I’d been asked to assist in theatre at the vet’s where I work, and as I walked into the changing room to find a pair of scrubs, I was fretting. If I couldn’t find any big enough to fit me, I’d have to admit to my colleagues there wasn’t a single tunic or pair of trousers I could squeeze into, and ask if someone else could go in instead. And that wasn’t the only way my size was affecting me at work. I was finding it increasingly uncomfortable getting up and down off the floor to bandage injured animals and, at 15st, I’d cringe when I needed to tell an owner their pet would benefit from losing weight.
I’d been self-conscious about my weight for as long as I could remember. When I met my husband, Chris, I just about fitted into a size 18, and as we settled into our life together, I didn’t pay much mind to what I was eating. Dinner was often made using sauce from a jar, with oven chips on the side, plus mayonnaise, ketchup and barbecue sauce. Then later I’d make myself toast with peanut butter or cheese. Gradually, the weight crept on, and I gained a little more with the birth of each of our two daughters until I’d gone up another couple of dress sizes.
That’s when I started thinking about the future. I wanted my girls to grow up with a healthier and more energetic mum.
Then, in 2016, when my youngest was just a few months old, a family member asked me if I’d go along to Slimming World with them for moral support. Given the way I’d been feeling about my own weight, I wasn’t about to say no.
I was nervous about what to expect, but I also knew I was finally taking a step towards a better future for our family. It helped that, from the moment I walked into group, the other members made me feel as though I was part of a family there, too. Back home, I soon got to grips with a new way of eating. For breakfast I’d make porridge with plain oats and unsweetened almond milk, and top it with blueberries and plain quark. At lunchtime I’d have a big salmon pasta salad. Filling dinners included veggie sausages with mashed potato and veg, tofu stir-fry with noodles, or lentil curry with rice.
I’d worried that Food Optimising might be difficult to manage around looking after two small children and juggling shifts at work, but it actually made life easier. Planning the week’s meals in advance – something I started doing to make sure I stayed on plan – meant there was no longer a last-minute panic about what was for tea. I felt calmer and more organised, I was losing weight, and within weeks I started to notice a real difference in my energy levels. Rushing down a corridor in an emergency at work didn’t leave me out of breath any more. I no longer dreaded going to the changing room to search for a pair of scrubs that might just fit. Instead, every few months I was fitting into the next size down, and when I bumped into colleagues I’d not seen for a while, I revelled in the compliments. With new-found self-esteem, I no longer felt awkward talking to owners about their overweight pets, and when I strode out of the door after work, it was with a spring in my step.
By February 2018, I weighed 10st 13lbs, and for the first time in my life I could walk into any high-street shop and buy a pair of skinny jeans, or a printed dress or top that I felt great in. So when I was thinking about what to wear for my 40th birthday the following month, I decided to be bold. I’d seen Tess Daly on Strictly Come Dancing wearing a fabulous, slinky yellow dress, and when I found something just like it, I had to try it on. Feeling like a star in my size-10 outfit, I sipped Champagne with my friends on what was a double celebration: a milestone birthday and the unveiling of a whole new me – the happy, sunny me I’d always wanted to be.
On her milestone birthday, Jenna showed off her new look in a slinky yellow dress – and felt like a star!
My new positivity shines through in everything I do – I’ve even started a joyful Facebook page and Instagram account, with the sole purpose of spreading a bit of sunshine to the world through my art and stories. And I beam with pride as my girls give me their verdict on my latest Food Optimising recipe, or get wrapped up warm ready for a scamper through the woods. I’m so grateful they’re growing up knowing the happiness that can be found in eating nourishing food, being active and believing in yourself.
Now at the start of a shift, I’m raring to go and confident I can handle whatever comes my way – whether it’s giving advice to the newer veterinary nurses, talking to owners about their beloved pets, or crouching down to tend to a poorly rabbit or examine a dog’s paw. Work and my family are getting the very best version of me – and that brighter future I wanted is already in full swing.
*Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.