Thirteen years ago, my mum died suddenly. Dad was devastated and my sister and I took on the running of the house, always cooking big meals for everyone. While eating together helped us share our grief, for me, it was the start of a decade of comfort eating that continued even after I left home and got married.

Four difficult pregnancies didn’t help my weight, either. I had pre-eclampsia with all my babies and was hospitalised for long periods. By the time my youngest arrived in February 2013, I was the heaviest and most unwell I’d ever been. I was told I’d been on the verge of a stroke when she was delivered. It was the lowest period of my life. I had a beautiful new baby girl, but felt lost in my size-22 body.

Although I tried to avoid social occasions at all costs, one event I couldn’t say no to was a wedding in October 2013 – my daughter Maggie was a flower girl. She looked like a princess, but when I saw a photo of us together, I cried. I’d already heard guests ask if I was pregnant again and this was the final straw. Two days later, I joined Slimming World.

I quickly found that just a few changes to the way I cooked and ate made a world of difference – I lost 8lbs in the first week! 

As the weight continued to come off by a couple of pounds a week, I started feeling happier, healthier and more in control of my life.

I have coeliac disease and I’d been told many times that I’d find it hard to lose weight – I’ve proven them wrong. As a family, we’ve never enjoyed our food more. The children love flicking through Slimming World recipe books and the magazine as we decide what to make, and I’ve become a dab hand at adjusting the recipes to include gluten-free ingredients. Our kitchen has become this wonderful place where lots of delicious, exciting dishes are cooked up and enjoyed. 

I reached target in July 2014. The first time I caught a glimpse of my new size 8-10 figure in a full-length mirror, I waved – I thought it was my sister!

Family life is so much richer now. My diary is full of fun activities. My older children play Gaelic football and, after years at the sidelines, I’m running around helping and even joining in. My proudest moment was standing up to give a reading at my son’s Communion – he was thrilled. That was the day I realised I’d finally beaten my demons: I was back to being me.

My get-slim secrets

Tracey shares the tips and treats that spurred her to success.

  • I’ve stopped buying high Syn pasta sauces in jars. Now I make my own Free sauces using passata – I think they taste nicer and it works out much cheaper, too.

  • Since I started cooking our family meals from scratch, I’ve tried loads of new recipes that call for fresh herbs and spices. They taste great in the dishes – and my kitchen always smells fantastic.  

  • Rather than using 8 Syns for a large glass of red wine, I’ll have 50ml dry vermouth topped up with diet lemonade and fresh lemon slices for 2½ Syns.

  • Mini marshmallows are one of my favourite ways to get a sugar hit – you can have 10 mini marshmallows for just ½ Syn!

  • My Consultant, Donna, is like my fairy godmother. I’ve made so many genuine friends at group – I wouldn’t give it up for the world! I’ve also visited a few other local groups to share my weight loss journey and how I’ve conquered my depression. It’s so nice to hear that I’ve given hope and strength to others.

  • On the day before the 13th year anniversary of my mum’s death, I received my Diamond Award to celebrate being at target for one year. I know she’d be so proud!

  • I’ve discovered a new love of fashion and I’m really enjoying finding my style. When I go out, I’ll often get dressed up in a figure-hugging dress with a glitzy bag and killer heels.

  • My make-up bag is always by my side these days. Before I lost weight I did the bare minimum – now I love to try out new looks. An eyeshadow palette is my latest splurge.

  • When I got to target, I treated us to a family portrait. It was a milestone for me as I was finally happy in front of the camera – and that’s all I’ve wanted for years. 

  • I love my new-found confidence – since losing weight I’ve walked on the catwalk at the biggest hairdressing show in Ireland. 

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