They say ‘if you want something done, ask a busy woman’ – and I’m living proof of how true that is! These days, my morning routine is planned to the minute, and I’m grateful for my new-found fitness and energy, as I really need it. Getting my son, Wilfred, to school and his little sister, Gwyneth, to nursery would have been much more difficult before I lost weight. Wilfred has autism and he can find it distressing to say goodbye each morning, so having the strength to carry him through the school gates makes a real difference. Once I’ve got Wilfred and Gwyneth settled, juggling the housework, meal planning, my supermarket job and being a Slimming World Consultant feels like a cinch in comparison! But our home is filled with love and I wouldn’t have things any other way.
I started gaining weight when I was 16, after getting a job in a shoe shop; it was great for my bank balance, but as I spent my wages on sweets, my waistline got bigger, too. Most nights, I’d sit in front of the TV with my boyfriend, Joe, eating pick ’n’ mix sweets and chocolate bars. We’d met at school in a French lesson, when the teacher told me off for chatting to my friend and moved me to a different seat. The boy in front made me giggle with a naughty joke and a year later we went to the school prom together. I didn’t do any exercise, but Joe played football and rode his bike everywhere, so while he was burning off a lot of energy, I slowly gained weight. My next job was at a bakery, where I’d get a 50% discount on sausage rolls and cakes.
By then, I felt really self-conscious and though Joe said he loved me whatever my size, I wanted to hide my shape.
Rather than enjoying fashion like my sister and friends did, I’d just wear whatever fitted me. My daytime ‘uniform’ was leggings and oversized tops, and when I was going out, I’d squeeze myself into control pants and feel uncomfortable all evening.
I joined Slimming World when I was 19 – and it wasn’t long before I saw the scales starting to move. When I’d lost 1st 7lbs, I stopped going to group, telling myself: ‘I’ve done it. I can eat what I want now’. Looking back, I hadn’t really made the most of Food Optimising. I treated it like a diet and deprived myself when I didn’t have to, basing my lunches around uninspiring salads, rather than making a balanced lifestyle change that could last forever. Then, at 22, I moved in with Joe. I filled our kitchen cupboards with biscuits, cooked nothing but shop-bought pizzas, chicken nuggets, chips and pasta with garlic bread, and saw the scales creeping back to where I’d started. Five months on, I realised the plate of food in front of me was completely beige! I went back to Slimming World and my meals turned colourful and varied again. And this time, I ensured they were filling, too. I started planning in advance, buying fresh ingredients and cooking satisfying dinners from scratch, and I also embraced Body Magic. I’d work out to a fitness DVD every morning, then put on my trainers and walk to the supermarket I was now working at.
One weekend in September 2011, when we were visiting Joe’s family in Cornwall, he knelt down on the sand on beautiful Mawgan Porth beach and proposed. ‘Yes!’ I told him, adding urgently, ‘but the tide’s about to come in, so you’d better get up off your knee!’.
I reached my first target weight of 9st in time for our wedding in 2013, and wore size-8 shorts throughout our Florida honeymoon
But when we got home, I didn’t go back to group – I told myself I knew what I was doing and didn’t need help any more. And when we started trying for a baby soon after, I convinced myself that pregnancy would mean a big weight gain anyway, so what was the point? Gradually, my weight rose and once I was expecting, I started eating for two. By the time Wilfred was born in 2015, I was nearly 13st. He was a gorgeous baby, though he hardly stopped crying for a year. The only time he seemed content was when he was asleep, and that never lasted long. Worried he was in pain, I sought advice, but the health visitor just told me: ‘Babies do cry’. Stressed, exhausted and unhappy with my weight, I rejoined my Slimming World group when Wilfred was four months old. Joe was working as a driver and my parents lived in Spain, so I had to take Wilfred along with me, and he cried inconsolably all the way through each session. Even though I knew babies were welcome, and everyone was lovely and so understanding, I felt stressed about it. After losing over a stone, I stopped going. Not long after, I became pregnant again and though I constantly craved sugary snacks, I gained less weight this time round. After Gwyneth was born in September 2017, with my bathroom scales showing 11st 7lbs, I went back to eating mostly Food Optimising meals, but I didn’t feel ready to rejoin group.
I felt constantly exhausted at a time when I needed energy more than ever
While Gwyneth would cry like all babies, she was generally cheerful and slept regularly. ‘Boys and girls are just different,’ people would say, but I knew deep down that it was more than that. At two, Wilfred still hadn’t said a word. Meanwhile, I’d lost about a stone, and I felt a surge of determination to be back at my target weight in time for Joe’s 30th in eight months’ time. ‘This is it now,’ I told myself. ‘You’re going back to group and, this time, you’re staying there!’
I had no fears about walking back through those doors, because I’d experienced the support of the Slimming World community before. I switched to a new group with a time that suited me better now that Wilfred was at nursery, and rejoined the Slimming World family to a lovely warm welcome on Valentine’s Day 2018. Everyone made a fuss of Gwyneth and, as she slept all the way through, I felt relaxed enough to focus on my weight loss. Now I realised how much I needed my group. On a low day, when I hadn’t achieved the loss I’d hoped for, the others would lift me and I’d bounce home feeling amazing again. If the scales had gone in my favour, I’d build up others until they were smiling as well. Best of all were the tips we’d share on how to vary recipes with a new dried spice or fresh herb, or save time by using pre-prepared frozen veg to make soup – lifesavers for a busy mum! Unlike the days when I used to have just a salad for lunch and feel deprived, now I was eating three healthy, filling meals a day, usually with a big salad on the plate, too! And as a cheese lover, I could still enjoy it in my meals as a Healthy Extra, and eat my favourite sweets, using my Syns.
There was no more thinking: ‘It doesn’t matter if I miss one week at group’. Because it did matter – to me.
Just a few weeks after Joe’s 30th, I was back at target. And this time, I was confident I would stay there. I’d always had the tools to lose weight and keep it off, and now my commitment had really clicked, too. With my new mindset, nothing seemed impossible. I set myself a new target of 8st 9½lbs, which I reached in August 2018, and have stayed at ever since. I also decided to train as a Slimming World Consultant. I love my weekly groups and hearing people share their weight loss experiences, because I know how invaluable that was to me, too. I also kept up my Body Magic, gradually building up until I was running several times a week – I even ran the 2019 Great Birmingham Run half marathon! The combination of Food Optimising and Body Magic has completely changed how I feel about getting dressed, and itʼs now a pleasure buying bright, fashionable clothes online, which I never would have been brave enough to wear before. My soaring confidence has helped me to cope with whatever life throws at me, too. So when Wilfred was diagnosed with autism, shortly before he started reception, I took the news calmly. The diagnosis confirmed what Joe and I had suspected for a while and it came as a relief. It explained to us and the outside world why Wilfred sometimes behaves as he does, refusing to have his hair touched or needing to count to 100 before getting out of the car. It also means he’s getting the outside support he needs – and I, of all people, know the importance of that!
Eating food thatʼs good for us all is important to me. I love it when weʼre all around the table
When we’re all sitting at the table, enjoying a Food Optimising roast chicken dinner, I’m happy I’m setting my children up with healthy eating habits for life. Laughing and talking together over our full plates, it’s important to me that they grow up enjoying food that’s good for them, and see me doing the same. One thing that’s really helped me is being organised – planning what we’re going to eat for the week ahead, then doing an online shop at the weekend. Gwyneth is nearly two and a half now, and as Wilfred has delayed development, the pair of them are like twins, making each other giggle as they get into mischief and wailing when they’re separated. My days are full, and sometimes my nights, too, so life can be hectic. And I’m so very thankful that losing weight has helped me build the stamina to keep my children happy and healthy, with enough energy left over to keep myself a happy and healthy mum, too!
*Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.