Walking into the scout hut in 1969, my sister Jessie and I had no idea what to expect. The idea of a slimming group was completely new to us, but when we’d heard that one was opening locally, we decided to give it a go. We’d both been trying to lose weight for my niece’s upcoming wedding, without much success, and neither of us wanted to spend the day feeling frumpy and uncomfortable in our chosen skirt suits. So off we went to group, with our two shillings and sixpence – 12p in today’s money – weekly membership fee in our purses.

Casting my mind back an unbelievable 50 years, I remember the hall being full of people sitting and chatting together. It was announced that there would be a group discussion part of the class, which seemed like a very strange concept at the time, and I felt nervous as I looked at all the new faces around me. My first thought was, ‘Oh dear me, what is this going to be like?’.

Those worries quickly disappeared as I listened to our warm, welcoming Consultant, Margaret, explain her slimming philosophy. This was, of course, Margaret Miles-Bramwell, Slimming World’s founder, and the group I was attending was the very first Slimming World group. Even right at the beginning, the idea of group was exactly as it is today – a friendly, supportive place where members can learn to make healthier choices and discuss their weight loss ups and downs privately.

I very quickly realised that this group support makes all the difference when you’re trying to lose weight.

Discovering simple, healthy recipes

Going to group soon became a real highlight of my week, with firm friendships forming between the members. Each meeting just felt like a big group of friends laughing and losing weight along the way. Together, we learnt all about healthy eating and which foods were filling, healthy and great for weight loss. I was especially pleased to see that there were no elaborate recipes that I needed to prepare. Instead, I followed simple, healthy recipes that made the most of lean meat, vegetables and fruit – and were so filling that I no longer needed to reach for cakes and biscuits.

Both Jessie and I quickly started losing weight, and it didn’t take long for me to lose 2st and hit my target weight of 11st. When the day of the wedding came, I felt full of confidence and far from frumpy. I’d reached my goal, but my journey didn’t end there – far from it, in fact. Not long after my success, Margaret invited me to train as a Slimming World Consultant and take over our group.

I can’t deny that I was shocked at the proposition. I was working as a factory machinist and leading a group meeting was a daunting thought. But Margaret had clearly seen something in me and it turned out that her hunch was right – I loved working as a Slimming World Consultant. So much so that, 50 years later, I’m still leading a group! Whether my members want to lose 7lbs or 7st, helping them reach their dream weight is the best job in the world, and one that I don’t want to leave.

I’ve helped so many local slimmers now that I can’t go into town without being greeted by a member or three!

As a Consultant, it’s important that I practise what I preach, and I still Food Optimise, exercise three times a week and attend group. This has kept my weight around the 11st mark as the years have flown by. I’m now 86 and still at my dream weight, meaning that I’ve been a Slimming World target member for 50 years now!

Of course, Slimming World has grown and changed over the years, but that core ethos of a friendly, supportive slimming group has stayed exactly the same as when I first walked through the doors, five decades ago. The 12p that I handed over to Margaret bought me 50 years of healthy living and a rewarding job for life – which feels like pretty good value for money to me!

Simple, healthy recipes for no-fuss mealtimes

Healthy eating doesn’t have to mean complicated cooking. Simple, healthy recipes helped our longest-serving Slimming World Consultant, Betty, lose 2st – and keep it off for 50 years! If you like to keep things classic in the kitchen, try these fuss-free favourites: