been bullied since the age of 10 because of my size, a classmate once told me it was time I went to a 'fat club'.

"I couldn't fit comfortably into the seats at uni so I began to skip lectures and my grades began to suffer.

"When my doctor said that losing weight could help me overcome these problems I knew I had to make a change."

'New person'

Miss Needham said she had lost the weight through a combination of exercise and eating a diet of predominantly fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice, potatoes, pulses and eggs.

In December she completed a 22-mile charity swim at a pool in Sheffield over a four-week period.

Miss Needham said her weight loss had changed her life and presented her with new opportunities.

"When you are overweight and your confidence is low you are easily knocked," she said.

"At the same time, people can be quite insensitive. Once, when getting into the inflatable ring to ride the slide at a water park, the lifeguard told me to go behind my boyfriend as the heaviest had to go at the back.

"I was so humiliated I wanted to be sick. I ran off crying and refused to go on any other rides.

"Now, though, I'm really outgoing and love socialising. My friendships have improved, people say I'm like a new person."

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