A woman whose weight loss plans were thrown into a tailspin when she went blind overnight has managed to get back on track by learning to cook again. Sonia Dawswell, 54, has lost nearly half her body weight since 2005 and says she hopes her journey can inspire others not to be held back by disability.
Sonia, from east London, said she first realized she needed to lose a few pounds when boarding a plane to Tenerife 17 years ago. “I was getting on the plane with a friend and I saw myself in the window,” she says.
“I just thought, ‘Oh my God!’ I didn’t realize how big I really was, I told my friend there that I would have a great vacation, eat whatever I wanted, come back and make some changes.
Inspired to change her thinking and improve her health, Sonia joined the Weight Watchers (WW) slimming club. Over several years, she lost half her body weight, dropping from 21st (133 kg) to 10th 7 lb (67 kg).
Sonia, a court volunteer, had lived with vision problems since she was little and over the years needed stronger and stronger prescription glasses to overcome cataracts and glaucoma. But her life – and her weight loss plans – were disrupted in 2018 when she woke up one morning with no sight in her left eye at all.
Living alone and now relying on only a small amount of vision in her right eye, everyday tasks suddenly became “impossible”, she said. Sonia was unable to cook so began to rely on pre-packaged or take-out food and found herself eating ‘endless snacks all day’.
She said: “There was no end. I would just choose from morning to night. Chips, cookies, sandwiches. Everything I could buy and eat. I couldn’t even see the calories on the back of the bag .
“On my way home from work I would stop at the chip shop, buy fries and eat them at home with a cheese and onion batter.”
She added: “I’ve been to a lot of support groups for people with vision loss and a lot of us are overweight. I believe we will die sooner because of it.
Yet Sonia never let her blindness hold her back. She said her disability does not prevent her from socializing, working or attending WW sessions.
She’s also found a way, even at her highest level, to indulge her love of fashion — by taking friends shopping with her or having salespeople guide her to clothes in her favorite colors. “At the time, I was always the tallest woman in the room. But I would always be a tall, well-dressed woman,” she said.
It was during the coronavirus lockdowns when, unable to exercise at the gym and live on snacks, pre-packaged and fried foods, Sonia noticed her weight regaining. “I never went back to that 21, but I gained a lot of weight,” she said.
“There was nothing to do but sit and eat. No way to exercise.”
On coming out of confinement, Sonia discovered that she had reached 15 pounds 7 pounds (98 kg), which meant that she was again classified as obese. Knowing that the WW diet had worked for her before, she recommitted to the plan.
She also started walking six miles a day, stopped eating after 7 p.m., and took on the difficult and rewarding task of relearning how to use certain appliances, including a blender and a frying pan. This allowed her to make healthy omelets and smoothies. His friends and family also stepped up to support his efforts, dropping off food and giving him invaluable words of encouragement.
She said: “I learned tricks like using devices with big, simple buttons. I would go to the supermarket, take pictures of the backs of packages and enlarge them on my phone, so I could understand the dots.
She now eats three healthy meals a day, walks 10,000 steps six days a week and snacks on fruit instead of crisps. As a result, she has now lost another 4th and is down to 11th 6lbs (73kg) – just half a stone from her target weight. Sonia, who likes to wear bright and beautiful colors, can now buy a wider range of stylish clothes again and feels happier and healthier.
She said: “I hope my story can be an encouragement to others. I’m a middle-aged, post-menopausal woman, but that hasn’t stopped me. I have a visual impairment, but that doesn’t stop me. didn’t stop either.
She added: “I want people to realize that you can have a life with a disability and still watch your weight. It’s not easy, but keep knocking on those doors until they open for you.