Lying in my bed, my whole body screamed in pain. This wasn’t how I’d imagined life in my 20s to be. With no medical answers, I found myself stuck indoors and unable to work or see my friends. That’s when depression set in, and food became the one thing that could make me feel momentarily better.
I started eating entire packets of biscuits throughout the day. When I was able to, I enjoyed cooking and baking – and I kept up a fairly steady supply of my own cakes and bread, as well as high-calorie meals packed with cream or covered in pastry for dinner. Unsurprisingly, I gained weight quickly and my mobility got even worse – I was trapped in a vicious circle of pain and comfort eating.
In January 2018, my mum decided to join Slimming World, and I mustered up every bit of energy and courage I had to go along with her. Standing on the scales and seeing that I weighed 22st 4½lbs was a real shock; I remember feeling so hopeless. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to lose a few stones, but I never imagined I’d lose more than that. Then I met another member who’d lost 8st and something just switched – I dared to dream that that could be me!
My mum is and always has been my biggest supporter, and we started planning and cooking Food Optimising meals together. As a foodie, I was surprised that I could still eat the things I loved, like pasta and risotto, with a few simple tweaks to make them more slimming-friendly. Stepping on the scales at the end of week one, I was amazed to see that I’d lost 9lbs.
Within a month, my weight was down to 21st and my pain was already less intense. It meant I could move around more, which turned that vicious circle into a positive one. For the first time in years, I had energy!
Because of my weight and limited mobility, I’d written off exercise as something that would never be possible for me. Slimming World supported me to gradually get moving through the Body Magic activity programme, and I learnt that every little bit of activity counts. I think of it as adding movement to my day now, rather than exercising, which feels more manageable and far less scary.
Going to group really was the secret of my weight loss success. Weighing in every week gave me the accountability that I needed – and whatever the scales said, I had the support of my Consultant and the other members to set me on the right path for the following week. My mindset around food is completely different now, because Slimming World taught me to question why I wanted the biscuits, the cake, etc. I don’t feel the need to binge on sweet stuff these days – although I still love a slice of cake, which I absolutely can have on the Slimming World plan.
As I continued to lose weight, the doctors were able to assess my pain properly and, in October 2019, I was finally diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndromes, a group of rare conditions that affect connective tissue. Joint pain is a common symptom of being overweight, so I don’t believe I’d have got a diagnosis if I still weighed more than 22st.
By March 2020, a little over two years after I joined my group, I hit my target weight of 10st 3lbs. I’d gone from hoping to be able to lose 3-4st to losing 12st – and going from a size 24 to a 10! It just goes to show that, while we all have our challenges, with the right support, you can achieve anything.
I’ve maintained my weight loss for three years and, despite my disability, I have a much better relationship with my body. I’m more in control of my pain and my mental health has improved hugely. I love making my own clothes, cooking up a storm in the kitchen and socialising with friends – I’m just so much more outgoing. With the help of Slimming World, I’ve regained my independence and freedom. I might have lost some of my 20s, but I’m making up for it now!
Watch Grace tell her story
Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.