Her loss is her big gain

 Weight Watcher Sue O'Sullivan, of Milton, models the trousers she used to wear. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery

Sue O'Sullivan used to stand out in a crowd, but now some people have difficulty recognising her. She is not complaining.

After losing nearly 90kg in three years, Ms O'Sullivan (54), an administrator with Maori health provider Tokomairiro Waiora in Milton, recently ran into a woman she had not seen for several years.

''She was a bit sort of `off' with me and then she said, `I'm sorry, I don't know who you are'. I'm sort of used to it and I'll just say `Oh, I've had my hair cut'.''

Before her dramatic weight loss, Ms O'Sullivan would go grocery shopping and buy two king-size blocks of chocolate. She would eat one on the way home.

''I ate to get that big, end of story. I'm not fooling anyone,'' she said.

She ate ''copious quantities'' of bread and butter and she wouldn't just get one burger, she'd get two. She was on a '' ''rubbish'' food diet.

When Ms O'Sullivan turned 50 - her first child had left home and another was about to leave - she decided she wasn't ''just a mother'', she was a woman and she was going to make a change.

On December 18, 2010, weighing 152.2kg, she went to a Weight Watchers meeting in Milton.

She committed to exercise and started going to a gym three nights a week - whether she wanted to or not.

Her weight has been 65kg for the past year.

''I knew who I was and I was trapped. People were as mean as snakes to me when I was that size. Just awful: people can be nasty.''

''I always got attention ... because I was so large; it was attention I didn't want.

''All I wanted was to be average - normal - so that I would blend into a crowd and not be noticed.''

She's getting a different kind of attention now. Ms O'Sullivan is one of six New Zealand semi-finalists in the annual Weight Watchers Healthy Life Awards.

On September 29, she could be named one of two New Zealanders who will fly off to Sydney for a bit of celebrity treatment and a chance to be named 2014 Slimmer of the Year.

''This second half of my life is all about experiences ... Because I was so big - morbidly obese - I haven't done a lot of things.''

There was a time when ordinary chores were near impossible for her, but now Ms O'Sullivan enjoys boxing, rock-climbing, kayaking and even abseiling.

She has a simple recipe for weight loss, saying it is all about setting realistic goals.

''You need to keep breaking it down, breaking it down, breaking it down, until you get to the smallest goal that you know you can achieve,'' she said.

''Every time you achieve that little goal, you feel good about yourself and it will motivate you to achieve bigger goals.

''You can apply that principle to everything.''

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