The sun was shining and the palm trees swayed in the tropical breeze as my husband, Trevor, and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary in Antigua. But the romantic setting was a total mismatch for the way I was feeling inside. My feet hurt too much, I felt self-conscious by the pool and I just wanted to fade into the background.

For years, I’d enjoyed walking for miles every day with my dogs, Chester and Lola, but since developing plantar fasciitis – an inflammatory foot condition that made standing and walking excruciating – my weight had crept up and my mood had taken a nosedive. I’d gone from enjoying the great outdoors to being mostly confined to the house. Everything in my life felt out of balance and I knew just who to turn to for help.

Still, as I walked into my Slimming World group for the first time in years, I felt myself flush with embarrassment. I’d lost 6st as a member in the past, then life had got busy with my two children, my motivation had gone and I’d left. Consequently, the pounds had slowly crept back on again. Now I told the other members about my holiday, my aching feet, and how I wanted to be a slim, healthy grandma to the baby girl who’d soon be joining our family, and they smiled and nodded sympathetically. That’s when I realised nobody was judging me, except me! I let the shame drift away and set my sights on the future.

Back home I loaded my trolley with Speed vegetables and started sneaking them into our meals as well as serving them on the side – my family barely noticed the change, apart from enjoying all the new recipes! Food Optimising pulled pork with Slimming World chips and salad was a huge hit every time. And eating lots of healthy, filling meals paid off – in the first week I lost 8lbs, confirming I’d definitely made the right decision to return.

As the weeks went by I realised I was enjoying my food in a different way. Before, I’d battled with emotional eating, and at stressful times I’d eat bowl after bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast, and have biscuits and chocolate between meals. My group made me realise that comforting myself with sweet food didn’t make things any better in the long run.

My doctor started me on a course of shock-wave therapy for my foot condition and said if I continued to lose weight and take more of the pressure off my feet, it would speed up my recovery. He was right. Just weeks later, I was able to start taking the dogs for longer walks and within two months we were going out for 90 minutes a day. Although I still felt some pain, as it became more manageable my confidence grew and I worked some more Body Magic into my life. I joined the gym and hit the pool, no longer afraid of being seen in my swimming costume. Then with my energy levels rising I started weekly Bodypump and spin classes, too.

For an extra boost before the holiday season, I picked up the Slimming World 2017 summer journal in group and noted every meal, snack and Syn I had, plus all the exercise I was doing. Seeing my progress down on paper was really satisfying and, as my weight dropped further, so did the pain in my feet.

That summer, we booked a family holiday to Cape Verde and I went out shopping for shorts, sleeveless camisoles, figure-hugging dresses, and even a bikini. On holiday, I didn’t let anything hold me back. I jumped on a beach buggy with the kids, larked about in the pool on a unicorn-shaped lilo, and was happy to pose for family snaps.

Feeling young

After my holiday, I gave Food Optimising my all and lost the final 6lbs that would take me to target. This time, I kept on going to group to help maintain my weight. And when my stepdaughter, Stacey, gave birth to our granddaughter, Isobel, it gave me more reason to stay slim and healthy! I kept up my activity levels, too, even buying a bodyboard, so I could have fun in the sea with my daughter, Lucy, when we went on our regular family breaks to the Norfolk coast.

This February, Trevor and I flew to Jamaica for our fifth anniversary, where we went kayaking and snorkelling, and enjoyed long walks together. I even took part in a water aerobics class in full view of the other guests, in a bikini! And, each evening, I looked forward to getting dressed up for a night out with my husband. Now that I wasn’t worrying about what others might be thinking about me, I could truly enjoy Trevor’s company – and the romance!

Everything about my weight loss seems different this time and I know I have the tools and the motivation to stay slim for life. I’m full of energy and, even though I’m turning 50 next year, I don’t feel my age at all. My new lifestyle is here for keeps!

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