I started putting on a little weight after I left school, but it wasn’t until I started working full-time at a call centre that I really noticed myself getting bigger. I’d skip breakfast, then when I got hungry later I’d open a packet of biscuits. Lunch was usually a steak pie or a sausage roll and a bag of crisps from the bakery on the high street, plus some chocolate to keep me going through the afternoon. I drank a lot of tea – around 10 cups a day, each with two sugars – and if colleagues had brought in cakes or jam doughnuts, I’d often snack on those, too.
Weight Loss Breakfast Ideas – Weight Loss Lunch Ideas Photo Gallery
On the way home I’d regularly pick up fish and chips, or go out to dinner with friends. Over the next three years, I went up three dress sizes, with my weight gain speeding up even more when I left home. I have a really tight circle of friends and while I still enjoyed our weekly girls’ night in, the same couldn’t be said for our nights out. I felt frumpy next to my slim, trendy friends and I dreaded going shopping with them. They’d all be trying on the latest figure-hugging fashions in new-season colours, while most things I took into the changing room were baggy and black. With my friends Dan and Lynzi’s wedding set for March 2015, I decided to take drastic action, going on a crash diet to try to lose a few pounds. I’d read about a plan where you swapped two meals a day for meal-replacement shakes and was drawn to the idea of quick results. While my colleagues tucked into their tasty-looking lunches, I tried to make my shakes last as long as possible and ignore the growing hunger pangs.
I lasted a day and a half before giving up – looking back, it has to go down as one of the most rubbish 36 hours of my life! My lowest moment By the time my friend Georgina’s birthday came around in December 2015, even my go-to party outfit – my trusty skater skirt and blazer – didn’t fit me any more. The skirt pinched my waist and I couldn’t get the blazer over my arms. That was the moment I realised that no, my washing machine wasn’t shrinking my clothes, I was getting bigger. I briefly considered telling Georgina I wasn’t going to her party, but she was one of my best friends and I really couldn’t let her down. I had no choice but to go shopping and, after a demoralising search, I ended up with an all-black ensemble that would just about do. I can hardly bear to think about how I felt that night – I’d never been so uncomfortable in my own skin.
Then the Christmas photo came along and it was the final straw. I just wanted to feel like me again. One of my closest friends was a Slimming World member and I’d seen how much weight she’d been losing. So I went online and found a Saturday morning group that was only 10 minutes from my house – I knew if I went at the weekend, there’d be no danger of work commitments stopping me from going. Walking into group for the first time in January 2016, I couldn’t deny I was a little nervous. As soon as I sat down, though, and the Consultant, Jemma, talked me through the eating plan and told me about her own weight-loss journey, I felt at ease. Everyone there was friendly and it seemed that there was a real bond between us – a feeling that we were all in this together. I weighed in at 14st 11½lbs and vowed there and then that by next Christmas, I’d be back in a size 10. In those first weeks, I was amazed to find that I was eating more than I had been before. And for the first time in forever, I was inspired to start cooking from scratch.
Breakfast was French toast or porridge with fresh berries, or a ‘grill-up’ at the weekend. Lunch was home-made soup or leftovers from the night before, and I swapped the sugar in my cuppas for sweetener – as a selfconfessed tea addict, it was a small switch that made a big difference. My next step was to find Food Optimising versions of my favourite takeaways: chicken tikka masala made with lots of spices and fat-free natural yogurt instead of cream; chicken fried rice cooked in low-calorie cooking spray, and home-made burgers made with lean mince and topped with bacon with the fat trimmed off. Instead of going to the chippy, I’d bake some Slimming World chips at home – they were so good, I’d have happily had them with every meal! My friends were incredibly supportive and I never felt I was missing out on our weekly girls’ night – they made sure they had Syn-counted options in, such as Cadbury Mini Rolls and 20g bags of Butterkist Toffee Popcorn. By week three I’d lost over half a stone, and after that I lost a pound or two a week. I was overwhelmed by the support from Slimming World members on Instagram, too. I began posting pictures of my dinners and low-Syn snacks – and couldn’t quite believe it when I started getting a few new followers every week! They’d send me lovely messages telling me how much I’d motivated them, and their encouragement helped keep me on track.
A starring role
At group, everyone had been sharing their Body Magic progress and I realised I didn’t have to go to the gym to start my own fitness journey. The first time I took the stairs at work, I could hardly speak by the time I reached my third-floor desk. I persevered, though, until I could run up that same flight of stairs and still have a conversation at the top! I already walked Bella every day, so I gradually made my routes longer. And, as I felt fitter, I wanted to add in some toning exercises. I found workouts online that I could do at home, fitting them in while dinner was cooking. I kept posting on Instagram, too, and from those first few followers I’ve now got nearly 25,000.
As the weight came off, my self-esteem rocketed and I started feeling more positive. I’d been promoted to communications manager at work, which involved organising events and lots of chatting to groups of people. Before, I used to dread having to stand up and speak – now I was talking about work with passion and enthusiasm, not worrying about what people might be thinking of me. Last summer, Bella and I climbed Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons with friends. I still had a bit of weight to lose and I’d assumed Bella would help by dragging me up the steeper sections, but if anything it was the other way around! And our efforts were worth it. As we reached the top, the clouds cleared to reveal the view across the mountain range and valleys below. It was stunning. I reached my target weight of 10st on Christmas Eve 2016.
The following morning, as I slipped on my size-10 leather skirt and black-and-white striped top, I thought about how I’d felt a year before and knew there was no way I was ever going back. It’s not just my shape that’s changed – it’s my outlook. My friends suggested a holiday to Gran Canaria this year and, rather than searching for every excuse under the sun not to go, I jumped at it. My first thought was even, ‘I’ll need to buy a bikini’! It’s moments like that when I realise just how far I’ve come.
Zoe’s day on a plate
● Breakfast Nothing, or a cup of tea with two sugars and biscuits
● Mid-morning snack Two pieces of white toast with butter
● Lunch Bakery sausage roll or steak pie, followed by crisps, chocolate and a doughnut
● Dinner Ready meal or takeaway fish and chips
● Breakfast French toast using wholemeal bread as my Healthy
Extra, with fresh berries
● Snacks Melon wedges with fat-free natural yogurt, a 5-Syn fun-size Twix, or a Hi-fi bar from group (3 Syns)
● Lunch A chunky soup from one of my Slimming World cook books
● Dinner Slimming World fish and chips with salad, or chicken tikka masala with spinach and rice