‘Convinced I would be obese for life’

Yui Mok/PA Photos.
Yui Mok/PA Photos.

One unflattering holiday snapshot was all it took.

Pictured on a beach, 16 stone, a size 20 and ‘daring’ to wear a bikini, Josie Gibson was suddenly hounded by a barrage of vicious taunts, compared to a whale and told she was so ‘disgusting she deserved to die’.

Perhaps inevitably, the Big Brother star was so traumatised, she contemplated jumping out of a window to end it all.

But three years on, the story has thankfully taken a very different turn. Now, brimming with confidence, the slim, leggy blonde brims has a new book, The Josie Gibson Diet and two fitness DVDs to her name.

“That photo and the online bullying which followed actually turned out to be the boot up the backside I needed,” Gibson insists, revealing her resulting remarkable transformation that saw her lose five stone to get to a size 10.

It turns out that she’s no stranger to adversity, either. The 29-year-old grew up in Bristol as one of eight children “on a council estate, living on the breadline” and had to cope with tragedy at an early age - she was 10 when her father died from a stabbing during a family feud.

“There was a lot to deal with when I was a kid and I grew up eating a very unhealthy diet - fry-ups, pizzas, ice cream - and just eating more and more to comfort myself whenever I felt bad about life. I was overweight from the age of six and I now realise food for me was an emotional crutch.”

Over the years she unsuccessfully tried multiple diets - everything from slimming pills to protein shakes.

“Outwardly, though, I’d pretend that being a heavy, big girl - I’m 5’ 11” - meant I had a big personality to match. I hid my pain and tears with humour, making jokes about myself before others could,” she says.

“But inside I was deeply unhappy, convinced I would be obese for life and that no-one could ever love me or want me.”

Gibson would soon discover people did love and want her, in 2010, when she entered Channel Four’s Big Brother. She was working as a financial sales representative beforehand, and was only at the audition for the show to support a friend, but she was chosen as a contestant and soon emerged as a landslide winner, viewers responding to her irrepressibly chirpy, gutsy outlook on life.

Sadly, there was, for her, an unwelcome downside, too - life in the goldfish bowl of celebrity.

She embarked on six months of healthy eating and exercise, shedding five stone and losing 12 inches off that infamous behind. She resolved not to suffer the fate of so many celebrities who follow extreme fad diets then quickly pile the pounds back on, and even qualified as a personal trainer and nutritionist to make sure she did it properly.