A FAMILY holiday to Bulgaria last summer was the final straw for Dawn Bongartz.

On the plane she noticed the seatbelt managed to fasten and no more, but the tipping point came when her son asked why she was the only lady not wearing a bikini.

Feeling embarrassed, she couldn’t answer him but decided that from that point on, something had to change.

Dawn, 37, has never looked back and has since overhauled her approach to food, taken up regular exercise and completely changed her life.

She said: “If I can do this, anyone can just fight for what you believe in and believe in yourself.

“No words can ever describe how I feel in my life right now.

“It's not just the usual stuff like feeling happy and fit, but also the little things, like walking into a shop and picking up clothes you like not because it will do, because it will fit.

“Playing football with my son and not collapsing in a heap because I am out of breath.

“Coming out the shower and the bath towel actually fits all the way round you.

“I still catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and can't believe it's me.”

Haunted by diets all her life, Dawn decided joining a group wasn’t for her.

Instead, she took it day by day and started re-educating herself about food – eating healthily and allowing herself treats in moderation.

In January, she incorporated exercise and now does Les Mills Body Pump classes at The Leisure Bowl twice each week, along with one or two cardio sessions in the ladies’ gym.

Working out has changed the shape of her body and she touts the mental benefits of activity – giving a reprieve from everyday issues and creating a positive outlook.

She said: “I have been to Les Mills classes over the years but it was my sister that went to Body Pump for a few years so encouraged me to come along with her and I just fell in love with it almost instantly.

“I also enjoy Body Combat and Body Attack, but nothing beats Body Pump for me.

“I love it as it gives you a feeling of power and of being in control and you also feel it working every muscle in your body.

“The music is motivating and you feel great when you know it's time to lift heavier weights.

“The classes were not intimidating like I thought and everyone was so welcoming and friendly.”

Throughout the process Dawn, from Alva, was kept motivated by small goals like getting into a new item of clothing.

She now has her eye on a little black dress in her sister’s wardrobe that she would like to be able to pinch before Christmas.

And she has been bowled over by how loved ones have really rallied around.

She said: “I have been completely overwhelmed by the support from my family and friends and all the amazing comments and encouragement people, even strangers, have given to me over the last year.

“I find it very hard to accept sometimes as I feel I am just a normal girl fighting hard to achieve her lifetime goal and being praised for this in the process has made me so humble and emotional.”

Dawn, who has lost 7 stone 8lbs, has a few words for anyone keen to embark on their own fitness journey.

She said: “Don't ever feel intimidated to exercise, everyone has to start somewhere and walking into the gym or a class in the first step to your success story.

“You will always walk out a session feeling energised, happy, motivated and empowered and there is no better feeling.”