As my teammates raced up the pitch ahead of me, I had to stop. My lungs were burning after sprinting for the ball, and I needed to catch my breath. Playing centre-back for Hutton Ladies, I’d always been big and strong enough to hold my own against opposition strikers, but right now I was the biggest I’d ever been and it was taking longer to recover after matches.

As I came off the pitch, breathless and aching, it hit me that I wasn’t enjoying playing football like I used to. It felt like something needed to change.

I’d been a big teenager, but it was when I met my boyfriend, Billy, that my weight really started creeping up. We were so happy together and loved nothing more than a cosy night in with a takeaway and some chocolate.

As well as affecting my performance on the football pitch, my increasing size had shattered my confidence. I felt uncomfortable in everything I wore, and if Billy and I ever went out for dinner, I’d spend the whole time worrying that people were staring at me.

Ready for kick-off

I’d been a Slimming World member a few times before, each time going to group with my mum, Margie. I knew how well Food Optimising could work for me, so in January 2020, Mum and I walked into our local group in Grays, Essex. We got such a warm welcome from the other members and the Consultant, Beverley, which instantly made me feel at ease.

Back home, Mum and I dived into our Food Optimising books. We decided to ditch our evening takeaways for home-made versions using fresh, healthy ingredients. I loved that I could still eat my old favourites, such as chips and pulled pork and gammon, as well as discovering exciting new ones like cheeseburger pasta bake.

Kelly’s football fuel-up

This time around, I made sure that I went to group each and every week. Having the support network of Bev and the other members really helped to keep me motivated. One of the best tips I picked up was to look at my weight losses across a month rather than week to week. That way, if I ever had a week when I didn’t get the result I wanted, it was much easier to brush it off as I knew I was still making progress in the long term.

Raising my game

With the pounds gradually falling away, my confidence grew and so did my abilities on the pitch. When the new season started, my teammates were amazed by how much weight I’d lost – and they were even more impressed when they saw me flying up and down the pitch without needing to take a breather.

My increased energy in matches spurred me on to tackle another fitness challenge – running. Although I had no problem charging across the penalty box to make a last-ditch tackle, running for exercise was a different story. But when Mum told me she’d downloaded the Couch to 5K app and asked me to do it with her, I thought, ‘Why not?’.

At first we jogged around the park when it was quiet so that nobody would see us, but the more we went out, the less we cared about whether anyone was watching. Bit by bit, my fitness grew until I could run 13 miles – a half-marathon distance. I never thought I’d say I love running, but I do. I just stick my headphones on, tune in to the Slimming World podcast, and off I go.

MORE FOR MEMBERS: Discover the joys of jogging with our step-by-step guide

What a result!

It’s hard to put into words how much losing 4st 5lbs has changed my life. I’ve got a new job that I love, I’ve dropped four dress sizes and this year I finally had the confidence to wear a bikini on holiday. Best of all, I feel fitter and healthier than ever and it’s reignited my passion on the football pitch. I used to think that my playing days were coming to an end. Now I know I’ve got a few more seasons left in me (at least!) and I can’t wait to see what adventures they bring.

Discover how Slimming World can help you get fit for life

Our unique Body Magic activity programme will give you all the tools and support you need to build up your activity levels until exercise is an enjoyable part of everyday life. This includes a FIT log to plan your activities, Body Magic awards to celebrate your achievements and expert advice to help you overcome any barriers – as well as lots of encouragement from your Slimming World group or our online Community. You can find out more about joining Slimming World here

MORE FOR MEMBERS: Hop over to our Body Magic essentials page to explore our 66 activity videos, listen to fitness-themed podcasts, find out more about the motivational FIT log or take your first step towards a Body Magic award

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