Hiding away in the stockroom, I could hear my husband, Rob, chatting away easily to customers. I wished that I had his confidence, but the truth was that I’d find any excuse to avoid dealing with people. I’d already quit my supermarket job and would even start arguments to get out of having to leave the house. I just wanted to hide from the world.

Social anxiety wasn’t the only issue that held me back. I’d suffered terribly with depression, before being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a condition which meant I was constantly tired and in pain. A combination of comfort eating and hardly going out made me put on weight – and the more weight I gained, the worse I felt and the more I ate. 

Over the years, I’d comfort eaten my way to 20st.

My weight gain was especially disappointing to me, as I’d previously lost over 6st at Slimming World. Dropping from 17st 7Ibs to 11st 5Ibs meant that I had the energy to run around after my children, Dan and Charlotte, who were just one and 11 years old at that time. But that was way back in 1999, and I’d since regained all the weight I’d lost, plus a bit more.

From my stockroom hiding place, I had time to reflect on how my weight was affecting my life. As well as damaging my health, my work life and my relationships, my size also made it difficult to do those day-to-day things that we take for granted – walking was painful and bending to tie my shoelaces was impossible. I also used my clothes as a disguise. Everything was black, baggy and perfect for disappearing behind. It was time to work towards facing life again.

Confronting my comfort eating

I already knew that Slimming World could work well for me, but I was really worried about rejoining. Embarrassed by the fact that I’d put on all the weight I’d previously lost, I was scared that people would judge me for returning bigger than before. Of course, I needn’t have worried. I received an incredibly warm welcome and my only regret was not going back to group sooner.

With the support of my group, I felt able to confront my comfort eating. Breakfast was often rounds of white toast with butter and chocolate spread, followed by more toast mid-morning and then a sandwich for lunch – so white bread was the first habit that I wanted to tackle. Those endless slices of bread were replaced with overnight oats or a Slimming World big breakfast, both of which would keep me full until my lunch of a big salad with chicken, tuna or Slimming World quiche.

The next habit to break was my evening takeaway. Dinner was always a takeaway or a processed ready meal, so making the change to fresh, home-cooked meals made a big difference to my daily diet. Now I love using Slimming World recipes to cook up a storm in the kitchen – fajitascreamy mushroom pasta and risotto are three firm favourites that are just as comforting as a takeaway.

It was time to change my choice of snacks, too – I’d eat crisps and chocolate both with lunch and for afternoon nibbles. Carrot sticks and fruit are now my snacks of choice, and I always have a low Syn sweet treat in the afternoon (usually a Pink n Whites marshmallow wafer bar with a green tea).

Taking on the world

Once I’d broken these habits, I quickly started to see results on the scales and, most importantly, an improvement in my health. I’d turned the negative cycle of feeling down, comfort eating, gaining weight and feeling worse into a positive cycle – the healthier I ate, the more weight I lost, the better I felt and the less I needed to comfort eat!

Life now really couldn’t be more different. As my confidence has grown, I no longer feel like I need to have a store of excuses ready in case someone asks me to leave the house. In fact, it’s very rare for me to turn down a social invitation. I’ve gone from being very inactive, locked away at home, to heading out for a daily 10K walk, whatever the weather. I’ve even recently taken up running!

While the old me wouldn’t leave the house for days, the new me is running along the seafront at 5am every morning!

After losing 9st 4½Ibs, I honestly feel like I can do anything. I’d love to have another go at setting up my own business, now that I have the confidence to deal with customers, reps and suppliers. There’s no more hiding in the stockroom for me! And my new work wardrobe will be full of bright colours, as my previous dark, baggy disguise has long gone. Thanks to Slimming World, I’ve blossomed into a social butterfly who’s finally happy to reveal herself to the world.

Slimming World comfort collection

Sheila managed to break her cycle of comfort eating, but that didn’t mean giving up delicious, satisfying and comforting food! Try one of our hearty, home-cooked meals and enjoy a warming hug from the inside.

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