A student who lost 18 STONE after being told she only had six months to live is now a beauty pageant finalist.
Bethany Churcher weighed 32-and-a-half stone at the age of 18 when she suffered a mini stroke which left her in a hospital.
Doctors told her she needed emergency surgery and said she would only have six months to live if she did not loose weight as she could suffer a full stroke.
As a result of the surgery she had dramatic weight loss, but did not have the confidence to enter beauty pageants until she sang at Miss Plus Size UK last year.
She then decided to enter the competition herself in November last year and discovered she was a finalist in March.
Bethany, now 22 and 18 stone, said yesterday (Thurs): “I had to recover from the stroke then was told I needed the surgery as soon as possible. They only gave me six months to live – it was terrifying.
“But I was lucky it wasn’t a big stroke, that’s why they wanted me to loose weight as soon as possible.
“I lost the weight as a result of the surgery as my stomach was much smaller, I lost about 11 stone in a year.
“Then I started paying attention to what I ate and working out, it was still very hard though.”
After battling with the compulsive eating disorder, she has beaten 770 other other applicants to make the final of the nationwide beauty pageant.
The student at Goldsmiths University in New Cross, south London, said: “I didn’t think I’d ever have the confidence to enter a pageant until I sang at last year’s competition.
“After I finished people started coming up to me and telling me I should try model. That was such a confidence boost so I decided to enter this year.
“But it’s not about the competition or winning, it’s about spreading a positive body image message. I thought I was too ugly, but beauty is not about how you look.
“Everyone is beautiful, people need to look beyond the surface.”
At her lowest, Bethany said she had no motivation to change, despite the impact of her weight on her health.
She went and had the gastric surgery in February 2012.
She added: “Showing body love and getting people to love themselves is so important.
“When I was really, really big, I hated myself. I had no will power and drive to lose weight because I didn’t care any more.
“When I was that size I just didn’t care, I had no desire to be here.”
Bethany, who performs blues and soul songs, was also a contestant on last year’s Britain’s Got Talent, appearing on TV in front of Simon Cowell, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams.
She added: “They focused so much on my story by the time I went on stage I was quite upset.
“The judges said I was too nervous, but it wasn’t nerves it was because they’d focused on my sob story.”
Bethany says she wants to inspire other people to love their bodies, whatever their size or shape.
The drama and theatre arts student said: “I still have self-confidence issues but I’m a lot more confident than before.
“I just want to go for it to prove that you can be beautiful and plus size.
“I want everybody to feel beautiful, everyone disregards plus size women.
“Magazines only show certain types of people, but that’s not representative of society. We need to be showing more real women to represent society.”
Bethany will compete against 21 other women in the final of Miss Plus Size UK, due to be held in either Brighton, Bournemouth or London in September.