In 2016, my life changed forever when my husband, Gary, was diagnosed with a tumour on his spinal cord. Suddenly, I was constantly rushing from work to the hospital, and eating well just wasn’t a priority.
Breakfast would usually be fast food from a drive-through, I’d grab something from the hospital canteen for lunch, and dinner was often a takeaway picked up on the way home. Unsurprisingly, I started to put on weight. When everyday things like walking to the shops or bending down to tie my laces began feeling really difficult, I realised that, to look after Gary properly, I needed to get better at looking after myself.
Gary and I had both been members of a Slimming World group before, so I knew I could rely on the plan to work. We’d joined to lose weight for our wedding and I’d maintained my 4st loss really well until Gary’s diagnosis. I needed help to get back on track, and I knew that there’d be no judgement at all if I rejoined.
At around the same time, I made the decision to leave my job so I could care for Gary. Of course, this meant that our budget was suddenly much smaller and I really had to think about the price of things in the supermarket. ‘Yellow sticker’ items – foods that are reduced, usually because they’re close to their best-before date – quickly became my shopping saviours. At first, I felt ashamed putting them in my basket. Then I realised that, as well as cutting my spending, I was also preventing good food from being thrown away.
It’s easy to Food Optimise on a budget because it’s so flexible – there’s nothing you can’t have. I enjoyed using my bargains to make healthier versions of my favourite chippy teas and spicy curries. I could even whip up a Sunday roast for eight people – with lean meat, Slimming World roast potatoes and loads of veg – for less than £10!
If I’d picked up a reduced item and didn’t know what to do with it, I could count on the other members of my group to give me some slimming-friendly suggestions. In return, I loved sharing my own recipes and ideas for what to do with low-cost ingredients.
Sadly, Gary passed away in June 2022. I was devastated, but the support of my group has helped me so much. In fact, I always say Slimming World saved my life. Not just because I’ve lost 4st and improved my health, but because of the other members. Talking to people and being part of that group helped me rediscover my self-worth and stopped me feeling so alone. Now, I want to pay that forward, so I recently completed my training to become a Slimming World Consultant. I can’t wait to support others on their weight loss journeys – and to share my ideas for shopping and cooking on a budget. I know Gary would be so proud of me.
Dean’s day on a plate
A fast-food breakfast meal from the drive-through.
A Free fry-up of scrambled eggs (cooked without butter or fat), grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, lean bacon (visible fat removed), Slimming World Sausage Patties (from Iceland), baked beans, and wholemeal toast using my Healthy Extra ‘b’ choice.
Ready-made goat’s cheese and beetroot ciabatta.
A big salad made with a shredded skinless chicken breast, chopped lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pepper, red onion and beetroot and a Healthy Extra ‘a’ portion of reduced-fat cheese.
A Chinese or Indian takeaway.
Spaghetti bolognese with a couple of garlic bread slices using my Syns.
Two packets of crisps, a chocolate bar and a cupcake.
Fat-free cottage cheese with chopped apple, low-Syn black-eyed pea popped snacks and fresh fruit.
Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.