On the outside, I was a party girl with a busy social life and lots of friends – on the inside, my confidence was fading fast.

Secretly, I dreaded getting ready for a big night out. As my friends swapped dresses, I’d hang back, knowing that their fashionable size-10 clothes wouldn’t fit me. I always felt like the odd one out…

I started struggling with my weight at college.

Until then, I’d competed regionally as a gymnast, and all the exercise meant I never really had to think about what I ate. Then a back injury put a stop to my active lifestyle – and I carried on enjoying lots of stodgy food, and treats like crisps and chocolate bars. Consequently, as time passed, I began to lose my athletic size 8-10 frame.

As my shape changed, my bubbly and confident personality vanished.

I was 18 years old and, more than ever before, I felt self-conscious about my appearance. What made things even worse was how I felt about my breasts. I’d been wearing size 36GG bras since the age of 14 and low-cut tops or anything backless had always been a no-go. I hated my top-heavy figure and was becoming increasingly paranoid about it. I begged my doctor to let me have a breast reduction, but she was reluctant to refer me at my current weight. My lack of confidence started to drive a wedge between my friends and me. I no longer enjoyed shopping trips – I could never find anything I looked nice in. Then on our nights out, I’d constantly be asking if I looked OK, or complaining about the size of my stomach or arms. Initially, my friends were really kind, telling me how nice I looked. Then, as time passed, they got frustrated with me – fed up of hearing the same questions over and over again. And I couldn’t say I blamed them.

The person who really bore the brunt of my weight moans, though, was my boyfriend, Matt.

I’d go from crying about how I looked to comfort eating chocolate, crisps and ice cream. At the weekend we’d order a curry or a pizza – which I’d enjoy at the time, then afterwards feel a million times worse about myself, and get snappy and irritable. While Matt was always sympathetic, telling me how lovely I looked, I dismissed his comments. I thought he was just trying to make me feel better.

I tried one diet after another, after another.

Each time, I’d lose anything between 10lbs and a stone, but I hated weighing all of my food and counting calories. So I’d give up after a few weeks and then everything I’d lost, plus a bit more, would go back on again. When I was 19, I got a job as an estate agent, which only encouraged my habit of snacking on unhealthy food. Every day at 4pm, one of us would nip out to the shop and buy big bags of crisps, packets of biscuits and family-size chocolate bars – and I didn’t think twice about it.

It wasn’t until I went to uni that I faced up to the health implications of being overweight.

I started a nursing degree in February 2014 and, although I’d always known deep down that my eating habits weren’t good for me, studying and working in a nursing environment really made me think. My blood pressure was already at an unhealthy level and I knew I had to change my ways before it became dangerously high – not to mention my increased risk of umpteen other health issues, too.

Discovering that Slimming World is for everyone, no matter what their age, was quite a surprise.

I’d always assumed it was mainly older people who joined, then as I chatted to a close friend, I found out that she’d been to group and had had great results. She raved about the recipes, the flexibility and the huge variety of food you could eat. I was still a bit anxious about going to group alone, though, so I asked a friend if they fancied it. They agreed straight away – like me, they were keen to lose some weight.

When I first walked into group in November 2015, I was so nervous.

I was worried that people would judge me. I was also frightened of being weighed in front of other people, which of course wasn’t what happened. My Consultant put me at ease immediately. I realised very quickly that everyone was there for the same reason and that we were all going to be supporting each other. My nerves started to fade away and, instead of feeling daunted when 11st 12½lbs came up on the scales, I felt as though this was my opportunity to finally tackle the weight that had been making me feel so unhappy.

I was over the moon when I found out I could eat pasta and still lose weight!

Every time I’d crash-dieted in the past, carbohydrates had been the first thing to go – in my head, they were ‘bad’ foods. So when my Consultant explained that I could still have foods like pasta and potatoes when Food Optimising, I was thrilled. And I lost 5½lbs in my first week without once feeling hungry or irritable.

Food Optimising fitted in with my student life, too.

Between being at uni and doing work placements in hospitals, I’d worried I wouldn’t be able to stick to a healthy eating plan. It turned out to be easy, though. After an early shift at the hospital, I could have a jacket potato with baked beans and salad in the canteen for lunch. Then for dinner, I’d choose something I could make on a student budget, like a Slimming World curry or spaghetti bolognese. The variety of meals I could eat meant I never felt deprived. And, if I ever found myself craving something sweet, I’d treat myself to a Cadbury Freddo for 5 Syns or a low Syn instant hot chocolate.

When the girls invited me on a trip to Benidorm, my bikini challenge was on!

It was only four months after I joined Slimming World when my friends started planning the holiday to Spain, and I did feel a little anxious. For years, the thought of putting on a bikini had filled me with dread. Now I was going to group, I had the confidence to say yes to their invitation – and the night before we flew out in June 2016, I reached my target of 10st! Being able to slip into size 8-10 bikinis and swap clothes with my mates was such a thrill. As we hit the beach, I was happily showing off my slimmer figure in a two-piece. And in the evenings I wore little shorts with crop tops. I finally felt like my old self again.

The only thing that was still bothering me was the size of my breasts.

I was still wearing a 36GG bra, and I suffered constantly with backache and shoulder pain. My parents understood how much it was affecting me and agreed to lend me the money to pay privately for breast-reduction surgery. The difference is incredible! I’m now a 34D and I feel so much more comfortable – it’s had a huge effect on my self-esteem.

Body Magic is a big part of my life now.

I really enjoyed keeping fit as a youngster, and I’ve realised that this is what was missing during those years when I felt so self-conscious about my shape. I’ve fallen back in love with fitness! I go to the gym at least three times a week and I love going on bike rides, too. I’ve also started running and can now manage 5km comfortably, which leaves me on a real high.

I share my success on social media, which really keeps me focused.

I upload photos of my meals to Instagram and that helps me to stay mindful of what I’m eating. And since January 2016, I’ve also posted ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures. With thousands of other Slimming World members posting, too, it’s a great source of extra support in between group – it’s definitely helped me to stay on track.

I feel so positive about my future.

Although I’m at target, I know how important it is for me to carry on going to group – the ongoing support is invaluable. My mum and aunt have also joined and are doing incredibly well. Even Matt eats the same meals as me, instead of fatty foods and takeaways. Food Optimising has become a way of life for all of us. I’ll be finishing my degree soon and I can’t wait to qualify. By making me take stock of my own health, I feel like my weight loss journey has made me even more sure about pursuing a nursing career. I can’t wait to get stuck into the next phase of my life: slim, confident and happy being me!

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