As I stared at my reflection in the changing-room mirror, I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. Shopping and socialising had always been two of my favourite things, and finding that killer new outfit for a night out was part of the fun. So not being able to fit into a size 18/20 was a real low moment. Having fun with fashion had become impossible because I struggled to find fashionable clothes in my size and just felt really unhappy with how I looked.

Rushing out of the shop with my head down, I did what any girl would do and called my best friend. She was a Slimming World member and, as she told me about the food she was eating while still losing weight, I decided to go along to group with her.

Despite my friend being so positive about Slimming World, I couldn’t help feeling that I was going to fail, even as I walked into the room with her. My weight had yo-yoed since I was 14, and I’d tried lots of diets. None of them had worked, so why would Slimming World be any different?

Looking back, a lot of the diets I’d tried involved cutting out food groups – or even food entirely – which is never going to be sustainable. Meal-replacement shakes had left me ravenous, and I’d only lasted one hour on a low-carb diet before I gave in to my craving for bread.

Then there were diets at the other end of the spectrum, where I felt like I could continue my not-so-healthy habits, as long as I was within my allocated number of points for the day. None of those diets taught me anything about healthy eating, so I soon slipped back into my old habits, going up a dress size every time.

Making smart swaps

From the very first group meeting, I realised that Slimming World was actually very different to everything that I’d tried before. It was a lifestyle change, not a diet. The immediate focus was on teaching me how to make healthier choices, without ever feeling hungry. My outlook on food and flavour totally changed.

Growing up, my mum didn’t enjoy cooking, and I think that had rubbed off on me. I’d never cooked at home, relying on convenience foods and sugary snacks instead. Every morning, I’d grab an almond croissant on the way to work, followed by a biscuit break at around 11am. Lunch would typically be a meal deal with a sandwich, crisps and chocolate, with more biscuits or chocolate at 4pm. For dinner, I’d open a jar of sauce to have with pasta.

Slimming World gave me the tools that I needed to finally break those unhealthy habits.

Now I’m absolutely passionate about food and I love to cook from scratch. I follow a mainly vegetarian diet and I’ve also gone dairy-free for health reasons. I find that Slimming World works fantastically well with my dietary requirements as there are lots of dairy-free alternatives to milk and cheese on the Healthy Extra ‘a’ list, and there are so many easy veggie recipes that my meals are never boring.

A typical breakfast now is porridge made with almond milk. For lunch I love a tasty soup, and I recently invested in a soup maker which makes them extra smooth and flavoursome. My favourite Slimming World soup recipes are tomato soup, butternut squash and caldo verde. I’ve ditched the jar sauces at dinnertime and enjoy making my own vegetable curries – the carrot and coconut dhal is often on the menu.

Creating veggie recipes

I often adapt meat-based recipes to make them vegetarian by swapping the meat for a meat replacement like tofu, Quorn products, beans, lentils or just lots of lovely veg. There are some great meat-free ranges in the shops now. I love The No Meat Companyʼs No Bull Quarter Pounders, which are 2½ Syns each. I prefer to use my Syns on dinners, rather than spend them on snacks. I honestly find my meals so satisfying now that I never really feel the need to eat in between.

Amazingly, things like crisps and chocolate just don’t tempt me any more!

I still wanted to enjoy going out and socialising with friends, so I needed an eating plan that would work with that – not one that was so restrictive that it sucked all the joy out of life. However, there have been times when I was going out a lot and the balance tipped too far the other way, leading to a gain on the scales. It was the amazing support I got in group that always put me back on track.

Being in a place where you’re not made to feel like a bad person for putting on weight is so empowering.

I’ve been to other weight loss groups where I’d skip a week if I knew I’d put on weight, but I’ve never felt like that at Slimming World. Any gains are handled in a supportive way, with absolutely no shame. No matter how I felt walking through those doors, I always left feeling supported, motivated and ready to face the week ahead.

Dedicated follower of fashion!

My weight at the moment is 12st 4Ibs and, while I’m still on my slimming journey, I feel absolutely amazing. I’ve fallen back in love with fashion and, for me, there’s no better feeling than picking up a size 12 and knowing it will fit. When I was bigger, I’d spend ages in the morning trying to find something to wear that would hide my size – usually something black or baggy. It meant that I started every day feeling bad about myself. Now, I spend ages picking out what to wear because I have a wardrobe full of clothes in gorgeous bright colours and eye-catching prints to choose from.

Feeling so confident has had such a positive effect on my life. Before, my holidays were spoiIed because I felt really self-conscious in a swimsuit. Now, I love going away, and I can relax and enjoy myself without negative thoughts getting in the way. I’ve also got a fantastic new career as a Slimming World Consultant, and it’s so rewarding to see my members grow in confidence, too.

My most magical moment was probably the night of the Slimming World awards. As one of the Consultants invited along, I wore a slinky, floor-length white and silver gown, and felt like a queen.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that walking through the doors of Slimming World would lead me as far as it has. I now have a fantastic new job, my confidence and self-esteem are through the roof – and I have a wardrobe full of colourful, curve-hugging clothing that I can’t wait to wear!

Six Slimming World soups

Slimming World soups are a fantastic choice for a lighter lunch. Fill a flask with your favourite flavour and you’ve got a slimming-friendly alternative to sandwiches. There are lots of Slimming World soup recipes that you can make, from classic tomato to our slightly spicy caldo verde. And if you’re vegetarian like Charlotte, you’ll find lots of ideas in the recipe section. Here are six soup-erb recipes to bowl you over!

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