‘Making the most of my looks? I was clueless at 20!’
Stay-at-home mum Julie Butler, 45, lives in Bexley, Kent, with her husband,
Mark, 47, a salesman, and their two daughters, Kirstie, 20, and Sophie, 18.
“Just a few weeks ago, I was in the changing rooms of New Look, trying on a
sexy black jumpsuit. I couldn’t decide if it suited me or not, so turned to
the two teenage girls next to me and asked their opinion. They both looked
at me and said: ‘Of course, you look great!’
As I left to pay for it, I heard one of them say: ‘I hope I look like her when
I’m that age.’
Was I offended? Of course not! I couldn’t stop myself from grinning.
Compliments like that remind me that at 45, I look better than I ever have
before, and I’m bursting with confidence.
My daughters are my inspiration and their influence helps me look younger than
my years – and feel fantastic.
I only wish I’d looked this good in my 20s. Back then, I didn’t really have a
clue about making the most of my looks. If my friends got a dodgy perm, so
did I. When blue mascara became the latest must-have, I happily bought it –
and even wore it on my wedding day!
I tried to be trendy when it came to clothes, but didn’t always get it right
as I lacked the confidence to know what suited me. As far as I was
concerned, if it was the latest trend, I just had to have it no matter what
it looked like on.
I still cringe at the thought of the ill-fitting chinos that I used to wear
and just wish somebody had told me they did nothing for my legs.
It got worse after I had my daughters and put on weight. At 21, I was 10½st
and a size 12, perfect for my 5ft 7in frame. After Sophie’s birth, I hit
13st 4lb and a size 16.
At home with the girls all day, I had no reason to dress up and began to look
mumsy and old before my time.
I always made an effort with my hair and make-up, but knew I didn’t have the
figure – or confidence – to wear the latest high-street trends, so lived in
Mark would tell me I looked gorgeous, but I knew I didn’t.
Then in 2000, when I was 33, I saw a snap of myself on holiday in Turkey. Mark
had persuaded me to buy a short skirt, assuring me I’d look fantastic in it.
But I didn’t. My legs looked fat and covered in cellulite, and the skirt was
something a teenager would’ve worn.
It was the kick up the bum I needed. I swapped biscuits for salads and within
six months was down to 9st.
I decided to join the gym too and was soon spending two hours there twice a
week, mixing weights with cardio sessions on the treadmill or cross trainer.
For the first time in years I felt like a woman again, not just a mum and
wife. With that feeling came a determination to recreate my look to match my
I scoured fashion magazines for the latest trends, and my daughters gave me
style advice, introducing me to River Island and Karen Millen. They
regularly catch me raiding their wardrobes!
I never thought that in my 40s I’d have such confidence in how I look, it’s a
great feeling. Now, when I slip on a figure-hugging dress and heels for a
night out with my husband, the baggy clothes and terrible perm of my 20s are
nothing but a distant memory.”
‘I’ve finally got the body I always wanted’
Lisa Hanson, 41, is a finance manager and lives with her partner, Dominic,
45, in Altrincham, Cheshire. She says:
“I’m appalled when I look at photos of myself in my 20s. I was frumpy and wore
shapeless clothes to hide the body I hated. I barely recognise myself and
I’m so grateful that I don’t look like that any more.
When I was a teenager in the ’80s, I was a confident size 8, channelling
Madonna with my ra-ra skirts and leggings.
At 15, I met my future husband Roy, then 18. By 21, we were living together,
and like so many happily marrieds, it wasn’t long before both of us started
making less effort with our appearance.
The pounds piled on as we enjoyed romantic meals out and takeaways.
We were best friends and had become so comfortable together we didn’t worry
about how we looked to each other any more. We were in love, wasn’t that all
My love for fashion faded as I gained weight and eventually I swapped fitted
tops and dresses for shapeless cardies.
By 25, my weight tipped the scales at 13st. At 5ft 7in, I was a size 16.
‘Did my husband leave me because I let myself go?’
Looking in the mirror, I hated my drab reflection. My self-esteem was at rock
bottom, but despite how I felt about myself I couldn’t be bothered to do
anything about it, and Roy never complained.
But then, everything changed in October 2006, when I was 35.
While we were out on our usual Sunday walk with the dog, Roy told me he needed
a break from our relationship. He just wasn’t happy any more.
It felt like my whole world had collapsed. I said to him that if he left, then
we were over forever.
He packed his bags that day and I haven’t seen him since.
Heartbroken doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. That first night alone
at home I was in pieces. Was it because I’d let myself go? Surely, everyone
does a little over 20 years…
I tortured myself, searching for answers. Days and weeks passed in a tearful
blur and, unintentionally, over the next three months of heartbreak, I lost
4st, reaching 9st and a size 10.
With lots of spare time on my hands, I began going to the gym four evenings a
week to do yoga and spinning classes.
For the first time in years, I was making an effort to get dressed up for
nights out with my girlfriends, and slowly learned to smile and laugh again.
I realised that I never wanted to be complacent with my looks again, so out
went the shapeless clothes and in came shorter, fitted dresses.
Friends complimented me on how fantastic I looked and I must admit that on the
surface I did look amazing. However, that was all smoke and mirrors.
In reality, under my sexy clothes, my sudden weight loss had left my tummy
shapeless and saggy and my breasts like empty sacks. When I was my fattest,
I had been a 38DD, but now my breasts were a droopy 32DD.
I knew if I wanted to truly transform myself from the frumpy housewife that I
once was, I’d have to do something drastic to really make my body gorgeous.
So in October 2007, I visited my local Transform clinic for a tummy tuck and
boob job. I wasn’t nervous at all, just excited about getting a new body.
And after my surgery, for the first time in 20 years, I looked in the mirror
and liked what I saw.
Since then I’ve kept up with the gym and have Botox every three to six months
and fillers round my mouth every nine months.
I’ve spent around £15,000 to look like this, but if you ask me, it’s been
worth every penny.
Of course, I wish I’d made more of myself in my 20s, but I can’t turn back the
clock so there’s no point dwelling on it.
So many women hit their 40s and think they’ll never look as good as they did
when they were younger, but that’s just not true and I’ve proved it.
I may be 40, but I now have a new partner and the confidence I never had in my
20s, and that is priceless.”
‘I used to be a size 22’
Slimming World consultant Lisa Hopton, 43, is a single mum who lives in Dorset
with her two sons, Harrison, 14, and Bailey, 11. She says:
“In my 20s, I was fat, plain and wasted too much time on useless faddy diets.
I’d always been plump as a child and by the time I was 21, I was 11st
and a size 16 thanks to a diet of chips and crisps.
I was a jobbing actor, forever attending auditions with girls much slimmer
than me. Eventually I got so fed up with feeling out of place I started
dieting, trying whatever the latest craze was.
There was the Beverley Hills Diet, where you could only eat pineapple during
the day and two bananas before bed. Then there was the Scarsdale Diet, which
only allowed you 700 calories a day.
With each I would get down to 9st and a size 8, but slowly pile the weight
back on again once it was over.
I felt rubbish about myself and the more I felt that way, the more I would
reach for the cola and cakes to make myself feel better. It was a vicious
In 1992, when I was 22 and a size 14, I met my husband and we married in 1995.
I piled on the pounds when I had my sons. By the time I had Bailey at 32, I
weighed 19st and at 5ft 6in was a size 22.
Sadly, a year after the birth, my husband and I had grown apart and split up.
The stress of a divorce saw me lose 3st, but at nearly 16st, I was still
I didn’t care though. I didn’t have time to worry about my appearance – I was
concentrating on being strong for the boys. I’d drop Harrison off at school
wearing a baggy grey maternity T-shirt and my ex-husband’s XL tracksuit
bottoms. I must have looked a mess.
Then one of the other mums uttered the immortal line: ‘When are you due?’
I spent the day in tears. I didn’t want to be the fat mum in the playground
that everyone felt sorry for or the boys were bullied about. I realised I
had to lose weight – for good. So I signed up with a local Slimming World
‘I feel as though I have me back’
The pounds began to drop off, through making permanent, healthy, changes to my
eating habits. I soon stopped craving fizzy drinks and cakes, preferring
healthy meals full of veg – and if I did want a piece of chocolate, I had
it. But just the one!
Within eight months I’d reached my goal weight of 9st 11lb. By then, I was
such a fan of Slimming World I even become a consultant for them,
encouraging women just like me.
That was 10 years ago and life has only got better. With my new confidence
I’ve taken up dancing, kick-boxing and rock climbing – not the usual things
you’d expect a 40-something to do – and I feel as though I have ‘me’ back.
A friend admitted that for years they thought I’d lost my sparkle, but now
they say it’s returned.
It makes me sad that I drifted through my 20s and 30s hoping things would get
better. I wish I could go back and tell myself to just get on with it. Back
then, I felt drab and invisible, but now at 43 I feel confident, gorgeous
and ready for life.”