That night I cooked the family pasta with a homemade tomato sauce. As Mark and the girls tucked in, they were amazed that it could taste so good and be healthy at the same time. I was thrilled they enjoyed it and couldn’t wait to try some more recipes, hoping to get a positive response again. I picked up meal ideas and tips from the Slimming World members’ site, LifelineOnline, and tried delicious, hearty Food Optimising recipes like Beef lasagne or Spaghetti carbonara, which went down a storm. I also started making myself a hot breakfast every morning of grilled lean bacon with tomatoes, poached eggs and baked beans, and a big mixed salad with turkey or chicken for lunch.
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It was just what I needed to keep me energised for a full-on day at school. I went to group every week, even though I was just as busy at work as I’d ever been. I told myself that I had to prioritise my weight loss if I was going to succeed. Most of the time I was happy with the results on the scales, but there were a couple of periods when they seemed to stop moving. Leanne always had great tips for me, such as trying new meal ideas if I felt like I was in a bit of a rut. We’d been having a lot of pasta and I was finding it less exciting, so one night I tried Slimming World fish and chips. Mixing things up gave me new motivation and helped me to start losing weight again.
I soon felt much better in myself. Although the pains in my joints were still there, I had far more energy most days and my GP was delighted by how much my health was improving. I noticed those changes on the inside much sooner than the ones on the outside. I suppose when you see yourself in the mirror every day, you don’t notice your changing reflection. Then, one evening, I glanced at one of the photos from our Disney World trip. There I was, sitting next to a larger-than-life Mickey Mouse, and I looked bigger than he did. I smiled as I realised that the woman I now saw in the mirror was so much slimmer! Once my self-image caught up with my weight loss, I felt ready to do something that meant the world to me. At the girls’ next kick-boxing session, I stopped hiding at the back of the hall and got right into the action, spurring them on as they built up their skills.
When they both represented Great Britain at the World Martial Arts Championships in August 2015, I couldn’t have been prouder of my brilliant, determined daughters! In December last year we went on holiday to Australia to see my brother, Steve, who lives in Sydney. The night before our flight, I went to group… and actually jumped up and down for joy when I got my 7st award. When we boarded the plane the next day, it was the first time I didn’t worry that I might need a seat-belt extender or have to wedge myself into the seat. And when I met Steve at Sydney airport, he did a double take – I’d been a size 20 when he’d seen me last. Now I was a size 10! This time, I didn’t spend the holiday just watching my girls have fun. I was right there with them, paddle boating alongside them or chasing them around on the beach – wearing not just a swimsuit, but a bikini!
I managed to fit in so much Body Magic on that trip, walking my brother’s dog every day and trekking through the rainforest near Cairns with my family. And we had such a great time, we started planning another big overseas trip, too – a return visit to Florida. Back home, inspired by all the activity we’d enjoyed during our down-under adventure, Ruby and I decided to exercise together more regularly. We joined a ladies-only gym and also went running together. As I continued losing weight, I noticed I was looking more toned, and in March last year I reached my target of 10st 5lbs. Leanne wrapped me in a big hug, knowing just how much it meant. Soon after, I found out I was my group’s Greatest Loser for 2017! Stepping off the plane in Florida this summer, as the heat hit me, so did the thought that this was going to be a very different holiday to last time. When we went to the theme park, I relished it, racing the girls up to the rides to sit beside them. One day we went shopping and Ruby and I bought identical skinny jeans – ‘You look so good in them, Mum,’ she said. A few days later I borrowed one of her vests to wear with them – just imagine if someone had said to me four years ago that I’d be more than 7st lighter and stealing my teenage daughter’s tops! Laughing next to Mark and the girls, I knew I’d become the slim, energetic mum I’d longed to be. And it felt amazing!