IT was a documentary about an obese woman being lifted out of her home by a crane that made Zara Garham first want to lose weight.

At 14 she was already 15 stone and seeing the show scared her into thinking her eating was getting out of control.

She says: “I had images of me being crane-lifted out of my bedroom and it scared me.

“I was terrified of ending up like that, so I started starving myself, surviving on a sausage roll a day and doing a two-hour exercise video every day.”

Zara’s weight dropped to nine stone in a matter of months. She says: “I made myself ill losing weight so quickly and I was pale and weak from not eating and over exercising.

“I was rushed into hospital with pancreatitis and had to have my gallbladder removed. I was in Great Ormond Street Hospital for six months recovering.

“I didn’t tell the doctors how I had starved myself but I had suspicions my ill-health was partly linked to that.”

After the health scare, Zara went back to over-eating and the weight piled back on. Zara’s binge eating led to her tipping the scales at 23 stone at 25 years old.

At home, Zara and her partner Kevin Cohurst would eat fatty processed foods on a daily basis.

“We would have takeaways at least five times a week,” she says. It was convenience mostly and because I didn’t know the right things to eat. “I wouldn’t have anything for breakfast and then I would be starving by 2pm so I would go to the bakery and get an egg roll, sausage roll and a cake. Dinner would be a Chinese, KFC, Indian or chips from the chip shop or frozen chicken burger and chips from the freezer.”

Zara, 26, from Southend, was taunted by strangers when she left the house.

She says: “People used to shout at me in the street, saying ‘look at the size of her’ and ‘who ate all the pies?’ If I bought sweets in the shop I’d see people pointing and whispering about me.”

All of this took its toll on Zara’s confidence.

“I used to not like going out, even to take my two Stafford-shire bull terriers for a walk,” she says.

Zara’s biggest sorrow was not falling pregnant despite years of trying.

She says: “Kevin and I have been together for nine years and we have been trying for a baby for a lot of that time.

“In late 2011 I decided it was time to visit the doctor. I was told I would not even be considered for IVF treatment until I had lost seven stone. “It felt like my world had ended at that point because seven stone seemed like such a lot of weight and it felt like it would take so long to get off.”

Rather than lose weight with an extreme diet, Zara and Kevin decided to do it the sensible way and joined Slimming World in January last year.

Kevin, 30, weighed 23st 12lbs and Zara was 23st 3lbs.

Zara adds: “He supported me and we both joined the health club together. I didn’t know how much I weighed and it was a shock on the first weigh-in to find out I had got so heavy.”

The friendly atmosphere in the class encouraged the couple.

Zara and Kevin’s diet is completely different now.

She says: “I always have breakfast now. Even if I am running late I’ll have a banana, but usually I will make time for a healthy fry-up of lean bacon, a boiled egg, beans, low fat sausage and wholemeal bread. “Lunch is pasta or a sandwich and dinner is chicken, vegetables and new potatoes and gravy. I also snack on a lot of fruit.”

At 5ft6ins, Zara is now 13st 9lbs.

Kevin has lost 8st. The best news of all is the reaction when Zara went back to see the doctor about IVF treatment.

“I have got the all clear on my tests that my tubes are not blocked and next I will see the gynaecologist to find out if I can have a baby naturally - which I have been told I might be able to,” she says. The couple attend Slimming World classes at the Cornerstones in Central Avenue, Southend.