For as long as I can remember, my weight was something everyone (especially me) was aware of, yet never talked about. Emma and I were born as non-identical twins. Soon after, she became very ill with cystic fibrosis and lost weight rapidly.
As we grew up, Emma and I couldn’t have been more different. We both ate exactly the same, though – we had a shared sweet tooth and loved fizzy drinks and chocolate. While this led to me being the biggest girl in our class, Emma still struggled to put on weight, and I can remember being conscious of the difference in our sizes from as young as six.
My low self-esteem followed me to secondary school, and when our friends started inviting Emma and I shopping, I dreaded it. No matter how bad these things made me feel, I couldn’t talk about it, not even to Emma.
When I went to college to study floristry and started going on nights out, I turned to fad diets to shift my excess weight. I managed to lose a stone on meal-replacement shakes, then as soon as I started eating again, I put it straight back on, plus another stone.
Then Emma passed away and I was heartbroken. She was my best friend, the other half of me, and now she was gone. My grief was breathtaking.
Desperate to seek comfort wherever I could, I turned to food. Before long, my size-20 clothes were too tight and I was too heartbroken to care.
I met my partner, Michael, outside a pub where we were both waiting for friends. I was attracted by his kind face and when we started chatting, we connected instantly. We quickly went on our first date; from then we were inseparable.
Just as it had been with Emma, the one thing I couldn’t talk to Michael about was my weight and my size. As time went by, I began to realise how badly I was damaging my health with my constant overeating.
I had asthma and needed my inhaler two or three times a day. And my legs were constantly sore from carrying around so much weight. I was so ashamed. Emma hadn’t been able to help being ill, whereas it was my choices that were making me unwell.
I felt as though I was letting my gorgeous sister down by not making healthy eating choices.
I first read about Slimming World on Facebook. Almost on impulse, I decided to go along to my nearest group.
Once I’d studied my Food Optimising book at home, I realised it was perfect for me. I followed the plan to the letter and, just as my Consultant, Linda, had promised, I lost weight – a stone in three weeks. I thought my losses might stop after that, and while they did slow down, I carried on losing around a stone a month for six months.
I’d have porridge with fruit for breakfast, followed by home-made soup or salad for lunch, plus lots of healthy snacks. I’d end the day with a recipe from the Slimming World cookbooks – curry, stew or (my favourite) sticky chicken.
My healthier lifestyle was paying off. I was sleeping better and waking up full of energy. My leg pains had vanished and I barely needed my inhaler. Life suddenly felt more positive.
I decided it was time to celebrate by investing in some new clothes. It was so much fun to pick up clothes that were pretty rather than just functional – and to find they fitted me!
Now I weigh 10st 1lb, I’m a size 10 and a completely different person. Rather than slumping on the sofa as soon as I get home from work, I’m always on the go, either swimming or going for long walks with Michael.
I feel I’m better at my job, too; because I’m much more energetic, I get loads more done. I know Emma would be so proud of everything I’ve achieved.
It’s taking my brain time to catch up with my body and I still have moments of panic where I think I won’t be able to fit into a seat, or that I’ll be the biggest person in the room.
Then I’ll catch a glimpse of a slim woman in the florist-shop window and realise, after a second or two, that it’s me.
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.