As a toddler I was chubby, and I grew into an overweight child. By the time I reached my teens I was a size 16. My ambition had always been to act professionally, so at 16 I went to The BRIT School for performing arts. A place at drama school afterwards eluded me, though. I think the audition panels could sense that I was only pretending to be outgoing and confident, when, in fact, all the years of feeling overweight and bigger than my peers had deeply affected my self-esteem.
Instead of pursuing an acting career, I went to university. I managed to lose 2st when I started, then gradually the pounds crept back on again in my 20s. Pregnancy added even more weight, and when my son Bailey was two weeks old, I was upset to realise I was over 15st.
With a combination of fad diets, starvation and sheer self-denial, somehow I managed to get myself down to around 13st, but I knew my eating habits were extremely unhealthy. While I made nutritious meals packed with fresh fruit and vegetables for Bailey, I never shopped for groceries or cooked properly for myself. I was either eating loads of watery vegetable soup on some crash diet or other, or guiltily spreading hunks of crusty white bread with butter and brie, then following them with crisps and cake – all washed down with big glasses of full-sugar cola.
One morning, when Bailey was about three, he was tucking into his breakfast cereal when he pointed the spoon at me to offer a taste. At the time, I was trying out another one of my diets. As I caught myself about to say, ‘No thank you, Mummy’s not eating today’, I realised how utterly ridiculous I would sound. Did I want Bailey to grow up thinking it was normal for people to deliberately starve themselves?
Luckily, salvation (and a sensible eating plan) was just at the bottom of my road, in the shape of my local Slimming World group. I didn’t approach it as a diet – I was just out to educate myself about healthy eating because I wanted to be a good role model for Bailey.
In my first week I lost an amazing 6lbs, all while enjoying cottage pie, lasagne and bowlfuls of pasta with home-made sauces.
Over the next 16 months the weight came off steadily (with the occasional little glitch – I’m only human!), until I’d lost 4st. When I stepped off the scales having hit target, Bailey shouted, ‘Yes Mummy, you did it!’.
Slimming World also brought me closer to my partner, Tom. We met at work – he’s a chef at the restaurant where until recently I was a waitress – and he used to make me special Food Optimising lunches. We’re now living together and, although he says he doesn’t mind what I weigh, he’s been so supportive. He loves my healthy cooking and he definitely appreciates how I look in my skinny jeans, too!
I used to think fitness just wasn’t for me – now I’ve got the confidence to embrace an active life. I completed the Couch to 5K running plan a few months ago and hope to train for a marathon one day. When I was still working at the restaurant, I also saved about £1,000 on parking charges by leaving my car further from work and walking the rest of the way – money I could put towards fun stuff for Bailey and me.
The best thing of all is that Bailey doesn’t know what a diet is. ‘Normal’ to him is eating a delicious, home-cooked meal with lots of fresh vegetables, and having Mummy tuck in, too. All the faddy diet books have disappeared from my shelves for good. Who needs a quick fix when you can do something that’s truly lasting?
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.