Working as an NHS nurse is intense, both mentally and physically. At 17st 4lbs, I was wearing size XXL scrubs and would leave each shift on my knees – totally and utterly exhausted. My body ached all over from being on my feet for so long, I had severe joint pain and I’d be breathless from all the running around. The PPE I wore made me so hot, I’d sweat profusely and would have to change my scrubs whenever I went for a break.
Working in an ITU (Intensive Therapy Unit) during the pandemic was a scary time, and my thoughts often turned to how well I’d be able to fight off the virus if I did catch it. I knew that obesity was a contributing factor for many people who struggled with Covid, so it was a constant worry for me – I’d joined Slimming World just before the first lockdown and that concern really drove me on to keep going with my weight loss.
Before that, I’d tried every diet you could think of – soups, shakes, calorie counting… They’d all work for a bit, but I’d soon lose motivation and end up regaining any weight I’d lost. The turning point came after we received our new hazmat suits at the hospital. When I saw the box was marked ‘XL’, my heart sank. I did manage to get my suit on, but the first time I bent over in it, it ripped all the way from my neck to my bottom. I laughed it off with everyone else in the room, but on the inside I was mortified.
I’d seen signs for a local Slimming World group on my way to work, and in January 2020, I decided that it was time to give it a try. I was very nervous at the thought of joining a group, but I had a feeling that attending each week would help me stay on track in a way I hadn’t been able to before. That first night I sat outside in my car, worrying about going in, but eventually I plucked up the courage to walk through those doors. The group and the Consultant were so welcoming, and I found hearing about how well other members had done really encouraging. For the first time, I started to believe that I could lose weight.
After a lifetime of restrictive diets, I discovered a way to slim without feeling hungry. I’d always assumed I needed to snack on sugary treats to keep me going on long shifts – but I found that filling up on healthy meals kept me well-fuelled throughout the day, and I started to feel in control of my eating habits, even during the more stressful shifts.
I especially loved the fact that the Slimming World plan, Food Optimising, fitted so well around my family life. My husband’s a farmer and my two children are both really sporty and row for Great Britain, so everyone in our household needs to eat hearty meals. It was great that I didn’t have to prepare anything different for myself and we still enjoyed our favourites, like cheesy lasagne, spicy noodles and even chips – I just prepared everything in a healthier way.
Sarah’s day on a plate
Pastries, toast with lots of butter, or a bacon and sausage baguette.
A big bowl of fresh fruit and yogurt, or grilled bacon medallions with eggs (cooked without fat).
Shop-bought baguette and chips, or pizza and chips from the canteen.
Home-made soup, leftover pasta or a jacket potato with beans (no butter) and a salad.
A takeaway, like a Chinese, fried chicken, or a burger and chips.
We love fakeaway sweet and sour chicken noodles, served with stir-fried veg or Slimming World chips, made in the air fryer.
Chocolate, cakes, biscuits.
Houmous with vegetable crudités, fruit, Slimming World Hi-fi bars, lean meat (visible fat removed), hard-boiled eggs, Healthy Extra ‘a’ portions of cheese.
The support of my Slimming World group was invaluable, too. Everyone there truly cares about each other – we’re all genuinely delighted when someone achieves something, and empathetic if anyone’s struggling. It’s so lovely, as it feels like we’re all in it together. I quickly knew that going to group would be a key part of my journey, so I arranged my shifts around them and made attending a priority. The support I got there helped me to understand myself and my relationship with food more deeply as well, which enabled me to change my mindset around eating and drinking. It got me thinking about exercise, too...
I was pretty inactive before I joined Slimming World. I’d be worn out after a 12-and-a-half-hour shift, so walking the dog to the end of the road was about all I could manage when I got home. As I lost weight, though, my energy levels soared, and after hearing about Body Magic, Slimming World’s physical activity support programme, in group, I felt keen to start building some exercise into my life. I live in the countryside, so walking in the hills soon became a lovely escape for me. I built up gradually at my own pace, walking just a little further every time. Now, I love nothing more than a hike in the Brecon Beacons. I’ve even completed a couple of charity challenges and would love to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania next year.
MORE FOR MEMBERS: Find your perfect fitness ‘fit’ with our expert activity guides
My NHS colleagues at the Wye Valley Trust have all been so supportive of me – in fact, many of them have now joined Slimming World and lost weight themselves. In the past, I sometimes felt like a bit of a hypocrite, giving people advice about healthy eating and exercise. These days I feel proud, because I’m living proof that it works.
I’m the best version of myself for my patients – and I’m the best version of myself for me and my family. I’m living my best life and that’s an incredible feeling!
Watch Sarah tell her inspiring story below
Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.