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I'm on the Biggest Loser to save my sister

Sisters Caitlin and Daina are facing the biggest challenge of their lives.

Caitlin Bottrell, 23, Sunbury, Vic
(pictured left with sister Daina)

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I was determined not to cry. 'If it's guest-list only, then why did you let all those other girls in?' asked my older sister Daina, fuming.

'Daina, it's okay, just leave it,' I whispered, my face burning with embarrassment.

It was 2004 and even at 18, I was getting turned away from a nightclub. Yet again.

'It's just because we're not a size eight,' Daina continued.

The bouncer shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, but his smirk said it all.

'Sorry,' I said to my girlfriends, walking away. 'It's not you're fault,' they all chimed.

But I knew it was. At 140 kilos, this wasn't the first time a night out had ended early because of my size. You'd think I'd be used to the teasing and discrimination by then, but it never got easier.

The realisation I was different to everyone else came in my first year of primary school.

'Fatty!' the bully in the year above would call every day.

'Don't you call her that!' Daina would yell every time she heard him. 'You don't even know her!'

That was Daina, my protector, and the best big sister I could've hoped for.

By age nine, I was so much bigger than my classmates that Mum took me to see a dietician.

'I believe Caitlin has an underactive thyroid gland,' he said, prescribing medication.

But his diagnosis was just an excuse for me to eat even more. I can't help that I'm big, I'd tell myself while gorging on lollies I'd bought with my pocket money.

By year seven I weighed 100 kilos, and starting a new school was awful.

'Why don't you go eat more KFC,' kids would jeer.

I ate to hide the pain I felt every day, and so I grew and grew. By the age of 15 I had to give up playing netball, a sport I loved, because my size made it impossible. And when my mum Lynne died a year later, comfort eating with Daina was my only reprieve.

Daina, 18, who'd always been skinny, had started working at McDonald's two years earlier and had piled on the kilos too.

Our favourite pastime was eating junk food together, and the more the better. Lollies, chocolates, chips, ice-cream, popcorn, soft drinks, fast food - we loved it all.

Over the next two years my weight soared and by my year-12 formal, I was too big to wear a dress.

'You look beautiful,' Daina said as she put the finishing touches on my hair and make-up.

But I was wearing size-26 pants and a shirt, and I knew she couldn't be telling the truth.

Five years on, at 23, I was still stuck in a cycle of misery. At 179 kilos, I was pretty much too big to do anything.

I'd never had a boyfriend - who'd be interested in me? And apart from going to work each day, I didn't do much else.

My weight had isolated me from my friends and colleagues, and Daina was really the only person I could turn to for comfort.

That's why it was such a shock when she sat me down at dinner in May last year and said she had something serious to say.

Daina Bottrell, 25, Albanvale, Vic

Caitlin, there's something important I need to talk to you about,' I said, struggling to hold myself together. 'I'm really worried about you.'

Watching my little sister's sad eyes, I pushed myself to go on.

'You need to start doing some exercise,' I said, feeling awful. 'I love you so much and I'm scared I'll lose you.'

'What do you mean?' Caitlin asked.

'At the rate you're going, I don't think you'll live to 30,' I said, bursting into tears. 'I don't want to see you die.'

Taking a deep breath, I waited for Caitlin's reaction. I'd watched Dad and other family members try to talk to Caitlin about her weight over the years and every time, she'd immediately gone on the defensive.

But as a tear ran down her face, I knew that I'd got through. 'I know,' she admitted. 'I need to do something.'

'We can go to the gym together,' I said, suddenly enthusiastic. 'And start watching what we eat.'

You see, it wasn't just Caitlin who had a weight problem. I did too. At 105 kilos, I'd steadily gained weight over the last few years.

Working on a hospital rehabilitation ward, I constantly saw obese people who'd suffered strokes.

Any one of them could have been my sister or me, which was terrifying.

With a body mass index (BMI) of 35, I was classed as obese and Caitlin, who had a BMI of 61, was morbidly obese, meaning she was at high risk of premature death.

After my talk with Caitlin, I began looking into gym memberships and thinking about our eating habits. But Caitlin had other ideas.

'I've applied for The Biggest Loser,' she said over the phone one day. 'And I've signed you up too.'

'What, really?' I laughed. 'Yep,' Caitlin said.

I knew this was our chance. We had tried dieting, and we'd both gone through bouts of exercising, but we'd never been able to make it last.

After getting through the first round of applications, we were called for a group interview.

'We need to be 100 per cent honest,' I told Caitlin. 'They need to know everything we've gone through.'

Our interview session was filled with tears, and I don't think the judges could've missed my huge concern for my sister.

'It's been devastating to watch Caitlin be degraded her entire life,' I said. 'We both want to change, but we don't know how.'

'I don't want to live my life in the shadows anymore,' Caitlin said. Our stories obviously touched the judges, because weeks later, we got a call.

'Oh my God,' I squealed. 'I can't believe we've got in!'

Caitlin and I were on a high for weeks, knowing our new lives were about to begin.

I set my goal weight at 70 kilos, meaning I'd need to lose 35 kilos. It was a big task but was sure I could do it with Caitlin's support. I was hoping she felt the same. She wanted to get down to 100 kilos, a 79 kilo drop from her current weight.

And as the heaviest ever female contestant on the show, we knew the trainers would have big plans for her.

'Make sure you do this for yourself as well as Caitlin,' said my boyfriend of two years. 'I will,' I promised.

Packing my bag for the show in October 2009, I was nervous. I knew Caitlin and I had a massive challenge ahead. But I also knew as long as we had each other, nothing could stop us.

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