I am a middle-aged woman. I am very fat, in fact I am technically obese as I am now over 120kg. So I do know I need to lose weight quickly, but I’m worried that people will stare and make fun of me when I join the gym.

The first thing you must do before embarking on any radical lifestyle change is see your doctor. This is non-negotiable in my book as it might just save your life. This is doubly important for anyone who is obese. Assuming you’ve been given the green light to begin making changes (colleagues in the medical profession will generally suggest a slow and steady approach to begin with, as do I), let’s make a plan.

Ideally it should be kitchen first, gym second. There’s no point exercising while wolfing down mountains of high-fat, high-sugar, processed junk. Begin with a clean slate. Grab a garbage bag and thrown in all the stuff in your kitchen 
that isn’t fresh and is processed. Ask yourself – would my grandparents recognise this as food? No? It’s probably doing you no good at all then.

The word ‘quickly’ is also a concern. You must treat this change in your lifestyle as a permanent one. You aren’t just going on a diet, you’re embarking on a new way of living. You’ll be eating healthily, minding your portion sizes and exercising regularly.

Moving on to your perceptions of others and what they might think of you – I feel there’s a combination of a confidence issue and an excuse issue at play here. Granted, it’s going to take real confidence to be ‘seen’ for the first time, but… who cares what anyone else thinks? If you do start to suffer ‘perceived humiliation’ ask yourself if this is merely an excuse not to go to the gym.

There’s nothing like a broad smile to disarm the most fervent naysayer. You could also try to seek out like-minded women to share your journey. I recommend buying the correct gear too – not only does it make sense to begin properly, it also shows commitment.

Start a personal diary; write down how you feel, leave notes to the future you. Give yourself confidence boosts; keep reminding yourself of the reasons you want to change, and why you don’t care what others think. And finally, ‘you’ are not 
fat. You ‘have’ fat. There’s a difference, please do not allow yourself to be defined this way.