'I weighed 28 stone and felt like a burden - but trip to Disneyland made me turn my life around'

Mancuso before weight loss journey
-Credit: (Image: Jam Press)

A trip to Disneyland unexpectedly triggered one woman's drastic weight loss journey.

Leah Hope Mancuso felt like a burden after her 28 stone weight started getting in the way of her enjoying life. The 35-year-old photographer had become stuck in a vicious circle of eating sugary drinks for breakfast, washed down with fast-food for lunch and whatever frozen meal she could microwave for dinner.

However, on a visit to the 'happiest place on Earth', Mancuso realised just how much her unhealthy lifestyle was affecting her ability and knew change was necessary. Two years later and she is thriving, having managed to get herself down to just 13 stone.

Leah before weight loss
The photographer used to order two fries and a burger from her local takeout every time she ordered -Credit:Jam Press
Leah side profile
She has since lost half her weight -Credit:Jam Press

"It was the heaviest I had ever been trying to enjoy a day at a theme park," Mancuso, from Arizona, US, said. "Being an aunt has been one of the greatest joys of my life, and I didn't want to miss out on this experience with my nephew, so I went knowing it would be difficult for me."

Instead of enjoying the rides and taking snaps with Disney characters, Mancuso found herself suffering from a migraine, backache, pain in her feet, and extreme sweating. She tried to pace herself and took regular breaks, but the experience was still too much. "I ended up having to spend the last part of the day by myself, sitting at a table with my eyes closed to manage the migraine," she recalled. That was the moment she decided to turn her life around.

Leah before weight loss
The trip to Disneyland was the wake-up call Manucso needed -Credit:Jam Press

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"I started being mindful of what I was eating by writing it down in a food journal," Mancuso explained. "After practising mindfulness, I decided to take a little more control over my results and after about six weeks began tracking my calorie intake.

"I also started walking 10 minutes a day because that was about all I could do at one time. But as I built up my endurance I was able to go from 10 minutes to 15, then 20, then 30." The 35-year-old then started swimming and exploring strength training, playing pickleball and hiking as well. Around a year into her weight loss journey, she hired a personal trainer who she still works with.

Mancuso after weight loss
Mancuso started calorie counting and exercising -Credit:Jam Press

Mancuso's meals look very different now - from breakfast she tends to opt for scrambled eggs with cheese mixed in and fruit or poached eggs on a piece of sourdough bread with butter along with coffee with collagen, cream and sugar. Lunch will be an open sandwich on sourdough or a 'cottage cheese bowl' sweetened with maple syrup, granola and fruit.

For dinner, her frozen burritos have been replaced with lighter options like chicken and potatoes or pasta with chicken sausage and a vegetable like broccoli or bell peppers. "I still love to have something sweet like a popsicle or berries with whipped cream and chocolate chips to end the day!" Mancuso added.

Now only 13.2 stone, Mancuso realised how 'limited' her life was before her weight loss - and says life is 'so much better now'. "I thought my life was easier before, that's why I continued with the unhealthy patterns I created for myself," she said. "But it wasn't easier, it was just less."

Do you have an impressive weight loss story? Email liam.gilliver@reachplc.com