The crowd were ready and waiting, and the spotlight was all mine as I prepared to step out onto the stage. All I wanted was to take the microphone and wow everyone with my soulful reggae set – but first I had the ordeal of facing the audience in my loose-fitting, black, size-20 dress, hoping that nobody realised how self-conscious I was. It was an outfit that said ‘Don’t look at me’, and I felt a million miles from the star I dreamed of becoming.
I’d always loved to sing, but my weight wasn’t just getting in the way of my confidence – it was affecting my voice, too.
My lungs always felt tight and hitting the high notes was becoming a strain. And as well as not feeling great about the clothes I was wearing, I didn’t like the way the bright stage lights made me sweat.
I’d tried one restrictive diet after another, never sticking to the latest fad plan for long, and I usually ended up weighing more than when I’d started. And when I wasn’t dieting, I was having family-size takeaway pizzas with sides of onion rings, snacking on chocolate brownies, and often eating half a loaf of buttered bread over the course of an evening.
When my dad was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it suddenly hit me – if I didn’t find a healthier way to live, I might be at risk of heading down the same path. Every time I tried to stop eating the pizzas and snacks, though, I felt hungry and gave up after a few days.
After several years of performing in my spare time, in March 2015 I made an exciting decision: I’d give up my teaching assistant job and focus on singing professionally. I’d worked hard to establish my career and while it was really beginning to take off, my weight seemed to cast a shadow over what should have been a thrilling time. I was only just fitting into my size 18-20 clothes and every shopping trip left my confidence at rock bottom.
That Christmas, I was eating a box of chocolates and instead of enjoying them, I felt miserable. ‘That’s it,’ I said to myself. ‘Enough is enough.’ I knew I had one chance at life – and at singing success – and I wanted to give both my best shot.
Having seen a few photos online of people who’d lost weight with Slimming World, I searched for the details of my nearest group. Days later, I walked into the hall not even a little bit nervous. I felt empowered that I was taking the first step to a healthier, happier future and I couldn’t wait to get started.
As Jo, my Consultant, explained the Food Optimising plan, I was surprised at how much I was allowed to eat – particularly pasta and rice, two of my favourites. Armed with my Food Optimising book, I filled my shopping trolley with lots of Free Food, including skinless chicken breasts, vegetables and punnets of fresh berries. Each day, I’d use one of my Healthy Extras for milk in my cups of tea or a portion of cheese, and then I’d use my Syns to satisfy my sweet cravings with a Hi-fi bar I’d bought at group or a 14g Cadbury Curly Wurly, both 3 Syns each.
Mum would cook me a tasty Slimming World dinner like spaghetti Bolognese using lean mince, and on the days I was travelling to gigs, I’d stop off and enjoy something on plan like a jacket potato with baked beans.
As the scales went down I noticed my dresses getting looser, too. On the weeks when I had a little gain, Jo was on hand with lots of useful suggestions, such as different recipes I could try to keep things interesting, and ways I could get more Speed Free Foods into my meals.‘I also started jogging when I had enough time around my gigs and I noticed my breathing getting easier as I slowly built up my fitness levels. I heard a difference in my voice, too, and found it easier to hit the high notes.
Then, in September 2016, I reached my target of 12st. I’d never felt so proud of myself in my life!
This summer, at the Lambeth Country Show, I walked out in front of a crowd of 2,000 people wearing a pair of colourful, funky, size-12 trousers and a crop top. Feeling confident in how I looked, I was free to sing my heart out and enjoy taking the audience with me. Earlier this year, I released my latest EP, Forever in Love, and every day I feel like I’m getting closer to my dreams of singing stardom!