I started gaining weight in my 20s and despite coming across as jolly and smiley, inside I felt anything but. I desperately wanted to change, but I didn’t know how.

I was breathless and my joints were painful. At a doctor’s appointment where I said I was afraid of having a heart attack, I was told I was pre-diabetic and at serious risk of having a stroke – and then I’d really be in trouble. 

It was getting to the point where I felt uneasy whenever I left the house.

My mental health was at an all-time low and if I spotted someone I knew in the supermarket I’d hide behind the shelves. I didn’t want anyone to see how big I’d become

I remember once, a small boy pointed at me in the street and said, ‘Look at that fat lady’ to his mother. She tried to hush him, but the damage was done. I’d never felt so embarrassed; I just wanted the ground to swallow me up. 

The turning point came when I found out that my daughter, Amy, had confided in my mum that she was worried I’d eat myself to death. Hearing that broke my heart and I knew I needed to change. The thought of my daughter being so worried about my health really spurred me into action.

I’d tried lots of fad diets in the past. Everything worked for a little while, but they were quick fixes and I could never stick to them for very long. This time around I had to tackle my weight for good. I knew that Slimming World was based on eating everyday foods and never going hungry, so it seemed like the perfect fit. I also knew that, especially at the start of my weight loss, I needed motivation to help me stick with my commitment.

Walking through the door of my Slimming World group for the first time was really nerve-wracking, and I felt nervous and embarrassed because I thought I’d be the biggest person there. None of that mattered, though. I was welcomed with open arms by my Consultant, Barbara and met a whole room of inspiring, friendly people. All of us were in the same boat and there to lose weight together. 

Straight away I embraced Food Optimising and started cooking from scratch. I’ve never called it a ‘diet’ because the plan is so flexible and liberating that it fits easily into your routine so you can stay slim for life. I fell in love with proper food and discovered so many different new dishes. It’s a world away from the takeaways and rich, heavy sauces I used to eat. I now enjoy cooking healthy, filling meals like stir fries and spaghetti bolognese and batch cook when I can. 

When I lost weight in my first week, I remember being surprised and thinking: ‘This is something that I can actually do.’

I underestimated the support I’d get in group, too: everyone is unbelievably kind and genuinely cares about each other’s success. I feel so lucky that because I’ve been a member of two groups, I’ve experienced double the love and support. I’m currently a member of Pippa Leys' group in Leixlip, and both of my amazing Consultants have played a huge part in my weight loss journey.

Losing half my body weight has inspired me to become more active. I used to struggle to climb a flight of stairs, so nobody was more surprised than me when I started to enjoy exercise! I’m often out walking at 7am, and I ran a 5K with my daughter recently, something I’d never have been able to do at my heaviest. 

Going from a size 32 to a size 10/12 has changed so many things. My fiancé, Dave, and I have been engaged for a long time, but I never really felt brave enough to get married. Finally having the confidence to go wedding-dress shopping was a huge moment for me. Before, I’d have just chosen whatever would fit me, but now I’m asking for size 10 and 12 outfits – it’s just an incredible feeling. I haven’t been able to do that for 25 years! 

I’ll be 50 in January, and I can’t wait to dress up and celebrate with my loved ones. To be named Woman of the Year 2019 is just the icing on the cake – especially when Slimming World is celebrating its 50th birthday, too!

By far the best thing about losing weight, though, is seeing the pride in my family’s faces – especially Amy’s. I’ve finally started to feel proud of myself, too. The idea of my little girl worrying about my future was heartbreaking – now I’m really excited about my future and can’t wait to live every moment.

Wendy’s day on a plate

Before menu

Breakfast: Nothing.

Lunch: Hot chicken roll with crisps.

Mid-afternoon: A couple of chocolate bars.

Dinner: A takeaway.

Evening: More chocolate. 

After menu

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with grilled tomatoes, or yogurt and fruit.

Mid-morning: Fruit.

Lunch: A big home-made salad with turkey or ham. 

Dinner: Chicken stir-fry or spaghetti bolognese. 

Evening: Fruit or a Hi-fi bar.