A Donaghcloney woman has turned a negative into a positive by losing an amazing seven stones and picking up a top beauty title in the process.
Louise Jane (LJ) McCandless said her motivation to lose weight and look her best came from relationships where she was bullied by her partners about her size.
After her third child, the single mother of three decided to use the negative comments from former partners to spur her into getting into the best shape in her life.
LJ (31), who works at the Tan Stand in Lurgan and Banbridge, said: “I had a baby at the end of October last year. I had a section which meant I couldn’t train for two months after that.
“I had been in abusive relationships, getting bullied because of my weight. After I had Holly I thought - enough is enough, I’ll show them.”
“Come January, every morning without fail I did about eight or 10 miles around Lurgan Park.
“I started doing weight training and going to the gym. I got down to a level where I can enter competitions.”
She continued: “When I started training I got so much support through friends on Facebook. I was very unhappy about my weight because of the abuse I’d been taking.
“Everything I posted got such positive comments. I learned to cut out all the negatives.”
The former pupil of Clounagh, Millington and Craigavon Senior High, where she gained a social sciences diploma, said: “My motivation to start with was the abusive relationships I’d been in. I wanted to show them what I could achieve if I put my mind to it.
“I also wanted to be healthy and active for my kids.
“I wasn’t in the best of health either. I was in hospital very ill and got out to do my exams with a butterfly drip in my arm.
“The difference between what I’m able to do now and what I was able to do before is night and day. I have so much more energy.”
She added: “I was wearing size 16 to 18. I weighed 16 stone 10 oz. I managed to lose seven stone.
“I haven’t been this size since I was a wee girl. It’s given me so much confidence.”
On Sunday, LJ won the NIFMA Miss Northern Ireland Yummy Mummy award in La Mon House.
She thanked Keris Weir who did her hair and make-up and sponsored her dress and Shapeshifter Nutrition who helped her in her quest for the perfect body.
This weekend she goes to Kent for the Pure Elite competition then she takes on the Worlds in Dublin the following weekend.
Of her plans for the future she said: “I was meant to be starting a law degree but I’m starting my own business preparing athletes for competitions - prep, motivation, spray tans, make up, contouring.
“I love going to the gym and I love spreading positive vibes and motivating people. The amount of people who have told me that they’re motivated by my posts on Facebook is so encouraging.”
She added: “People don’t know how I do all this when it’s just me and the three kids. I raise my children completely on my own. My children are involved in every aspect of my life.”
LJ’s three children are Macauley (6) and Poppy Rose (4), who are both at King’s Park, and Holly (11 months).
LJ commented: “Winning the Yummy Mummy award has made Macauley so proud and Poppy made a video on Facebook saying she wants to follow in her mummy’s footsteps leading a healthy lifestyle.”
“The children are so happy and so settled now. I wouldn’t have it any other way right now.
“Everything I have I spend on them. I even made my own bikini for the competition.
“Me and my kids have come from bad to good and fitness has turned it all around.”