As I bent down to undo my shoes, I could see my son Spencer’s eyes light up. ‘Are you coming on the trampoline, too, Mummy?’ he asked. And for the first time ever, I was. We’d been to the trampoline park before, but at around 22st and over the maximum weight allowed, I’d had to sit and watch while my mum and Spencer had all the fun. 

Now, as the mother-and-toddler session started, he was so excited that I almost cried. ‘Come this way, Mummy!’ he shouted, grabbing me by the hand and pulling me towards where we needed to go. Watching his little face, I felt so glad I’d started my weight loss and fitness journey eight months ago. His happiness was all the motivation I needed to keep going. 

Since having Spencer two-and-a-half years earlier, my size had become a more serious issue for me. It had worn away my self-confidence and I’d become very anxious, preferring to stay at home rather than risk people staring at me. On the rare occasions we did go out, I’d quickly get tired and my knees would throb.

I’d see other mums playing at the park with their children, while I sat on a bench and watched Spencer racing around. There was no way I could climb the steps up the slide, and pushing the swing made me hot and breathless. 

It was the same story at home. Spencer would beg me to sit with him on the carpet and play cars, and I’d promise to join him in five minutes, but I never did. The truth was, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get back up again. I couldn’t sit cross-legged, and whenever I did try to join in with him, I was in pain within minutes. 

As for the words ‘soft play’, they filled me with dread. Squeezing between obstacles, crawling through tunnels and plunging into ball pits were all out of the question. One time, Spencer got stuck at the top of a slide and I had to try to reassure my frightened child from the sidelines while my sister-in-law went to the rescue. It was heartbreaking. 

I was desperate to be a fitter, slimmer, healthier mum, but it felt impossible – the way I saw it, exercise just wasn’t for me. I didn’t have the confidence to walk into a gym or put on a swimming costume for a trip to the pool. 

I felt I’d got to the point where I was too big to be able to do anything about it. 

Then, in January 2018, Emma Harris – a Slimming World Consultant who lived two doors down from me – told me that she was setting up a new group in Chapeltown, near to where we lived in Sheffield. As I tucked Spencer into bed that night, I made a decision – I was going to join. ‘I’m doing it for Spencer,’ I told my husband, Peter. ‘I want to have the energy to give him my best.’

One step at a time

Heading to Emma’s group for the first time, I was racked with anxiety, convinced I’d be the biggest one there. Once I walked through the doors, though, it didn’t seem to matter – the support from everyone there was overwhelming. At first, my focus was on Food Optimising and getting to grips with the plan. All the great recipe ideas I got at group helped me to replace our family-size ready meals and regular takeaways with home-cooked curries and tasty lasagnes. As my confidence in the kitchen grew, I began experimenting with different fruit and veg, too. 

By April, I’d lost just over 3st and felt ready to start trying a bit of Body Magic, Slimming World’s activity programme. I began by walking for a total of 20 minutes each day to my dad’s house and back, with Spencer in his pushchair. The walk home was all uphill, but slowly it began to feel easier, and all the time, I kept my eyes firmly fixed on Spencer, so I couldn’t see if anyone was staring at me. 

Then came the magic day, in September 2018, when I was more than 6st lighter and joined in with Spencer at the trampoline park for the very first time. Chasing around after him was tiring, but the look on his face made everything worthwhile. So when a friend from my Slimming World group, Helen, suggested I join her at a Zumba class, I decided to give it a shot. ‘You can do it at a pace that suits you,’ she reassured me. ‘I just stand at the back and do my own thing.’

Free from insecurity

At the same time as I was discovering Zumba, I was also finding new ways to enjoy active time with my family, especially with Spencer. He’d always wanted a scooter, so we bought one for him – and I got myself one, too! We’d go along to the local skate park together and I’d whizz about, no longer worried about whether anyone was staring. Not only that, I took him to soft play – just the two of us – and had such a great time. There wasn’t a tunnel I didn’t crawl through or a slide I didn’t speed down!

All this activity meant I’d been gradually working my way through the Body Magic awards in group, and by autumn 2018, I’d received my Gold award. I’d also dropped from a size 26 to an 18, and people had started commenting on how well I looked. Suddenly, I wasn’t just doing this for Spencer, I was doing it for myself, too. 

I’m over 7½st lighter at the moment (I had lost nearly 10st, but I really struggled with the first half of 2020, so I’m trying – with the help of my virtual group – to get back to my target weight now).

Our family life has been transformed and instead of watching TV on the sofa, we go for walks –  and I’ve even started taking Spencer, now four, swimming.

I hadn’t set foot in a pool since I was a teenager, terrified I’d see someone I knew. As we splashed around together for the first time, I felt so emotional, knowing we could so easily have missed out on having such a brilliant time. Recently, we went to London as a family and we walked for miles seeing all the sights. At one point, Spencer stopped, his legs tired. ‘Carry me, Mummy?’ he asked. I lifted him up and as he snuggled against me, I felt so proud. Yes, being slimmer feels wonderful and it’s something I never dreamt was possible. But more than that, I now have a fun, active life with my family and I wouldn’t change that for the world. 

*Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.

*If you’re planning to start a new exercise programme, we recommend you check with your GP first – especially if you have an existing health condition, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or asthma. If you’re pregnant, check the suitability of the exercise with your midwife.