Everything changed when I saw that photo. I just couldn’t believe the woman in the picture was me and I didn’t want to look like that any more. At more than 24st I was lucky not to have had any health problems at that point, but I knew that if I stayed the size I was it would inevitably affect my wellbeing.

I'd tried losing weight by following diets of my own design, which always involved cutting down on portions or skipping meals, and never worked in the long term. I realised I couldn’t do it alone so I bought a copy of Slimming World magazine and decided to join my local group.

New way of eating

At first I was curious about whether Food Optimising would work because I couldn’t understand how you could eat to satisfy your appetite and have your treats, and still lose weight – it seemed too good to be true. But when I lost 5lbs in my first week there was no more doubting. It worked!

I love cooking, and it was great that the recipes were family-friendly so you didn’t have to eat something different from everyone else in your household; as a family our favourite was Slimming-World-style spaghetti carbonara.

On the move

I’ve never enjoyed exercise in the traditional sense – the Body Magic activity programme showed me that you don’t have to join a gym or run miles to be active, though. I’ve got two dogs and I love walking them every day.

I set myself small targets along the way and would reward myself with a little treat at every stone lost.

I still follow Food Optimising and attend group regularly, and for free now I’m at my target. I find it really motivating; I love picking up recipe ideas so I’m never bored with what I’m eating and everyone’s advice helps me to stay on track.

A new look

I used to live in big, baggy skirts, but now I have loads of pairs of designer jeans and I feel great in them. One of the highlights of my journey was buying a size-10 dress for my daughter Charlotte’s wedding – it was a joyous experience shopping with her for my mother-of-the-bride outfit and being able to pick clothes from any shop I wanted.

I felt equally amazing in a white gown I wore when my husband Tim and I renewed our vows in Las Vegas.

Losing weight has allowed me to do things I’d never have even dared to try when I was bigger. In America, we flew in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon, and in Egypt we took a trip over the River Nile and the Valley of Kings in a hot-air balloon. At my biggest I’d have been too heavy to do either of those flights – now nothing stands in my way and that’s a great feeling.

I can’t put into words how much my weight loss has changed my life for the better. My quality of life has improved so much.

I know I’ve given myself the best chance of a healthy retirement when the time comes. I’m looking forward to spending many years to come with my young granddaughter, too – something I might not have been able to say if I hadn’t made that change eight years ago.

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