As I bent down awkwardly, temples thudding, I felt as if all eyes were on me. My tutor had only asked me to pick up a car tyre, but even that left me breathless and racked with pain. I burned with a familiar feeling of shame. All the other student mechanics made it look so easy. Then again, it probably was easier for them. I was 17 and weighed well over 20st and, to me, it felt difficult to even manoeuvre around and into the car, let alone change its tyres.
Ever since I was little, my dream had been to become a roadside technician. So I was thrilled when I got a place on my local college’s motor vehicle course. But I hadn’t realised just how physically demanding it would be. Changing tyres, bending over engines, squeezing into cars to pop up the bonnet – all of these would cause me physical pain and I’d soon be out of breath. The worst moment, though, had happened just a week into the course.
While everyone around me changed quickly into their mechanic’s boiler suits, I couldn’t squeeze into the biggest size the college had.
‘Never mind,’ I muttered, trying to pretend I didn’t mind being the odd one out, while feeling completely humiliated.
I’d always struggled with social situations and found it difficult to feel comfortable in groups. Now, wearing my old hoodies and supermarket tracksuit bottoms in the workshop, while everyone else looked the part, I felt like even more of an outsider. At lunchtimes, I’d hurriedly eat two sausage rolls and a pizza from the canteen alone, then have a multipack of chocolate bars before lessons began again. Afterwards, I’d get the bus home, sit on the sofa and eat more chocolate in front of the TV. My mum, Sharon, would sit beside me and eat a packet of Jaffa cakes – her own weight creeping up, too.
Both Mum and I felt defeated by our weight and hated the way our cravings for unhealthy food seemed to take control. I’d tried to lose weight a few times, turning to meal replacements or calorie counting. While I’d shed a few pounds, I couldn’t keep it up because I was still craving the same food I’d been eating before. Denying myself what I really wanted just made me want to eat it even more, and I’d quit the diet as soon as I could.
By the time I went to college, I felt unwell almost all the time. I’d wake up with headaches, my joints hurt, and I’d get dizzy and light-headed when bending down. I struggled with constant stomach pains and felt anxious on a daily basis.
In August 2017, my auntie Cath announced that she was thinking of joining Slimming World, and impulsively I said: ‘I’ll come with you.’ Mum looked at me in surprise. ‘Well, if you’re going, so will I,’ she said. Before I knew it, we had a small entourage of family members keen to join – not just the three of us, but also my cousin, Carly, and my older sister, Sarah.
When we walked into our local group for the first time in January 2018, Mum was as nervous as I was. We said very little during the new-member talk, and kept very quiet during IMAGE Therapy, too. Even so, something clicked – the very next day, I threw out all my sugary cereals and had two Healthy Extra Weetabix with semi-skimmed milk for breakfast instead. Now I was starting my days with that or porridge, and lunch was usually a frittata, a big salad made with lean ham, or leftovers from my Food Optimising dinner the night before. I’d snack on fresh fruit, low Syn yogurts and rice cakes during the day, then when I got back from college each afternoon, we’d enjoy home-made burgers, spicy rice dishes, chilli con carne or diet cola chicken.
For the first time, I wasn’t counting down the minutes before I could return to my old habits. And after losing 8½lbs in my first week, I knew it was working, too.
My Consultant, Nigel, and all the group members were so friendly and non-judgemental, it didn’t take long for those Friday sessions to change from something I was nervous about into something I’d look forward to. With time, my group became like my second family – everyone was so encouraging that my anxieties began to disappear, and it was having a knock-on effect at college, too. After being sociable at group, I found it much easier to chat to the other students and work with them.
My biggest support from day one was Mum. We were still influencing each other’s eating habits, only now it was helping both of us stay on track. One day, when I’d just come in from college and we were choosing what to cook that night, Mum held up a recipe for me to see. ‘What do you think, Jordan, should we try making this one at the weekend?’ It was Slimming World beef fajitas with sweet potato wedges. ‘That looks amazing, Mum,’ I said. ‘My mouth’s watering just looking at it,’ she agreed. We both looked at each other and started laughing. We were talking about Food Optimising recipes in the same way we used to talk about having night-time cakes and biscuits, only now there was no guilt or worry. We were loving our food, and it felt really good!
Even though I lived in a seaside town, I couldn’t swim. Then Nigel explained how Body Magic can support your weight loss and help you stay at target, so Mum and I both decided to learn at our local pool. At first, I was so shy I’d wear a T-shirt, but as my physique changed, I became more confident. Eventually, I was swimming a few times a week and walking more rather than taking the bus – now, as well as my weight loss, I was smashing my Body Magic goals, too.
Then, at the beginning of my second year in college, my tutor got out the overalls and started handing them out to all the students. This time, I slipped into them easily, and I even took them home with me to show my family how I looked. By February 2019, I’d reached my 12st target, and Mum had lost 7½st and gone from a size 26 to a 14. My blood pressure had fallen to a healthy level, and I felt fitter and more energetic than I’d ever been – sometimes I’d run up the stairs just because I could! Dealing with new people and bending over engines holds no fear for me now.
My mum and I have a stronger bond than ever – we didn’t just lose weight for ourselves, we did it for each other, and that’s the only motivation we need to make this a part of our lives forever.
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.