New research* shows that, while 57% of dieters have tried to slim ‘in secret’, 87% of those who joined a Slimming World group had more success – with the support and accountability being key factors in their weight loss. Sophie Ratcliffe is one member who can really relate to this, having dropped eight dress sizes – from a size 26 to a 12 – since joining her local group! Sophie says:
Before joining Slimming World, I tried so many ways to lose weight – and I never told anyone, as I was sure I wouldn’t succeed. I even hired a personal trainer, but along with the exercise plan, they suggested a protein-shake diet that I knew I wouldn’t be able to stick to because it left me hungry.
At nearly 24st, my health was rapidly getting worse and I couldn’t walk upstairs without getting out of breath or needing to sit down. I wasn’t sleeping and I did no exercise at all. My son was being bullied at school because of my weight, which made me feel so guilty, but I had no idea how to change things. During the lockdowns, all I did was eat and bake with my kids. So when some friends mentioned they were joining Slimming World, I decided to go with them and signed up the same day.
It was September 2021 when I first walked through those doors. I felt so embarrassed by my size, but no one made me feel self-conscious, and I left the session feeling hopeful for the first time in ages. Once I understood how the Food Optimising plan worked, I realised that I wouldn’t have to give up all the food I loved. And the other members were such a lovely bunch, I instantly knew I was safe and that they wouldn’t be judging me. After years of trying to lose weight without telling anyone, it was their help, care and encouragement that kept me on track and lifted me up whenever I had a tough week.
Unfortunately, 2021 also happened to be one of the worst years of my life. In January, I started having what I thought were anxiety attacks. Then I had a major seizure, which was initially diagnosed as brain cancer but which turned out to be epilepsy. The seizures can be fatal, so I was put on medication to control them.
It was a very stressful time, and I could easily have given up on my weight loss plans. Yet, because of the support of those around me, including my family and friends and my Slimming World group, I knew I had to carry on. I’m so proud that I continued to Food Optimise during such a difficult time. I know I couldn’t have done it on my own. My group and my Consultant, Charlotte, have been there for me every step of the way.
Since losing 11st, I feel better equipped to deal with whatever life throws at me. Amazingly, I haven’t had a seizure for five months now, and I know I’ve given myself the best chance of being a healthy mum. My son isn’t being bullied any more and both my kids are proud of me. When they see pictures of me before I lost weight, they ask who that lady is. And when I saw both my epilepsy nurse and my neurosurgeon recently, they couldn’t believe my transformation and tried to impress on me that it’s saved my life.
I think it’s saved my marriage, too. It upset my husband to watch the bubbly person I used to be slipping away. Now, I feel like me again. Slimming World has brought our family closer in other ways, as well – because Food Optimising is based around healthy, everyday foods, it means I don’t have to make different dinners for everyone, and my children are eating much more healthily.
As I lost weight I felt able to get more active and I started to follow Slimming World’s Body Magic activity programme. I went at my own pace, doing a bit more every week, and now I go to the gym four or five times a week. I actually find exercise fun and enjoyable, which I’d never believed possible before.
I feel like a door has opened for me and I’m excited to explore what’s on the other side! Now, when people ask me how I’ve managed to lose weight, I can’t wait to tell them – it’s because my weight loss goals aren’t a secret any more!
Dr Jacquie Lavin, Slimming World’s special advisor on the science of weight management, says: ‘Sophie’s story shows that the peer support our members give one another is what sets Slimming World apart. Members become part of a community, whether that’s in group or online, which helps them realise that they’re not alone in the challenges they face. That’s combined with a personalised approach, which helps every member discover more about themselves as a slimmer, identify their own pitfalls and danger zones, and create plans to overcome them. As well as following the healthy eating plan – which enables you to still eat the foods you love – and becoming more active at your own pace, members are encouraged to dig deep into what motivates them, and to set realistic weekly goals to help them achieve their weight loss targets.’
Consultant Charlotte McCleary runs the Hayle Slimming World group that Sophie attends. She says: ‘When Sophie first joined my group, she was with friends and she didn’t seem convinced that she was going to lose any weight. From that first week, though, she just flew – and as we’ve watched her reach her target and lose an incredible 11st, she’s become such an inspiration for us! We all care about her so much; she’s an amazing woman with a big heart. Even with everything Sophie’s been coping with outside of group, she’s not stopped sharing tips and recipe ideas and supporting other members.’
Sophie’s day on a plate
A fry-up, cooked in oil, with lots of ketchup.
Chopped banana with fat-free natural yogurt.
Deep-fried chicken and chips from a takeaway.
Home-made chicken skewers cooked in the air fryer, with a Healthy Extra ‘b’ wholemeal pitta bread and salad.
A family-size pizza, followed by ice cream with chocolate sauce and cream.
Pizza-topped chicken with Slimming World chips and lots of vegetables.
Crisps, bars of chocolate, sweets.
Grapes, apples, Hi-fi bars.
*The research is based on surveys of 2,000 UK adults who are currently trying to lose weight, and 2,459 Slimming World members. Both samples were polled between 2nd and 8th December 2022.
Beach photo: Colin Higgs
Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.