‘Welcome to The Great British Bake Off...’ In our house, those words mean it’s time to settle down with a cuppa and something sweet, to see what’s in store for the contestants that week. I love cooking and baking for my family, and just like those bakers in the famous white tent, I also like to challenge myself to whip up cakes, pudding and desserts – only I make them the Slimming World way! With a few simple swaps and a dash of creative thinking, I’ve made Food Optimising sponges, cookies, flans and mousses – and I enjoyed them even more knowing they wouldn’t damage my weight loss. 

I married my husband, Mark, in 2012, after five years as a single parent. With three children between us, we quickly became a happy family unit, enjoying big meals together, treats on the sofa and trips to the coffee shop for cappuccinos and cake. Unfortunately, our lovely new life soon started to settle on my hips and my weight gradually crept up... 

After a few years of telling myself that ‘big blondes have more fun’, I reached my heaviest weight of 18st 3lbs and I was wearing size-22/24 clothes. Mark had put weight on too and, as a keen biker, was disappointed to realise he couldn’t fit into his leathers any more. It was time to take action! 

We decided to join Slimming World together in 2015. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to all the big changes that I’d assumed we’d have to make. I’d been on one diet or another for the past 25 years, and nothing had worked long term. From our very first night in group, though, I realised that Slimming World was going to be different.

It’s probably obvious by now that I LOVE food. I love cooking, baking and eating – and I love feeding my family and friends. So I was delighted to hear that I could still cook hearty meals like lasagne, steak and chips, roast dinners and stroganoff and lose weight. And I was even more surprised that I could bake cakes and eat dessert every day if I wanted to. That was the decider... we just had to give it a go! 

Donna’s amazing bakes 

Once we started following the plan, we realised it was all true – we really could enjoy our favourite foods and lose weight. Food Optimising is all about normal everyday foods that you’ll find in your fridge or cupboard – you don’t have to follow a special ‘diet’. It’s more about making small changes, which add up to a healthier way of cooking and eating that you actually want to stick to. 

The flexibility of Food Optimising was a revelation, but we were even more impressed by how much support Slimming World gives you with the psychological and emotional side of things. I discovered so much about myself and I came to realise that I’m an overeater. Once I understood why these habits had taken hold, I could see exactly why restrictive diets were never going to work. Thanks to that greater self-awareness, I was able to develop strategies that helped me to stay on track. 

It’s the reason I decided to become a Slimming World Consultant – I knew what a difference that support and deeper understanding had made to me. Having lost 6st, I’d already discovered a brilliant balance of loving food and being a healthy weight. And now I’d also found a beautiful balance working as a part-time mobile hairdresser and supporting others through my own Slimming World group. 

In 2017, Mark and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary by posing for a new set of wedding photos. I swapped my old size-16 dress for a size-12 gown, and Mark, who’d lost 4st, got on his beloved bike and rode in as my knight in shining leathers! It was the perfect way to celebrate our love and the fact that we both looked and felt incredible. 

Fast forward to this year and we’ve had double cause for celebration – our 10th wedding anniversary and Mark’s 50th. Of course, food has played a big part in the festivities. We went away with friends and I cooked a lovely meal for us all – creamy garlic mushroom risotto with cheesy garlic bread. It was easy to make, delicious, filling... and no one had any idea it was all Slimming World food! 

If Mark’s lucky, I might continue the fun by baking him his favourite sweet treat – a Victoria sponge. I made a Slimming World version recently and it was absolutely gorgeous. It’ll be the cherry on top to a wonderful year! 

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