I’ve had hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) for about 15 years, which contributed to my weight gain, and I also experienced anxiety and depression. I felt tired and unwell all the time, had terrible skin, and suffered from joint and muscular pain. I also knew I could be heading for a heart attack unless I lost weight – even so, it wasn’t until I saw a photo of myself at my cousin’s wedding that I decided to get my weight under control once and for all.

My mum had been to Slimming World and she’d even given me some of her copies of Slimming World Magazine, which might have been a subtle hint! So, when I saw a board advertising a local group, I decided to give it a go – and I’m so glad I did. I love the positivity and support of IMAGE Therapy. There’s always something to learn from other members – new recipes or low Syn foods – and the focus is firmly on looking ahead.

Food Optimising has never felt like a diet – it isn’t restrictive at all. There’s always something I can have when I’m out and about, like a Subway Turkey Breast & Ham Salad without dressing (brilliant, as it’s Free on Extra Easy), and it’s easy to adapt my favourite recipes. I used to crave a takeaway kebab; now I love dipping Slimming World chips in Free home-made houmous or tzatziki, or enjoying marinated skinless chicken or lean lamb and loads of salad.

I’ve always enjoyed cooking and experimenting in the kitchen and was so excited to find I could still enjoy curries when Food Optimising!

I actually prefer home-made curries now because I know the ingredients will be fresh and healthy, plus they’re cheaper. Just because you slim down the fat and cream doesn’t mean losing the flavour, as this chicken tikka recipe shows. My partner, Stuart, is one of the fussiest eaters I know and he can’t tell the difference between my curry and a high Syn one!

I’m a big Body Magic fan, too. The buzz I get from being stronger, fitter and healthier is fantastic. My anxiety and depression have disappeared, along with my achey joints. And I’ve even discovered that I love running! I couldn’t jog across the park when I first joined group. I’ve set myself the target of taking part in a different fitness challenge every month for a year. I’ve already completed the Lake District Three Peaks Challenge and the Manchester to Blackpool bike ride, and I recently ran my first half-marathon. I’ve been on a cycling holiday, tried open-water swimming and now I’m thinking of entering a triathlon. I feel like a completely new person.

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