Bursting through the back door into my nan’s tiny kitchen, the first thing that hit me was the delicious smell. She knew what I liked to eat, and I could tell the moment I walked in that she was cooking was my favourite: sausage quiche!
Nan was wonderful – she was a really beautiful person and an important part of my life growing up, especially after Grandad died when I was eight. Every Saturday evening, Mum would walk me across the road to stay at Nan’s for the night – and it was the highlight of my week. We’d bake butterfly cakes, then curl up together in front of the telly, eating jelly and ice cream and watching Cilla Black’s Blind Date and Ted Rogers on 3-2-1.
I loved hearing Nan’s stories, especially how she came by her unusual name, Dylys. Her dad had had a few too many celebratory drinks when he went to register her birth and spelt ‘Dilys’ wrong! It means a lot to me that it’s my middle name, too. Nan also talked a lot about her life as a newlywed just after the Second World War. She’d show me her old ration books and explain how she and Grandad had to be frugal, especially after my mum, Shelagh, and her brother, Ian, were born. Nan’s thing was topping everything with sliced potatoes! She adored cheese, too, particularly Red Leicester. Now, whenever I have it as a Healthy Extra and see that lovely orange gooeyness, I think of her.
Nan’s house was my sanctuary, especially during my teenage years, when I first started gaining weight and was being bullied at school. I’d take refuge there and comfort myself with her home-cooked food. It’s a great sadness to me that Nan never got to meet my daughter, Autumn, or see my slimming success. I was working abroad for a holiday company when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, and I immediately came home so I could help Mum with her care. When she died, just three months later, I was devastated, and my eating spiralled out of control. Soon, I weighed 17st – the heaviest I’d ever been.
In the years that followed, I’d try to slim down every now and then, and lose a stone or two... but I always put it all back on. Then, not long after I had Autumn, I split up with her father and I found it really tough. Once she was tucked up in bed, I’d spend my evenings on the sofa, rewarding myself for getting through the day with family-size packs of crisps and tubs of ice cream. My doctor became concerned about my health and offered me Slimming World on Referral*. I wasn’t quite ready at that point, but six months later, I joined my local group.
As well as discovering new, healthier ways to cook and eat, I learnt to untangle my emotional eating habits. I realised snacking was my way of taking myself back to happier times with my nan – and that, actually, I didn’t need those tubs of ice cream or crisps to feel close to her. Not when I had Nan’s lovely recipes!
Dee and Dylys’s comfort food favourites
The original recipes were definitely of their time. Used to rationing, Nan would always leave her potatoes unpeeled so she didn’t lose a scrap of goodness. And when rationing ended, she loved using a lot of butter! It was easy to adapt them to Food Optimising, though. I trimmed all the fat off the bacon in her potato bake, swapped butter for low-calorie cooking spray when I made savoury mince and used fat-free natural cottage cheese in my crustless version of her famous quiche. I went on to lose 7st.
I know Nan would be proud of me and Autumn. I’m always telling her, ‘Your great-nan would have loved you so much’, and, ‘she taught me how to make this!’ when I’m cooking. Once, when I was working overseas, Nan sent me a quiche with my mum, who then had to fly the baking dish home again! That dish is still one of my most treasured possessions, and it never fails to remind me of a very special woman.
Are you in a comfort food mood?
With more than 2,000 slimming-friendly recipes on the app and website to choose from, plus all the ideas you’ll pick up in your group or in our online Community, you’ll always feel satisfied on the Slimming World plan.
For a taster of more cosy classics, pop across to the Slimming World blog.
*Slimming World on Referral is a programme that lets health professionals offer their patients 12 weeks’ free membership at their local Slimming World group.
Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.