Growing up, I was always fit and healthy. I played hockey and tennis at county level and was one of those sporty girls who could eat what I wanted and still stay slim.

I was a natural UK size 10 and my weight never wavered. When I wasn't at the gym or playing a match, I'd make sure I looked my best. I'd take care with my make-up and show off my figure in designer clothes.

All that changed when I married Darren, 42, and fell into bad eating habits. We'd stay in and order take-away Chinese, pizza and curries.

My clothes began to feel tighter, and I'd have to go up a size every few months, but I was in denial about how big I was getting. Darren would tell me I looked gorgeous and, because I still did my hair and hid my 89kg growing bulk under bigger clothes, I could kid myself that my size was acceptable.

But when I started my own events business and became pregnant I started living out of the freezer. Chicken Kievs, jacket potatoes with cheese, cakes and biscuits, became my staple diet. I would squint as the dial on the bathroom scales spun further to the right, but I blamed it on the pregnancy. When I returned to work just ten days after having my baby, Antonia, I had gained 9.5 kilograms (1st.7lb). It was a stressful time; I had childcare, but I had to run my business and bond with my newborn, and losing weight was the last thing on my mind.

So when I became pregnant again just a couple of months later, I ate everything I wanted, when I wanted. For breakfast I'd devour biscuits, crumpets, cereal and toast with chocolate spread. Lunch would be a pizza, then I'd snack on cakes and crisps. Most nights I'd eat potato waffles - my craving - and curry with naan bread. My size 18 maternity clothes became tight and I lived in them even after I'd had my second daughter, Alice. I felt massive, but there was always an excuse not to diet: I was too busy, and I couldn't make different meals for all the family. But, in reality, I just didn't have the willpower to give up my stodgy food and treats.

And then we all went on holiday to Kefalonia in Greece. I wore the biggest tankini I could find and covered myself in a towel so no one would look at me. But I couldn't stop Darren taking photos of us out at night having a meal. Back home he had them developed and I wanted to cry. I looked awful.

The turning point

I'd realised I was bigger than ever before but I still thought I looked like me, just a fatter version. But staring at a picture of me in a black dress, I gasped.

The woman in it was huge, with a moon face, dimpled arms and an extra chin. It took a while for it to sink in it was me. I was horrified. I didn't just look fat, I looked old. That was the trigger for me to do something about my weight. I didn't want to be that 89-kilogram (14 stone) woman, whose eating was out of control, any more.

I was embarrassed and ashamed to have let myself go like that. So I vowed to eat less and went for lymphatic drainage, which is a specialist massage to get rid of water retention. But it wasn't enough.

I could have gone on a diet, but I'd tried a few before and none of them had worked long-term. I'd stick to my calories or food groups for a week, and then lose the will to carry on. I wasn't lazy. I just didn't have the extra energy needed to focus properly on dieting. I was too busy running my business and looking after my girls.

Then I heard about virtual gastric band therapy from a friend I bumped into. I'd complimented her for looking well as she'd lost a lot of weight.

At first I misunderstood and thought she'd had a gastric band fitted. But then she explained that she had seen a hypnotherapist who had made her believe she'd had one fitted.

I'd never heard of that but it had definitely worked. She looked amazing so I asked for the hypnotherapist's number and, towards the end of 2009, I called up and booked an appointment.

Russell Hemmings saw me a few days later at his clinic in Coventry, in the UK, and explained that the hypnoband was a non-surgical procedure and could makea drastic difference.

I didn't want to have real surgery as I knew the risks involved were quite severe. I'd read about people dying after having a gastric band fitted. This was a safe option. It would cost £1,000 (Dh5,900) for four sessions, but my business was doing well and I figured I deserved spending that money on myself to look like the real me again. After keeping a food diary, Russell asked me if there was anything that triggered my eating. I realised I used food as a reward for getting through a tough day. Then he checked how susceptible I was to suggestion and how easy I was to hypnotise. He simply talked to me, and I felt incredibly relaxed at the sound of his voice. Russell gave me a tape of him talking to listen to every day for the next week to prepare me and then booked me in for my virtual operation.

Virtual surgery

I wasn't nervous, but it was like having real surgery. I had to lie in a dimly lit room, and once I heard Russell talking, I closed my eyes and lay back on a comfortable chair and felt myself relax totally, as if I was somewhere else.

I could hear theatre noises and even smell that special scent that only hospitals have. Russell had thought of everything to trick my mind into believing I was having an operation to fit the gastric band. The only difference is that I wasn't wearing a hospital gown and the only risk was that it might not work.

The hypnoband operation took just 45 minutes and afterwards, unlike real surgery, I was ready to get up and go home.

I didn't know if it would work but straight away my stomach felt tighter, and I wasn't hungry. I cooked a family meal that night and didn't feel tempted to eat more than a small portion. I wasn't in any pain but mentally I was convinced I'd hada gastric band fitted and I was terrified to eat more than a little bit in case it burst. It sounds silly but it felt that real.

I lost 3 kilograms (7 lbs) in the first week, and 1.3 kilograms (3 lbs) every week after that. I had two follow up sessions with Russell, which were just to reinforce that I'd had the virtual surgery.

My weight loss was drastic - it just fell off me. I had to buy smaller clothes every couple of weeks. I wasn't even trying to lose weight but I had hardly any appetite thanks to the virtual band. I lost 35 kilograms (5 st 5 lbs) over the next six months and am now a size 6. I now weigh 54 kilograms (8 st 5 lbs) and love being this thin. The funniest thing is when I went back to see Russell for a follow-up appointment I'd lost so much weight he didn't recognise me.

But I do look like a different woman and I feel like the old, younger me. I'm full of energy, and now do sports again. I've just done a half marathon and triathalon - before, I couldn't even walk up a flight of stairs. I'm determinedto stay thin now and know that if I ever feel like binge-eating I could just go for another top-up hypnotherapy session.

It's not cheating. I could have had real gastric band surgery, but this is safer. I didn't need a general anaesthetic or any recovery time and yet I've lost as much weight as someone who's had the operation, without any of the risks. It's the best thing I've ever done.

How does hypnoband work?

Patients are hynotised into thinking they are having a real gastric band fitted, but unlike, the real thing, this treatment doesn't involve any surgery, discomfort or recovery time.

A real gastric band works by reducing the patient's stomach and so they eat smaller portions and feel fuller quicker.

A virtual gastric band operation works by convincing the patient they have had the surgery and that their stomach has been reduced to the size of a golf ball. Usually it takes four sessions to complete the procedure.

It works using cognitive behavioural and clinical hypnotherapy - literally tricking the brain into believing the surgery has been carried out.

Hypnotherapist Russell Hemmings said: ""Emma's results speak for themselves. I honestly didn't recognise her when she walked back in the clinic.

"This is relatively new ground-breaking approach, but the feedback from my clients has been amazing."

Russell Hemmings will be in Dubai early next year and is taking bookings now.