COPY MEDIATRANSFORMATION: Sophie Stillings is happier being a size 16 than a size 8
Sophie Stillings struggled with her weight since her teen years and was a size 18 by the time she sat her GCSEs.
Feeling uncomfortable with her size, Sophie was overjoyed when she started studying performing arts and the pounds began dropping off.
In just six months of doing daily dance classes, she lost 6st and slimmed down to a “perfect” size 8.
But she soon realised that losing weight didn’t make her as happy as she thought it would.
Sophie said: “I went to an all-girls school and there was always pressure to look a certain way and a lot of competition between the girls to conform to a certain image.
“I had bad eating habits and I wasn’t doing any exercise really at school because I never wanted to do PE, I was too self-conscious, so it all added up.
“When I started college at 16 most of the girls were really slim which made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. If there was a role to be played, I always felt like they’d get it before me because of my weight.
“As soon as I started to do classes, I was dancing from 8am until about 6pm and then after school as well and the weight just fell off.
“But I’d still wear big jumpers because I was stuck in that same negative mindset. How I saw myself wasn’t how other people were seeing me.”
Although Sophie felt more confident about her slimmer figure, she still had body insecurities.
COPY MEDIASLIMMER: Sophie dropped 6st after taking up dancing
She said: “When I got to that size I could finally wear the clothes I’d always wanted, but then I didn’t because there was always something else stopping me.
“I didn’t want to wear short skirts because I was terrified of having cellulite, I didn’t want to show my belly or my arms, so there was always one thing after another I was constantly thinking about or worrying about.
“Even though I’d got to the goal that most women want, I still felt dissatisfied, I just had different insecurities to before.
“You think being thin will solve everything and you see photos of really thin girls and want to be like that because their lives look more perfect, but it just wasn’t like that.”
In fact, Sophie’s friends were worried that her weight was dangerously low.
COPY MEDIANEW MUM: Sophie learned to embrace her figure while carrying her daughter
“I’m 5ft 11ins so at a size 8 people were actually telling me I needed to put weight on because they said I didn’t look well,” she said.
Sophie continued to dance until she hit 21, before moving on to become a coffee shop manager. But she feared that her weight would creep back up again.
She said: “I used to yo-yo then, I’d panic if I even put a few pounds on, I’d think I needed to crash diet to get it back off again.
“I went to Slimming World, WeightWatchers, I tried slimming pills and every type of diet but nothing ever made me happy or satisfied, it was like a constant fight.”
It wasn’t until Sophie fell pregnant with her daughter Evie two years ago that she began to embrace her curves.
COPY MEDIASTUNNER: Sophie will compete in the Miss British Beauty Curve finals next year
She said: “I put 4st on when I was having Evie because I remember thinking being pregnant was an excuse to eat.
“Once I’d had her I was tempted to crash diet and go to the gym again to get it all off.
"I went mad exercising for a little while because I was desperate to get back to where I’d been but then something just clicked and I thought: 'I should be enjoying this time with my baby, not worrying about my weight.'”
Now at 27-years-old Sophie has found a healthy balance in which she works out with a personal trainer twice a week.
On top of that, the mum-of-one goes to the gym at least once a day – sometimes even twice.
COPY MEDIAHAPPY: Now Sophie feels body confident and hopes to become a beauty queen
She said: “Even though I’m still a size 16 I know I can run further and train harder than the size 8 next to me in the gym.
“And I probably have better eating habits than them.
"Just because you’re a bit bigger doesn’t mean you can’t be as healthy as a size 6 or 8.
“Now I’d rather compare myself to Ashley Graham than Kendall Jenner”Sophie Stillings
“I’m much happier in myself now because if I want to miss one session in the gym to spend an extra hour with my little girl I will whereas I used to beat myself up about it.
“I’d think: ‘Oh I didn’t get to the gym today, I’m going to be back to where I was.’
“It was always so negative and stressful. It dictated everything.”
After learning to love her figure, Sophie is now hoping to inspire other women by becoming a plus-size beauty queen.
She will be representing Liverpool in the Miss British Beauty Curve finals next August.
Sophie added: “Not being able to fit into a certain sized jeans used to make me miserable but, even though I was skinny at a size 8, I’m more content as a 16.
“I feel comfortable when I put clothes on now, instead of looking at myself in the mirror and thinking, I don’t look like that.
“I think, I like my bum in this or my legs look nice in this. Now I’d rather compare myself to Ashley Graham than Kendall Jenner, I’m being a better me for me and no one else.”