A mum ‘fat-shamed by a camel’ on a holiday with her pals shed a whopping 10st – and then scooped the top prize in a bodybuilding competition.
Carla Sheard, who ballooned to 18st at her heaviest while binge-eating takeaways and sweet treats, shrunk to a petite size 8 after hitting the gym and eating healthy, home-cooked meals.
The mum-of-two got the motivation she needed to tackle her bulging waistline after a mortifying experience on a trip to Tunisia in 2014.
While queuing for a camel ride, the organiser glanced at then 20-year-old Carla and declared ‘you big lady, you (need) big camel’.
After wandering off to find a bigger beast, 5ft 2in Carla was unceremoniously hauled onto its back by three burly men while the rest of the group looked on.
Red-faced Carla, 27, vowed to make a change and when she got home she joined Slimming World and lost a stone.
After her initial success the full-time mum’s healthy eating habits went by the wayside when she fell pregnant.
But determined to make healthy choices for herself and her family after struggling to walk up the stairs, she decided there and then to ditch the takeaways and embrace an active lifestyle.
Three years later, Carla stepped onto the scale 10 stone lighter sporting a rippling physique and scooped the top prize in a body transformation competition.
Carla, from Featherstone, West Yorkshire, said: “Getting fat-shamed by a camel was awful, it was really horrible.
“We all got off the coach and he was telling everyone to gather round and was allocating people to camels.
“He looked at me and went ‘oh you big lady, you [need] big camel’.
“When he said that in front of everyone I just looked at my friend Becky absolutely gobsmacked, my jaw just dropped.
“They brought over this bigger camel and it took three blokes to push me up, it was so embarrassing especially as everybody else was sat watching.
“For him to say ‘you big lady’ made me feel horrible, it was an awful moment.”
When she returned home, Carla ditched the fatty takeaways and calorific treats, started Slimming World and lost a stone but then fell pregnant with her son – starting a cycle of yo-yo dieting.
After giving birth to Toby Sheard, now six, in December 2014 and finding she struggled to catch her breath while carrying him up the stairs, size 20 Carla vowed to get fit.
In ten months she lost a whopping seven stone, shrinking to a size 12 and weighing 10st 12lbs, but then fell pregnant again with Tallulah Sheard, now four, in September 2016.
This time, Carla hit the carbs and quickly piled on five of the seven stone she previously shed.
But after Tallulah was born, Carla was determined to make permanent lifestyle changes.
With the support of her loving 27-year-old warehouse worker husband John, Carla decided to calorie count and hit the gym three times a week.
Carla said: “I’ve been big forever. When I was 11 I wore a size 16 dress.
“My mum used to have to make my school clothes because none fit me by the time I was in high school.
“I remember going to Asda and getting a ladies size 22 in a fitted shirt as that was the only one that would go over my stomach.
“When I was older and worked as a carer I’d do 12-hours shifts. The last thing I wanted to be doing was cooking a meal from scratch so it would always be a takeaway – every single night.”
Despite battling weight struggles at school, Carla was never bullied and found love with highschool sweetheart John Sheard at the age of 15.
Carla said: “Thankfully I was never bullied for it, I was seen as a tough one anyway.
“We’ve been together since we were 15, we were high school sweethearts, and he’s still with me.
“At my heaviest and my lightest he’s been with me through it all. During the pandemic last year I put on a little bit of weight and asked ‘would you still love me if I get fat?’.
“He said ‘oh shut up I’ve loved you all the time’.
“Six weeks after I had Toby I was my heaviest weight of 18 stone and I couldn’t even make it to the top of the stairs.
“I literally had to stop for breath half way up. He looked up and smiled at me and I thought ‘I can’t do this, I’ve got to lose it for him’.
“Something clicked immediately and I went downstairs and I cooked a lasagne for tea instead of having a takeaway.
“Something came through the post for Slimming World so I went back and I ended up losing seven stone, but then I got pregnant again and gained five.
“I thought ‘if a girl can’t eat when she’s pregnant when can she eat?’ My mindset was absolutely terrible with food, I ate three breakfasts every morning when I was pregnant.
“After I had Tallulah I thought ‘I’ve done it once I can do it again’, this time I decided to go solo and do calorie counting.
“One of my friends had just done a bodybuilding show and I’d been to watch her and thought it was amazing so I started going to the gym with her and she showed me what to do.”
Over the course of two years steadily Carla dropped the fat and gained lean muscle, under the watchful eye of a bodybuilding pal and had a £2,500 tummy tuck to lop off 7lbs of excess skin.
Carla said: “The excess skin on my belly was absolutely shocking, it really upset me.
“I was getting yeast infections underneath it and in my belly button, it was smelling too, it was really bad.
“After having the tummy tuck in February 2018 I was back in the gym six weeks later but to be fully healed it took a good six months.
“I wore a crop top every single day that summer. John was thrilled with how confident I was but he wasn’t happy about how much money I was spending on clothes.”
Inspired by gym members who trained for bodybuilding competitions, Carla decided to go all-in and embarked on a gruelling six-month regime and strict six-meal-a-day diet.
In July 2019, Carla stepped onto the stage a trim size eight and weighing eight stone – her competition target weight.
And all her hard work paid off as thrilled Carla was announced the winner in the transformation category.
Carla said: “It was a very intense experience prepping for the competition. I went down to 8st so I’d lost bang-on 10 st by show day and I was a size 8.
“Losing 10 stone was a real mile-stone moment.
“When I heard my name being announced as being first it was amazing, I was just first pumping the air.
“All I could see was all my friends and family in the audience screaming and jumping up and down. It felt like such an achievement and worth it for that moment.”
After scooping the top fitness gong at Pure Elite, Carla eased up on her gym sessions, dropping down from six to four sessions a week and slowly introduced a wider variety of meals into her diet.
Now a trim size 10 and 10st 7lb Carla is proudly maintaining her healthy lifestyle for the sake of herself and her family.
Carla said: “I had a bad relationship with food, but I’m doing ok now. I find I’m a lot stronger and fitter by being that bit bigger.
“When I go to the gym now it’s a combination of cardio and weight training and I’m lifting a lot heavier now.
“I have some equipment in my garage so i’m still training but not as often at home with the kids as there’s no school.
“I feel I’ve struck a happy balance. When old photos appear on my Timehop I just think ‘how was I ever that big?’.
“It’s still strange to think when I’m online shopping I can buy whatever I like the look of, I don’t have to think about whether it’ll cover my tummy.
“Determination and preparation is the key. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail, I meal prep and I’m very structured with that.
“If you know you’re having a busy few days, make a big lasagne, shepherds pie or enchiladas and re-heat it so you’re not tempted with unhealthy choices.
“My advice to anyone struggling in lockdown would be to get up and get dressed, if you’re dressed for the day you’re a lot more productive.”
CARLA’S DAILY DIET BEFORE:
Breakfast – Skipped Snacks: Biscuits, chocolate or home-baked goods
Lunch – Chicken salad sandwich with mayonnaise, a scotch egg and a can of full-fat coca cola
Snacks – Chocolate bar and a bag of crisps
Dinner – Big takeaway or a large supermarket pizza with a bottle of fizzy pop
Snacks – Bag of chocolate, ice-cream or cookies dipped in peanut butter
CARLA’S DAILY DIET NOW:
Breakfast – Two poached eggs on wholemeal toast or protein oats and scoop of protein
Lunch – Chicken or tuna wrap or a tuna pasta salad, followed by a satsuma, an apple, some pineapple and some grapes. If still peckish, occasionally will have a bag of Snack A Jacks
Dinner – Home-made meals including shepherds pie made with 5% mince and served with veg or chicken strifry with rice
For dessert, a chocolate orange protein mug cake or dairy-free yoghurt
CARLA’S DAILY BODYBUILDING DIET
Meal one – one egg and three egg whites omelette
Meal two — 120g of yoghurt with scoop of protein
Meal three – 100g chicken with 100g potato
Meal four – 75g of 5% mince, 100g potato (for the first three months, no potato for the final three months) and veg
Meal five – fillet of fish and veg Meal six – four egg whites