The moment I… reached breaking point
While my husband, Jason, walked along the beach in Skegness with my two youngest children, I sat and watched from a bench. Our holiday should have been a chance to make memories together – instead it was a reminder of how imprisoned I felt within my own body. I’d spent most of the week in our caravan, not even able to join my family for a stroll to the shops because pain would shoot from my knees to my swollen ankles with every step. My weight problems had started with my first baby, Jodie. I’d gone up five dress sizes by the time she was born, and I got bigger with the three pregnancies that followed. Now I was wearing size-36 clothes and had no idea what I weighed. My miserable holiday pushed me to breaking point. I had three gorgeous grandchildren – would I even see them grow up? I hadn’t been able to work for 15 years and my chest heaved just hanging out the washing or walking to the car. I rarely left the house and my friends had stopped asking me out because I’d turned them down so often. It dawned on me that if I didn’t lose weight, I’d need a mobility scooter… Maybe I’d even end up bed-bound.
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The moment I… walked into group
I made a promise to myself that I’d try to lose weight, and I wanted to start straight away. There was a Slimming World banner outside the parish hall near our home, so, in November 2014, four days after getting home from Skegness, I walked into group. After the newmember talk, shaking with nerves, I headed for a seat at the back of the room, hoping not to draw attention to myself. As I listened to members describing the food they’d tried or the changes they were going to make next week, I was amazed by how supportive the rest of the group was towards them. There was no judgement, and I could feel myself relax as I realised I was somewhere I could belong. When I went to get weighed, though, I didn’t feel so calm. I was convinced I’d be too heavy for the scales. ‘Whatever it says, that’s the last time you’ll have to see that number,’ I was reassured. The scales read 29st 6lbs – more than I’d ever imagined. No, I thought, I’m not going to let it overwhelm me. I will see a lower number next week.
The moment I… found food freedom
My Consultant, Alicia, had explained that Free Food meant I would never need to feel hungry. Still, I knew Food Optimising would mean changing my lifestyle. We’d been having a takeaway three or four times a week and on the other days I’d choose something easy to heat up, such as sausages or pie with chips – the only vegetable I ate was marrow fat peas. I usually skipped breakfast and lunch, then grazed on sausage rolls, mini pasties and biscuits until dinner. Food had become a source of comfort during years of hiding at home. Could I really get my head around cooking from scratch? On LifelineOnline, the website for Slimming World members, I scrolled through tons of delicious-looking recipes and decided to try some out, just to see. In that first week I made Food Optimising versions of chilli and chips and spaghetti Bolognese. They were instant favourites with the whole family and it made me proud to watch the food I’d made disappear from my children’s plates. I started my days with a Slimming World-style full English cooked in low-calorie cooking spray, then made tasty, filling lunches such as jacket potato with beans and a salad. Because I didn’t feel hungry, I wasn’t craving sausage rolls and pasties, and after a week I’d lost 8½lbs! I made a pact with myself to try new foods, and only to decide whether I liked them or not when I’d tried them 11 times – soon, after years of picking all the mushrooms out of my takeaway.
The moment I… took the plunge
By the end of March 2015, 4½st lighter and able to walk without pain, I wanted to start some Body Magic. A friend from Slimming World suggested I join her at the pool…except I couldn’t swim. But I’d spent so many years saying no to everything, I decided I’d start saying yes. I went with her and just strode back and forth across the pool. Soon I was walking a mile like this, five times a week. A couple of months later, I felt brave enough to attempt a family bike ride. I hadn’t been on a bike since I was 13! It was all going well until we reached a hill, and I toppled over. Laughing it off, I got back on – I wasn’t about to be beaten by one little tumble! Soon afterwards I joined a gym. As well as giving me energy, the extra activity seemed to boost my motivation to stay on plan. Within a year I’d lost 10st.
The moment I… stepped into the spotlight
By summer 2016, I weighed 15st and felt ready to return to work. I applied for a role as a night-shift assistant at Sainsbury’s, moving stock and stacking shelves. The interview was nerve-racking and when they asked why I wanted the job, I explained how I’d been almost housebound, and that losing weight had given me a second chance. When my phone rang and I heard I’d got the job, my heart leapt with joy. I’d done it – I’d taken back control of my life. And that started me thinking about how I could help other people do the same. I knew how it felt to be hurting inside, and I was living proof that there was another way. So in January 2017 I became a Slimming World Consultant. Now, I’m always out and about, whether it’s with one of my old friends or the new friends I’ve made at group. Celebrating my sister’s birthday a few months ago, I grabbed the karaoke mic and belted out Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell. My family and friends couldn’t believe it, and spent the rest of the night telling me how much I’d changed. It’s true, and it’s not just that I’ve lost weight – I’m full of confidence and feel happier. Then, in May, I was crowned Slimming World’s Greatest Loser 2017 – what a surprise! If anyone had told me back in Skegness that I’d lose 17½st and win a national competition, it would have seemed like an impossible fairytale. The best bit is knowing that I’m the one who made it happen.