I’d been looking forward to my holiday abroad for so long – it was a much-needed break from my hectic job and, as the plane took off, I couldn’t wait to feel the sun on my face. When I got there, though, it was a different story. I felt so self-conscious at the beach that I stayed covered up the whole time, sweltering in a baggy T-shirt. 

My weight worries had begun to surface when I’d noticed my clothes were feeling tighter. I’d started to avoid mirrors, and clothes shopping just wasn’t enjoyable any more. I’d always been slim and fairly active, so it was an uncomfortable new feeling.

As the year drew to a close, instead of partying on New Year’s Eve, I stepped on the scales. The number that flashed back at me made my heart sink. I couldn’t believe how heavy I’d got.

I remembered seeing a Slimming World post on Instagram – it hadn’t looked like a diet, but instead a healthy eating plan based on real food! I thought it looked perfect for me, and I really felt it’d be where I could get the help I needed. I searched for a group that was open on New Year’s Day; I was on a mission and knew that if I didn’t strike then, the moment could pass.

I joined Azra’s group the next day. I was nervous, but I told myself ‘You’ve got this’. And boom – I did it! 

I really didn’t know what to expect when I walked in, and I was delighted to see so many women and men there, of all ages and sizes. I got a warm welcome from everyone, especially Azra – I felt like she completely understood me. I knew immediately that I was going to fit in.

The support the members gave each other really surprised me. It was so encouraging and non-judgemental – I just felt safe.

That night, I read through my Food Optimising book and was amazed at how much I could eat! I was expecting there to be a catch, but there wasn’t. I could have pasta – and even chocolate and ice cream if I counted the Syns – and still lose weight. 

I got cracking that first week, highlighting my favourite Free Foods in the book and making shopping lists. I made Slimming World versions of lasagne, cottage pie and spag bol, and when I weighed in the following week, I’d lost 3lbs.

I loved staying to group, swapping recipes and food tips. I got so many extra ideas from social media, too, seeing all the meals that other members made.

There have been times when I’ve struggled or been disappointed with a loss, of course. At those moments I’ve been lifted by my fellow members, who’ve helped me focus on what I’m going to do next, rather than dwelling on what’s already happened.

Azra always seemed to know when I needed extra support, too – she’d call me at just the right time to offer some help.

I’m much more aware of what I’m putting into my body now, and I know how to cook in a healthy way. I’m more active, too – I enjoy walking and I’ve got my Bronze, Silver and Gold Body Magic awards. I feel loads healthier than I used to.

I had the best moment recently when I tried on a dress that had been hanging unworn in my wardrobe. It had been my favourite, but it hadn’t fitted me for a long time. When I got it out and it slipped on easily, I cried happy tears – I never dreamed it would fit me again! 

The icing on the cake came when I went on holiday again, to Miami and the Bahamas – this time I rocked a size-10 bikini! I’m so much more confident in every respect. I love looking in the mirror now, and I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved!

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