I am a unmarried mum who felt drained and haggard

FOR the past 15 months, some of us have struggled to wear anything but joggers or brush our hair.

These women, however, went through a drastic change…

‘I’ve spent more than £7,000 on tweakments’

I am a unmarried mum who felt drained and haggard, dermalfillerbeforeandafter

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Jessica Taylor spent £7,000 on Botox, skin rehydration and dental treatmentsCredit: Emma Phillipson, Lancton

JESSICA Taylor, 34, is a make-up artist and lives in Sevenoaks, Kent, with her three-year-old twins Raffy and Jago.

“Flicking through old photos of myself, my eyes filled with tears. I barely recognised the youthful woman smiling for the camera.

Since giving birth to my twins Raffy and Jago in 2018, aged 31, I’d become increasingly despondent about how I looked. My youthful glow had been replaced with an exhausted pallor and a drooping brow.

My relationship with my sons’ dad ended after they were born. He’s still involved in their lives and I adore my little boys, but being a single mum took its toll. Permanently in survival mode, with no time for myself, I looked tired and haggard.

After giving birth, I shed 4st through healthy eating and rushing around after the kids, but the weight loss made me look gaunt and accentuated my gummy smile.

When I went back to work as a make-up artist when the boys were one, I felt self-conscious, despite the layers of make-up I hid behind.

I am a unmarried mum who felt drained and haggard, dermalfillerbeforeandafter

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She had put being a single mum before self care and no longer recognised herself in the mirror

How could I help other women feel their best when I felt down about my own appearance? By 2020, I was sick of feeling this way and resolved to spend money to boost my confidence.

That February, I was fitted for an Invisalign brace to straighten my teeth, by cosmetic dentist Dr Krystyna Wilczynski. It was £3,600, which is a lot, but I was able to pay in instalments. Just weeks later, lockdown struck.

All my work dried up and I wasn’t eligible for government support, but thankfully I’d always been sensible with money so I had savings, plus child maintenance from my ex.

With everything shut, I found I was able to save money by not spending on clothes, lunches with friends or takeaway coffees. I formed a support bubble with my parents and my ex continued to help with our sons.

How could I help other women feel their best when I felt down about my own appearance?

With extra time on my hands and money in the bank, I researched other treatments, hoping to emerge from lockdown an improved version of myself.

In March this year I finished my Invisalign treatment, which I was so happy with, then the following month I was able to start the list of tweakments I’d decided on.

I am a unmarried mum who felt drained and haggard, dermalfillerbeforeandafter

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Now she feels like her old, confident self again – and she doesn’t regret a penny

First, I had teeth whitening, composite bonding to make them look perfectly in line, and Botox to reduce my gummy smile.

It all came to £1,990, but I felt so much better that it spurred me on. I had Botox on my crow’s feet, costing £300, dermal filler to contour my cheeks, which came to £700, and three Profhilo treatments to tighten and rehydrate my skin, at £375 each.

In all, I spent over £7,000, but I don’t regret a penny and in the future I might have more treatments. I never wanted to drastically change my appearance – just look like myself.

I’ve been open with friends about what I’ve had done and they all said I’m glowing. Aesthetic treatments aren’t for everyone, but they’ve brought my confidence back and I’ve started dating someone new. It’s wonderful to feel like my old self again.”

‘I’ve slimmed down from a size 28 to a 12’

LAUREN Mohseni, 34, is a PA and lives in Billericay, Essex, with her husband Kel, 39, and daughter Sophia-Rose, seven.

“Opening the fancy envelope, my heart sank. It was an invitation to one of my closest friend’s weddings. Instead of feeling excited, I felt guilty because I knew I wouldn’t be going – at a size 28, I was petrified old school friends would judge me.

I am a unmarried mum who felt drained and haggard, dermalfillerbeforeandafter

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Lauren Mohseni lost an incredible 8½ st in lockdownCredit: Emma Phillipson, Lancton

Since primary school I’d been chubby, but my puppy fat didn’t shift as I grew up, thanks to my junk-food-heavy diet. By the time I was 21 in 2008, and working as a PA in London, I was around a size 14.

Most days I’d skip breakfast, have a KFC for lunch then a greasy takeaway in the evening, snacking throughout the day on biscuits and fizzy drinks.

In 2012 I started dating Kel, who I’d known for years through family, and we married later that year. I was a size 16 and around 14st at our wedding, though Kel would always tell me I was beautiful.

Our daughter Sophia-Rose was born in August 2013, but the pregnancy pounds stuck around. I carried on eating badly and I never exercised, and by 2015 I was a size 18 and over 15st.

After maternity leave, I didn’t return to my job in the City, because I wanted to spend more time with my daughter, but also I felt so self-conscious about my size.

I did some work in my family’s pub, but preferred to hide away at home. I avoided having my photo taken and dressed in dark, baggy clothes.

I am a unmarried mum who felt drained and haggard, dermalfillerbeforeandafter

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Before losing weight she felt embarrassed to go out with her husband and wouldn’t attend her friends’ weddings

Then, in January 2017, I fell down the stairs, shattering the bones in my foot. I had surgery and was practically bed-bound for eight weeks. To cheer myself up, I’d order in McDonald’s for lunch and curries for dinner.

Soon I was tipping the scales at nearly 20st. I was constantly out of breath and my joints ached under the excess weight I was putting on my 5ft 10in frame. By 2019, after more surgery on my foot, I was a dress size 28 and weighed 20st 10lb.

When I looked at my body in the mirror, I’d flinch at the rolls of fat and my bloated face, and when that wedding invite arrived in August 2019, my self-esteem was at rock bottom.

I RSVPd to say I couldn’t make it, only confessing the real reason to my friend after the wedding. He was so understanding, but I felt angry at myself for letting him down. I had to change, or life was going to pass me by.

I am a unmarried mum who felt drained and haggard, dermalfillerbeforeandafter

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Lauren says she’ll soon be starting her new job ‘with my head high, feeling good about myself at last’

In February 2020, I decided to start eating healthily and I joined a slimming club. A month later, when lockdown began, I was furloughed from my waitressing job, which gave me time to focus on myself.

Instead of skipping breakfast, I’d have granola with fruit, while processed sandwiches and takeaways were replaced with salads and stir-fries. Kel was so supportive and  joined me in eating healthily, even though he wasn’t overweight.

I used to be embarrassed to go out with my husband because I thought people would think: ‘What’s he doing with her?’

My diet, plus walking 10,000 steps a day, saw me lose 2lb a week and I shared my progress on my Instagram account @Laurenamy86 for motivation

Today, I’m a size 12 and I’ve reached my target weight of 12st 5lb, after losing 8½ st. Instead of shapeless clothes, I now dress in skinny jeans and summer dresses. The friends and family I’ve seen since restrictions eased have been gob-smacked, and I can’t wait to reunite with more of them.

I used to be embarrassed to go out with my husband because I thought people would think: ‘What’s he doing with her?’ Now I feel confident and attractive, and because I’m happier, our marriage is even stronger.

I’m due to start a new job back in the City, eight years after leaving. I’ll walk into the office on my first day with my head high, feeling good about myself at last.”

‘I had my long hair chopped for the first time in my life’

MANDY Wong Oultram, 39, is a personal trainer and lives in Staffordshire Moorlands with her husband Daniel, 44.

“‘Leave some of it down!’ I told the hairdresser as she styled my long black hair on the morning of my wedding in August 2014.

I am a unmarried mum who felt drained and haggard, dermalfillerbeforeandafter

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Mandy Wong Oultram had a whopping 12in cut off her hairCredit: Emma Phillipson, Lancton

Mixed with my excitement about getting married was nervousness that all eyes would be on me. I needed something to hide behind, and, as always, it was my hair.

Since I was 13, I’d always had long hair down to my waist – 21in long, in fact. My hair was part of my identity, it gave me confidence and made me feel feminine and attractive.

My husband Daniel – who I met in 2000 through my sister – loved it, and friends often told me they envied the length.

If I felt nervous, I’d twiddle it in my fingers, and if I was stressed or tired, I’d hide behind it. When I was facing a difficult day, like my dad’s funeral in 2008, I’d wear it down, and continued to for a month – it felt like a protective shield.

I am a unmarried mum who felt drained and haggard, dermalfillerbeforeandafter

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She would hide behind her long tresses and saw it as a protective shield

When lockdown hit in March last year, it was such a stressful time. Through my business, FlexFit, I normally ran face-to-face personal training sessions in a gym, but now I had to pivot overnight to Zoom sessions.

I had no idea if my business would survive, as some clients decided to pause their training.

Thankfully, others were happy to switch to online. Then when we went into lockdown earlier this year, the cold and darker days made it harder to remain positive.

I didn’t take on any new clients between January and March, which is unheard of as they’re normally my peak months, and felt like I was just staying afloat.

I’m not an anxious person, but it tested my mental strength. By April this year, as the country began to open up again, I realised I’d stepped out of my comfort zone – and succeeded.

I’d pivoted, persevered and kept my business going during the hardest year imaginable.

I am a unmarried mum who felt drained and haggard, dermalfillerbeforeandafter

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Mandy’s new ‘do symbolised her leaving an awful year behind and she no longer needs the security blanket

I wanted to symbolise leaving that awful year behind, plus I wanted to prove again to myself that I could embrace change. Cutting my hair seemed like an obvious way to do that.

So in April, when salons reopened, I sat in the chair and looked at my hairdresser of the past 15 years, who’d never done more than a trim of my hair before.

When I told her I wanted a short, choppy bob, she looked stunned and warned me how different I’d look, but I insisted.

As she began to cut, I didn’t feel nervous, just excited, and after it was blow-dried, I looked in the mirror. It was 12in shorter, but I loved my new style. I left the salon with a huge smile.

I’d told my husband what I was planning, but he didn’t think I’d go through with it, so when I walked through the front door and shouted ‘surprise!’ he was speechless, but he loved my new hair.

There have been a few times when I’m training at the gym that I’ve wished I could just tie my hair back, but apart from that I’ve not missed the length.

I don’t need it as a security blanket any more. The pandemic helped me to realise that I’m more resilient than I ever knew.” 

  • Hair & make-up: Sara Bowden, Lou Rothwell 
  • Styling: Charlotte Burton, Cigdem Tanrioglu, Salome Munuo 
  • Jessica wears: jumpsuit, River Island; shoes, New Look 
  • Lauren wears: dress, Boohoo.com; shoes, Nastygal.com 
  • Mandy wears: jumpsuit, New Look
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