It had been a wonderful holiday in Croatia and I couldn’t wait to relive the memories. But as my boyfriend, Dave, scrolled through the photos on his phone, I spotted something that burst my bubble – the picture of me on a Segway taken just a few days before. I didn’t recognise myself.
Until my teens, I’d been a super-fit competitive gymnast. And while I didn’t want to go back to the rigours of competitive gymnastics, I knew I wanted to be slimmer than the girl on the Segway.
I’d heard about Slimming World, so I found some recipes online and tried them. I was delighted when I started losing weight.
I wondered if I was missing out on the support of going to group, so I found one in Cardiff, where I was at university.
To be honest, I was worried group wasn’t for me. I was anxious I’d be the only teenager there. I also wondered how I’d afford healthy ingredients on a tight budget. As I chatted to my Consultant, Alison, though, I knew I’d made the right decision. She suggested trying frozen vegetables, as they’re cheaper and last longer. And everyone in the group was so friendly.
Food Optimising was a change from any way I’d eaten before. When I was on the gymnastics team, my diet was strictly controlled to support my training. Then when I retired from the squad, aged 16, I ate all the foods I’d denied myself – chocolate, fast-food burgers and chips!
I quickly went up two dress sizes. Then I started university and threw myself into socialising, and went up a couple more sizes. Feeling uncomfortable, I tried meal-replacement shakes, which left me tired and grumpy. I gave up after a fortnight, believing there was no happy medium – I could either eat and gain weight, or be miserable and slim.
As the number on the scales climbed, I put my figure-hugging dresses to the back of the wardrobe. Instead I lived in baggy jumpers and leggings. I still loved fashion, though, and spent hours saving screenshots of the outfits I wished I could wear.
While I loved the idea of going out with the girls, I hated shopping for something to wear. I’d leave the changing room feeling dismayed, and the moment we had to get dressed for the evening, my mood would take a further nosedive. It wasn’t unusual for me to do my hair and make-up, then refuse to go out because I didn’t feel comfortable in any of my clothes.
Then something happened in my first week at group to really boost my confidence – I lost 5½lbs. Sunday night, I planned my meals for the week and batch-cooked my dinners, made overnight oats for breakfast, and stocked up on the ingredients for home-made tomato soup for lunch.
After a few weeks, my mum, Deb, said: ‘I’m going to join, too.’ When I was away at uni, we’d text each other with recipes, low Syn treats we’d found in the supermarket, and how we were feeling before and after weigh-in. And when I went home, Mum would cook my favourite Syn free dinners, including spaghetti bolognese, and send me back to uni with meals to freeze.
My weight continued to fall steadily at 1-2lbs a week. To help keep myself motivated, I started an Instagram page (@chloephillips_sw) and posted everything I ate.
In time, I realised going out with the girls was becoming more fun. As I dropped two dress sizes, I stopped limiting selfies just to my face, and started letting other people take full-length pictures. It was so liberating to feel comfortable in my own skin again.
As I learned about the importance of Body Magic, I felt torn. Wanting to see the benefits of regular exercise without putting pressure on myself again, I joined the gym. I started doing some cardio on the treadmill, but it wasn’t for me.
Instead, I parked my car further away when I went to places like the supermarket, and took the stairs whenever I could. As I got fitter, I joined a Zumba class and started running – and even took part in a Race for Life with my Bristol group. Body Magic helped me fall back in love with activity.
By the time I reached my target, losing 3st 3½lbs, I felt very different about hitting the high street. I’d already stopped saving screenshots of the bodycon dresses and cold-shoulder tops I dreamt of wearing. Now, I was buying them – in a size 8! In came a whole new wardrobe, which I’m still adding more beautiful clothes to.
Sometimes I bump into old sixth-form friends when I’m out in Bristol with Dave, and they don’t recognise me. It gives me a huge boost and leaves me brimming with pride. And my time with Dave seems even more special now I’m not worrying about how I look. This year we’ve been on a cruise around the Adriatic and on holiday to Turkey, and the pictures are every bit as lovely as the memories.
The biggest change in me has been on the inside – I’m so much happier about myself, and no longer feel guilty about my food choices. I’ve found a way to eat that makes me feel great. In short, I love the new me – and she’s staying around for good!
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose