Tapping out a text to my partner, Andy, I couldn’t stop a broad grin from spreading over my rain-soaked face. I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since I was a kid, but that morning I’d somehow got the courage up to wheel the bike out of the garage, and set off down the cycle path towards the car dealership where I worked.

With every turn of the pedals, my confidence had grown and now here I was at the office – proudly texting, ‘I did it!’, beaming at my achievement. My cycling adventure was the latest milestone in my journey to renewed confidence. Andy and I had met when I was 23, and I’d fallen deeply in love with his kind heart and cheeky humour. But as time passed and our relationship flourished, I’d started falling out of love with myself. As my weight crept up to over 14½st, I stopped enjoying going out as a couple and became so self-conscious that I avoided getting undressed with the light on.

We’d been together for five years when I finally made the decision to join Slimming World. After helping me settle in at my local group in Monkseaton, Tyne and Wear, my Consultant, Anne, had asked why I wanted to lose weight. I’d told her I felt so far from my old self, I wouldn’t have blamed Andy if he’d left me.

Now, two months later, as I looked in the bathroom mirror at the intrepid cyclist looking back at me, I didn’t just notice the 1st 10½lbs that I’d lost – I caught a glimpse of the confident, free-spirited girl Andy had first met.

I changed into the work clothes I’d brought with me and went to my desk, ready to start my day at the office. My smile didn’t leave my face all day. I made myself a promise: I was going to cycle to and from work three days a week, whatever the weather. I often found reasons not to exercise, so this seemed like the perfect Body Magic – once I’d left home, I couldn’t bail out halfway.

At first, those early rides were a bit of a challenge, wobbling along on Andy’s rusty, old mountain bike, and I needed a puff of my asthma inhaler at the start and finish of every ride. It wasn’t long, though, until I thought maybe I could manage without while cycling… and I could! I also decided to buy a new bike through the Cycle2work scheme, which made it more affordable.

A new way of life

I’d taken up some other Body Magic, too – walking my dogs and going to Aqua Fit classes at my local pool. Cycling felt different, though. I wanted more! I started going out at the weekend – just me and my bike, with an apple and my phone stashed in a special bag under the saddle. I loved how there was no pressure, and no one was watching. The feeling of flying along with the cool air on my face had me smitten.

Andy realised there was a new love in my life – and, suddenly, he had to keep up! That Christmas he asked for a new bike, and he started joining me on my weekend jaunts. Sometimes we’d go out for the whole day, prepping dinner first so we had a warming Slimming World curry ready to heat up when we got in. Other times, we’d cycle down to the seaside for breakfast, or to the supermarket. I loved seeing him ride home beside me, with a backpack full of ingredients for our next Food Optimising recipe, and hoped that when he looked back at me, he could see how much my confidence was growing.

Having lost 5st 6½lbs, I reached my target in July 2017 and the most amazing summer followed! I enjoyed wearing clothes that showed off my toned arms and legs, and I felt relaxed and happy standing beside Andy at parties. Then, on my birthday that August, a huge bunch of flowers arrived for me at work, and I had a funny feeling that something special was about to happen. My heart was in my mouth as I flipped over the card and saw four magic words: Will you marry me?

In just one year, I went from worrying about how Andy felt about me, to planning our wedding day. I know I’ll have no problem carrying on Food Optimising and cycling to stay slim – I’m in love with both! Just the other day, Andy and I rode down to the beach in beautiful, bright sunshine, the sand shimmering as we pedalled along and made plans.

We’re talking about getting married in summer 2020, but we’re in no rush. We’re enjoying the journey, and I’m so excited to see where it takes us.

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