The final straw, the thing that had brought everything to a head, was choosing a loaf of bread, would you believe. My husband, Neil, had asked me which loaf I’d prefer and I’d broken down in the middle of the supermarket. It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened and later that day, at a GP appointment Neil had booked for me, years of anguish came pouring out.
I explained how I felt lost and so very low, and how my weight seemed to control every aspect of my life. ‘I’m overweight and it seems too big a problem to fix,’ I said. He replied, gently: ‘I believe you’re clinically depressed.’ I’d never thought my weight struggles and my increasingly low mood might be connected. But it made sense. For as long as I could remember, food had been a source of comfort, struggle and shame, a response to every emotion. I’d snack on sausage rolls, cake, chocolate and bread – my No1 trigger food – feeling unable to stop. As my self-esteem had ebbed away, Neil bore the brunt of my low mood. When I’d snapped for no reason or refused to go out at the last minute, he was always on the receiving end.
My doctor referred me for cognitive behavioural therapy and gave me a prescription for antidepressants. I made contact with the therapist, but I didn’t feel ready to try medication.
Maybe if my depression was tied up with my weight, finding a way to slim could help.
Though I’d been outgoing and confident at a size 18 back when I met Neil, I wanted to be slim for our wedding. I dramatically reduced my calories and exercised hard, relieved to stop only when I fell pregnant with our daughter, Rachel. I ate healthily during that pregnancy and six years later, when I was expecting her brother, George, but then I went back to my old habits. When my weight rose, the low moods and self-loathing began, and I retreated into myself. Around the same time, my beloved nan’s health began to decline, and with my daughter starting secondary school, I felt overwhelmed. I was finding it hard to make basic, everyday decisions, and then my feelings all came tumbling out in the supermarket.
Soon afterwards, encouraged to join Slimming World by my friend, Emma, I nervously went with her to group – and was greeted by smiling faces. As I stood on the scales and learnt I weighed 17st 10½lbs, the encouragement from the group and my wonderful Consultant, Yvonne, gave me hope.
With Neil’s support, I started planning my new meals. I swapped toast for high-fibre cereal with milk and fruit, replaced sandwiches and crisps with home-made soup, and instead of ordering a takeaway, I made Food Optimising chilli with cauliflower rice. In my first week, I lost 5lbs and felt more positive than I had in years. When I had my initial telephone assessment with the therapist, I agreed to try the sessions – and in the weeks leading up to the first appointment, I already felt so much happier, knowing that I was finally in control of my health, weight and mind.
I also started exercising, gradually building up my fitness until I was running 5-8km three times a week. Then, in June 2017, my beautiful nan passed away. While I was so sad to have lost her, I recognised how much stronger I’d become at dealing with my emotions. The evening before her funeral, I achieved my 3st award and the tears came as I thought how proud she would have been of me.
That Christmas, I accepted each and every party invite. Having developed a new-found passion for all things fashion, I found a beautiful, embroidered size-14 playsuit I’d never have worn at my biggest. For the first time in years, I’d chosen an outfit based on what I loved rather than what covered me up. The following summer, I was more than 8st lighter, and I not only wore my first bikini on holiday, I packed six... and wore them all!
Last August, I turned 40 and when Neil threw me an amazing surprise party I was happy to be the centre of attention, celebrating with the people I love. We took an unforgettable family holiday to Spain and I’ve signed up for a charity abseil – both things that hold no fears for me now. At work, I’m now on the gender network committee, helping to arrange events to promote inclusion and diversity in the workplace – it feels amazing to have so much confidence in every part of my life now. I’m finally free to live my life to the full.’
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.