Puffing my way through a workout session, while my two baby daughters looked on, I felt my motivation drain. My personal trainer, Chris, was brilliant – even trying to entertain Molly and Daisy while I struggled to do press-ups – but it just wasn’t working. Exercise had become a chore to be endured, which meant that I rewarded myself afterwards with a pork pie or a packet of crisps. It wasn’t hard to see why I was still stuck at the same weight, 17st 3½lbs, despite meeting Chris twice a week for the past nine months.

It was time to try a different approach. I’d been overweight since my junk food and alcohol fuelled uni years, and over-eating through my two pregnancies meant that I was the heaviest I’d ever been. This caused some serious health issues, and I’d had to give birth in a higher-risk unit. It wasn’t the start to motherhood that I wanted, and I was already worried about embarrassing my girls at the school gates.   

I wanted to be a healthy role model for my daughters.

I needed to find a way to lose weight that I actually enjoyed, so I broke up with my trainer and started looking at other options. My sister, Claire, was doing well at Slimming World and I figured I had nothing to lose by going along too. I also signed up to my local gym where the Zumba classes caught my eye. I loved going out and dancing, so it made sense that I might enjoy a fun, dance-based workout.

Mixing in some ‘me time’

I was nervous when I first walked into my Slimming World group. I’d been avoiding social meet-ups for a while – mainly because the first thing anyone asked was ‘What are you wearing?’ and I knew that I’d feel horrible in whatever outfit I chose. At Slimming World, though, I never felt out of place or self-conscious. My nerves quickly disappeared as I made lots of new friends, and my weekly support session quickly became the social highlight of my week. It was the same story at my Zumba classes. On day one I hid myself away at the back and struggled to keep up – but when I found that I couldn’t stop my hips from shimmying along to the music, I knew straight away that I’d found the right exercise for me.

For the first time, I’m enjoying exercise and not seeing it as a chore.

Slimming World and Zumba quickly proved to be a winning combination. I loved my Zumba classes, so I didn’t need to reward myself after a workout. And Food Optimising left me so satisfied that I no longer felt that urge to eat junk food. I’m now enjoying a veggie fry-up (cooked with low-calorie cooking spray rather than oil) for breakfast, tasty home-made soup for lunch and then my favourite chilli or curry for dinner – there’s no room for stodgy pork pies or packets of crisps!

As I continued with my new, healthier weekly routine, my weight steadily dropped – and the Slimming World awards that I got along the way helped to keep me on track (they took pride of place on my fridge!). Instead of dreading my efforts to lose weight, I really looked forward to taking some ‘me time’ every week, whether I was swapping weight loss tips at group or dancing away the stress of the day.

Dropping the mum guilt

If I ever feel that dreaded ‘mum guilt’ at taking time out for myself, my husband, Paul, reminds me that prioritising self care doesn’t make me selfish. In fact, my girls benefit so much from having a happy, energetic and confident mum. When I was at my heaviest I’d struggle to play with them. But as the weight dropped off I became much more active, pushing them around in their buggy in the fresh air instead of taking the car. Now they love to dance around the living room with me, and Molly, now four, will pretend that she’s at Zumba. It’s amazing to think that I’m now inspiring my girls with my active lifestyle when, at one point, I was so worried that they’d grow up to be embarrassed by my size.

By June 2018, 10 months after joining Slimming World, I’d lost 6st 7½lbs and hit my target weight of 10st 10lbs. I still make sure that my ‘me time’ remains a priority in my week. Going to group as a target member helps me maintain my weight – and, of course, I’m still dancing my way through my Zumba classes.

I love the camaraderie, the headspace and the adult-only time.

I especially loved a recent class when I spotted a new familiar face. Smiling, I waved at my friend Abby, only for her to give me a puzzled look in return. The last time I’d seen her I was more than 6st heavier, a size 20 and seriously lacking in confidence, so it was hardly surprising that she didn’t recognise me. As I took my place at the front of the Zumba class, in my size 10 activewear, I felt incredibly proud of the active, energetic, confident mum that I’d become.

30-minute menu for busy mums and dads

If you’re a busy parent, a menu of quick, healthy and easy family-friendly meals will help avoid tears at teatime. Try these 30-minute (or less!) meals to make family dinners a doddle.

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