‘Sorry, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to get off,’ said the fairground attendant, after trying to click shut the safety bar. As I climbed off the ride and walked back past the queue of people, I wished I was invisible. I didn’t dare look at anyone in the queue, I’d convinced myself they’d be staring and sniggering. I was too embarrassed to go for drinks with my uni friends afterwards. 

We’d planned the fun day out to celebrate the end of our time at Teesside University – and at size 26, I was finishing the course three dress sizes bigger than I’d started. Living away from home, I’d spend most of my money on takeaways. I’d sometimes try to eat healthier, but my good intentions always crumbled and I’d be back to sitting in bed with two large pepperoni pizzas. The temporary feelings of pleasure would quickly be replaced by disappointment in myself. Then I’d soothe my upset the only way I knew how – by eating more and making myself feel even worse. 

Slimming for health

My mum and dad were worried about my increasing weight – understandably so because, at the age of 19, I’d been diagnosed with a rare condition that caused spinal fluid to build up in my brain, putting pressure on my optic nerve. Every few months I had to have a needle inserted into my spine to reduce the pressure. The doctor had made it clear that losing weight could make a difference to my symptoms, but that advice wasn’t accompanied by any kind of guidance, and I just didn’t know where to start. 

After uni, I got a job in the civil service, and some days my headaches left me with no choice but to sleep for hours. Mum and I started walking together several times a week, but I knew it wasn’t going to be enough. Although I wanted to join a Slimming World group, I was nervous – I’d got it into my head that everyone would judge me, probably because I was judging myself so much. I asked Mum to come along for support and, of course, I needn’t have worried – everyone was friendly and welcoming. 

I hadn’t really cooked before, so I started with Slimming World versions of familiar meals. I made a big batch of bolognese sauce using lean mince, chopped veg and canned tomatoes, and once I’d got the hang of that, it was easy to turn it into a chilli by adding spices and kidney beans. Instead of skipping breakfast, I started having Weetabix with skimmed milk and berries, and for lunch I’d eat something like a home-made salad topped with salmon and halloumi. My new routine completely transformed my mindset around food. Rather than eating until I was uncomfortably full to smother my feelings, I was enjoying balanced, filling meals throughout the day. After two weeks I’d lost 9lbs! 

I found that one of the big benefits of going to group was listening to the other members talk about their obstacles and how they’d overcome them. These three things in particular really helped me along my journey: 

Tackling my trigger food 

During a chat about trigger foods, I realised that crisps were mine – I couldn’t have just a few and stop – so I decided that I just wouldn’t buy them. Making that choice, and walking past the crisps in the supermarket, felt really empowering. 

Time-saving recipe ideas 

I worked shifts, and got some great tips from the other shift workers at my group. One told me they found the frozen Slimming World Free Food Lunch Bowls from Iceland a lifesaver, as you could just pop them in the microwave, while another said they loved the Slimming World’s Meals for One cookbook for whipping up something quick and easy from scratch.  

Making my own fakeaways 

I’d been convinced life wouldn’t be the same without my takeaways, so I loved hearing about everyone’s favourite fakeaways. Mine was pepperoni pizza, which I quickly mastered. I’d either make my own base using self-raising flour and fat-free natural yogurt, or use a wholemeal wrap. It tasted so good – and unlike the pepperoni pizzas I used to have, it didn’t end up with me in a slump, wishing I’d never eaten it in the first place. 

I lost weight steadily, but it wasn’t until I was 6st down and my joggers were hanging off me that I finally accepted I needed to buy some new clothes! Mum and I went shopping together, and for the first time in years I could go into high street stores and have choices. To my astonishment, a trendy, size-14 camouflage dress fitted me like a glove.  

Mum and I were still walking regularly, and as my weight went down, my fitness levels increased. In 2021, a few of us from group started training together for the Virtual MoonWalk, covering 26.2 miles for charity. Those ‘therapy walks’, as I now think of them, weren’t just about fitness. As we walked, I’d talk through anything that was worrying me with people who really understood.  

I’ve now lost more than 8st – a huge drop from my first 22st weigh-in! My headaches have become much less severe and my social confidence is flying, too. These days, instead of hiding away, I love meals out with friends or going on shopping trips. That horrible experience at the fair definitely wasn’t fun, but I’m making up for it now! 

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

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