At the age of 60, I felt like a failure. Despite trying every diet under the sun, I was a size 28 and desperately unhappy with the way I looked, my lack of energy and my lack of control around food. I’d already been overweight for more than 25 years. I’d tried every weight-loss plan going at one time or another, including a half-hearted stint at Slimming World.

I found being overweight definitely affected my confidence, especially at work and the leisure activities I enjoyed with my husband, Chris. He loves sailing and, at my biggest, I worried I might capsize the dinghy we used at the marina. And if he suggested a walk, I didn’t have the energy to accompany him very far. Although he never complained or hinted that I should lose weight, I was cross with myself for being so out of control.

My beloved mum, though, was too worried to keep quiet on the subject. Her main concern was that I would develop some kind of weight-related health issue, such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. My knees were already bothering me because of all the weight they were supporting.

The day the switch flicked in my head

When I was 54, I decided to take early retirement. I found some interesting voluntary work, helping run an open garden project raising money for our local air ambulance. It was then that a little switch flicked on in my head. I wanted a way of eating that would let me have normal foods – combinations that worked, like meat and potatoes, curry and rice, or fish and chips. Even cake. What I wanted was Slimming World.

When I was originally a member, the Extra Easy plan didn’t exist, so when Gill, my new Consultant, explained I really could slim while eating steak and chips, big bowls of pasta and unlimited Free vegetables as well as fruit, I wasn’t sure she was serious.

I made simple swaps – low-calorie cooking spray instead of oil or butter, sweetener instead of sugar – and had great fun experimenting with recipes from the magazine, website and Slimming World cookbooks.

I didn’t stay to group for IMAGE Therapy at first. For some reason I saw slimming as a solo activity. My group was so warm and friendly, though, that I became curious about joining in. I’m so glad I did! I soon realised how important it was to have that mutual support – especially when I’d had a frustrating week and stayed the same weight or lost less than I’d hoped.

Gill was wonderful, always ready to offer great down-to-earth advice and a shoulder to cry on when necessary – never dispensing any blame, just loads of support and friendship.

It took me three years and three months to get down to a weight I felt comfortable with. Although I felt confident that Slimming World was right for me almost straight away, I do think achieving my Club 10 award (for losing 10% of my body weight) was a bit of a turning point. That happened after about three months and it was then I began to see a real change in the way I looked – and in how my clothes felt, too.

Ready for Body Magic

A year after joining Gill’s group, I’d lost 4st. My knee trouble and breathlessness had almost disappeared, so I felt ready to do some Body Magic. I’d never been a gym person, but started trying a few different activities and was amazed what a difference they made to my posture, strength and vitality. I’ve added Nordic walking to my exercise routine and walking is something I can do with Chris, or I can just take off alone into the countryside for an hour or so. I’ve been back on a horse for the first time in 30 years and sailing’s much more fun nowadays, too.

There are times when I wish my lovely mum, who died before I joined Slimming World, could have seen me like this. She’d be so happy. And I do feel a little bit sad for the 40- and 50-something me, who so badly wanted to lose weight. I know I’ll never get those wasted years back, so instead I focus on the healthy seventh decade I’m having, the happiness I feel and all the wonderful things in my life now.

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