A Happy New Me: Meet three people who are determined not to give up on their resolutions

(L-R) Mandy, Stevie and Heather
(L-R) Mandy, Stevie and Heather

AS the nation returns to work and the glow of the festive season fades to a distant memory all thoughts are turning to the annual life overhaul.

One in five of us will be making a New Year’s resolution this month, even though statistics show that only a quarter of us will manage to keep our promises.

YouGov Omnibus data reveals that 22% of Brits say they intend to make a New Year’s resolution, with young people by far the most likely – more than 37% of 18-24 year olds saying they will make changes. Only 15% of the over 65s pledge to make a change.

Women are also slightly more likely than men to form a pact with themselves for the coming year, at 24% compared to 19%.

Here, we speak to three people whose lives changed in the last 12 months to ask how they did it.

Mandy’s story

“My home was destroyed, my marriage ended and I hit rock bottom but everything changed”

Mandy Jones, 29, from Hawick, lost everything but ended the year on a high.

When 2018 started I had been struggling through a very difficult period in my life.

In the previous nine months, I had watched my home burn down along with all my belongings, my beloved cat perished in the blaze, and I went through a divorce after my marriage broke down.

Despite all this, going into a new year, I convinced myself I was coping.

I moved from Dunblane to Dundee, I began focusing on training for a body building competition, and I started a new college course. I became devoted to posting about my life online, sharing snaps from my “fresh start”, trying to prove to everyone that I was Wonder Woman. I wanted friends and family – and even strangers – to think the previous year hadn’t affected me.

But looking back I was far from OK.

My real life wasn’t the sunny, happy-go-lucky version I had created on social media. I was living alone, desperate for validation and battling seriously deteriorated mental health.

Then in March I reached rock bottom. I wanted to end it all and found myself on the edge of the Tay Road Bridge ready to jump. Thankfully, I was talked down – and that’s when my life completely changed.

In the weeks following my suicide attempt, I received unbelievable care and support. I learned that I was living my life for other people, creating a persona to hide the real me, and discovered why I had felt different.

I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, which impacts how you react with others, and that marked a huge turning point.

As part of my treatment I started a blog called The Empowered Woman Project, where I shared my journey and documented my feelings. And what started as my own form of therapy has now grown into an online community with thousands of followers.

As part of the project I have hosted events, started petitions, crowd-funded an exhibition of contributors’ stories, and created a safe space to talk about mental health. Next year, our work will even be turned into a podcast.

I have achieved so much in terms of personal growth and seeing everything more clearly. So, in a weird way, I’m glad everything happened the way it did.

Stevie’s story

“I used to enjoy a drink…like the Cookie Monster enjoys a biscuit. Then I stopped”

Our writer Stevie swapped the pub for the gym and is feeling like a new man (Andrew Cawley / DC Thomson)

Sunday Post writer Stevie Gallacher, 38, says he is feeling healthier and wealthier after putting a cork in the bottle

I’m one of those people who enjoys a drink, although in hindsight that’s like saying the Cookie Monster is fond of a biscuit.

I took to booze from the age of – sorry, dad – 16. Before, I was everything I thought real men weren’t – insecure, shy and prone to fearful mumbling around girls.

After a couple of pints, I was still all of those things but at least I was half-cut.

Life quickly became an endless carnival of cocktails but since I didn’t do it during work or if I was driving, it was, despite all the medical evidence to the contrary, completely fine.

In Scotland you can get canned most days and no one bats an eyelid, mainly because they themselves are too drunk to notice.

Far from being ashamed, I thought being able to effortlessly absorb lots of red wine was an essential ability, although, now I think about it, you can also say the same thing about a roll of Bounty.

It didn’t matter that I was blasting past the weekly recommended alcohol intake limit like a tanked-up tobogganist.

Yet although reality was cushioned in a comforting, soft-focus duvet of drunkenness, I was vaguely aware that after two decades of punishment I probably had a liver like a boiled hockey puck.

Giving up for a month would, I imagined, regenerate my renal system like it was the superhero Wolverine.

It wasn’t particularly enjoyable at first – reality seemed washed-out and one-paced, like a six-day episode of EastEnders where Phil Mitchell cries at a mirror.

But eventually I could feel my mood lifting and my body flooding itself with energy that didn’t come from anything triple-distilled or the Czech Republic.

Gone was the bloated, jaundiced ghoul who stared back at me from the bathroom mirror in the morning, too.

It was as if I’d been body-swapped with someone a decade younger, like a human phone upgrade.

After my dry month was up I didn’t much fancy going back, and so I haven’t.

A year later and my wallet is heavier, and my beer belly has disappeared – I’m about a stone-and-a-half lighter than 12 months ago because, rather than hang out in pubs, I now hang out in the gym.

Who knows, maybe you also prefer treadmills to Bushmills?

Heather’s story

“The final straw came when I went to help a woman who collapsed on a bus and got stuck between the seats!”

Heather Campbell, 50, from Ayr, lost 6 and a half stone after deciding to be fabulous at 50 (Jamie Williamson)

Over the years, I’ve tried everything, from the Atkins Diet to joining a gym. I’d lose a few stone, but the weight would creep back on.

I work as a nurse in A&E and the 12-hour shifts are physically demanding. Carrying all the extra weight was taking its toll on my legs and back, it was uncomfortable.

The final straw came one day I was at work and went to help a woman who had collapsed on a minibus. But I ended up stuck between the seats. I was so embarrassed I vowed no more and decided to join Weight Watchers.

At the beginning of 2018 with my 50th birthday looming and two young grandchildren to chase after I had plenty of motivation.

My eating plan is easy to stick to and I don’t have to deny myself treats. I can still take the grandchildren for ice cream and go out for a few drinks with friends. It’s all about balance.

In just over a year, my weight fell from 16st 2lbs to 9st 9lbs – I lost six and a half stone and got to a stone under my target weight.

Heather before her weight loss

I always joked about being 50 and fabulous and thin – and now I am.

I feel and look years younger. When I see myself in a mirror, I can’t believe it’s me.

I look back at photos from before and it’s as if I’ve been blown up with a bike pump.

My grandchildren are already loving the new me… I think I spent longer on the bouncy castle at my grandson’s birthday than any of the children.

At work things are a lot easier too. I used to tuck into sweets, crisps and chocolate – but now I carry tangerines in my pocket and snack on them instead.

My uniform has gone from XL to XXS and I’m known as the ‘wee skinny nurse’.

I love the new me. There’s definitely no going back.”

THE EXPERT: January is the month we should be making life-changing decisions

Research has found that only a quarter of people will manage to keep their New Year’s resolutions, and many will already have failed.

According to life coach Sue MacGillivray, January isn’t always the best time to set goals, even if it does feel like a fresh start. She said: “New Year is almost like every Monday but on a much bigger scale – and that can set huge expectations.

“But at the start of the year, we’re still out of sync and not back to our normal routine. There’s no reason you can’t make a positive change on January 16 or even February 2.

“A new start can be made at any time of the year. Personally, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions and I don’t encourage my clients to make them either. They aren’t always about making a positive change or living the life you want to live.”

According to research, 22% of people last just six days before packing in their resolutions.

Sue added:“It’s important to connect with what we love and enjoy, and that’s what our goals should be. Older people in particular often lose a sense of what that is, but there’s no reason you can’t make a change at any point in life. And as we get older we tend to actually have more of an idea about what’s right for us.”