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You’ve got to be a brave man to tell a woman she’s overweight, but when 120 Kg's Haley Coote heard the harsh truth from her boyfriend Rob, instead of giving him a clip round the ear, she went on a diet.
Haley, 30, also accepted his proposal and when she finally walked down the aisle in her size 12 wedding dress, she felt like a princess.
The new bride was half the size she had been when she first met her fiance – and it was all down to him that she was about to say “I do” and become the new Mrs Hogger.
Before asking her to marry him, Rob, 32, had taken the brave step of telling Haley she needed to shed some weight.
But he hadn’t said it out of spite, Rob had told her out of concern.
“Rob was so brave to do what he did, but I wasn’t offended,” smiles Haley.
“Some people are shocked when I tell them my trigger for losing weight but I know Rob was only bringing up such a sensitive subject because he was worried about my health.
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“It was a really brave thing to do and it’s turned my life around. I’m grateful he gave me the wake-up call I needed.”
Haley had struggled with her weight most of her life and Rob knew she was unhappy with her body when they met on an online dating site in September 2010.
“I’d been going to the gym but it wasn’t enough – unfortunately I didn’t have the willpower to stick to a healthy eating plan,” explains 5ft 5in Haley.
The couple spent eight months chatting online before Rob ¬travelled from Lanzarote, where he was living with his parents, to stay with Haley in Ipswich, Suffolk.
She says: “We’d become friends but I was sure he wouldn’t fancy me because at size 24 I was a big girl.
“His family lived near me so it was convenient for him to kip in my spare room while he was visiting them. But something clicked when we spent time together and one night he leaned over on the sofa and kissed me – and he never went home!”
Rob found work as a postman and split his time between Haley’s home and his brother’s. Haley says: “I was delighted Rob loved me for me and wasn’t bothered about my weight. But I turned to him when it got me down. I wanted to change but didn’t seem able to stick to diets.
“He suggested going to the gym more but I soon realised that wouldn’t be enough.
“I needed to be healthier and cut down my portions but I just didn’t have the willpower.”
All that changed in September 2011 when an email from Rob popped up in PA Haley’s inbox at work. “We still chatted a lot over email and I still got excited when his name came up on my screen,” she remembers. But this email was different.
It read: “You’re just so caring, kind, considerate and funny and by far one of the most special people I have ever met.
“However, I do have concerns about our long-term future if we/I? do nothing.
“I don’t want a relationship of unhealthy living which in turn might cause arguments. I like to think of us being together for the rest of our lives and I’d rather be nearer 60 years than 20.
“And the harsh reality is it could be the latter and that makes me feel so sad just thinking about it. I hope you understand I just want a happy, healthy Haley and I am convinced I can make all your dreams comes true and be just perfect for you.”
Haley says: “I knew instantly he was calling me fat. My gut instinct was to be offended – outraged. Talking about a woman’s weight is a big no-no, up there with flirting with your mates.
“Why would Rob write that? Surely he knew it would hurt my feelings.”
Taking deep breaths, Haley read the email again. “And then I realised he’d actually done it because he did care. I knew Rob so well – there was no way there were shallow feelings behind this,” she admits.
Terrified his email would spell the end of the relationship, Rob signed off with: “You might not want me to come back.”
But that night, Haley couldn’t wait for him to get home. She says: “It was a compliment that he cared about me enough to bring up such a sensitive issue. It showed how strong our relationship was.
“I thanked him for being brave enough to tackle the issue.
“I was dangerously overweight and he’d helped me to realise I was throwing my life away if I carried on the way I was.”
Haley joined Slimming World and approached the healthy eating plan with a determination she’d never found before.
“Every time I was tempted to cheat I thought about how desperate I was to spend as long as possible with Rob and how much he wanted me to be here with him,” she says.
She lost 6.3 Kg's in the first three weeks. Soon after, Rob went to visit family in Australia for three months. After two months he surprised Haley by buying her a plane ticket to join him – by which time she was down to 88 Kg's and a size 16.
“When Rob met me off the plane, his mouth fell open. He pinched my waist and said ‘Where have you gone?’ It was just the reaction I was hoping for. I had an amazing holiday and wore the swimming costumes and floaty dresses I’d always longed to wear.”
Back home, the weight continued to drop off and by September 2012 she weighed 69Kg's and fitted into size 12 clothes.
On her birthday that month Haley popped to see her parents. When she arrived she found Rob waiting with them. He got down on one knee in front of their families.
“I was knocked for six! Could I marry the man who’d called me fat? My eyes filled with tears as I nodded yes.”
Haley concentrated on staying slim and toning up for the big day – working out at least five times a week. The couple wed at a hotel in Ipswich on July 12 this year.
“I felt like a princess in my dress. It was amazing how flat my stomach felt,” beams Haley who is expecting their first child. “My belly is big again but for a wonderful reason!”
Rob adds: “I’m relieved Haley wasn’t offended by my email.
“I’m so proud of all that she has achieved and look forward to our future together.”