I first put on weight when I was pregnant, and found it so hard to shift those extra pounds afterwards. When I became a single parent, I started comfort eating, too, especially in the evenings after putting my three boys to bed.
I tried every diet going – slimming clubs, shakes, and even cabbage soup, which was absolutely awful. Nothing felt sustainable for more than a few weeks, then I’d just regain any weight I’d managed to lose.
A couple of things made me realise I wanted to find another way. Sifting through some photos one day, I got really upset about the way I looked. Then I was invited to a 40th birthday party.
I went out to buy something new to wear and was shocked to discover I’d gone up to a size 18. ‘That’s it,’ I thought. ‘I have to do something.’
Not long after, a leaflet for a new Slimming World group in my area dropped through my door. I said to myself, ‘I’ve tried everything else, I may as well give this a go!’.
In January 2003, I walked into group for the first time. While I was very nervous, I reassured myself that, because it was a brand-new group, everyone would be in the same boat as me.
After trying so many fad diets, I couldn’t believe my ears when I found out that I could lose weight without feeling hungry. There were no restrictions, it was just filling, everyday food – and there was so much choice.
I quickly started losing weight, and enjoyed cooking up Food Optimising versions of favourite meals like cottage pie, beef stew or chicken supreme. There were so many recipe ideas online and in the magazine, I never got bored or felt I had to eat the same dishes over and over again.
When I ate out, there was usually something on the menu that I could adapt – for example, asking for jacket potatoes without butter. Most restaurants were happy to cater for my needs, which was great. And if I did decide to go for something off plan, I knew I could always get back on track straight afterwards.
My group was incredible – I could talk about anything and everything and there was always someone there to support me. I still go every week: the other members inspire me, and they say I inspire them. It’s really special to know that they feel I’m there for them as much as they’ve been – and still are – there for me.
Embracing Body Magic
Before I lost weight, even the smallest amount of activity, like climbing the stairs, would leave me out of breath. It felt really scary sometimes – I’d think, ‘This is silly, I’m still young!’.
As I slimmed down, I felt able to introduce more activity into my routine, and now I exercise most days. I’ve taken up running, I walk a lot, and during lockdown I enjoyed doing online fitness classes. I love running around after my grandchildren, too. There’s no way I could’ve done any of that when I was at my biggest.
I reached my target weight in June 2004, going from a size 18 to a 12. And, just over 16 years later, I’m still there!
My ambition now is to keep at target and hold on to the healthy habits and the confidence I’ve gained. It’s not always been easy – I’ve missed weeks at group and had challenging times, especially in the early days of my weight loss journey.
The fantastic support of my fellow members has always kept me going through those tricky moments.
I’m like a different person now, and I’m determined not to go back to feeling the way I did. It’s been 16 years, so I’m confident that this is the real me – the new habits I discovered thanks to Slimming World are just my way of life now! To anyone thinking about joining, I’d say go for it. It’s changed my life, and if I can do it, anyone can.
My tips for long-term weight loss:
Be kind to yourself: Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day or two – we’re all human. Just get back on track as quickly as you can.
Planning is a must: I always write a shopping list – and I never go food shopping when I’m hungry!
My day on a plate
Slices of buttery toast
Sandwiches, crisps and a bar of chocolate
A large chicken or ham and beetroot salad
Sausage and chips, pizza or a Chinese takeaway
Swede-topped cottage pie with lots of vegetables
Biscuits and chocolate