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“Wow, was that you?” My cabin mate looked at the old photo of a much slimmer me, then looked me up and down. “What happened?”

I’m sure she didn’t mean to be cruel, but I felt crushed and humiliated. I already felt out of place in my new job in a cruise ship’s spa. I should’ve been living the dream, but it was hard being surrounded by guests happily walking around in their swimwear, when I felt so uncomfortable in mine.

Leaving school and entering the world of work had been the start of my weight struggles. My first job in a beauty salon meant working long hours and grabbing junk food to keep me going. There was a lot of chat about body size and weight loss, and I’d get sucked into trying the latest fad diets – from diet shakes to cutting out entire food groups. None of these ‘quick fixes’ worked, of course. At 19, I was offered the cruise ship job, but I quickly realised that it wasn’t the right environment for me. Within six weeks, I’d quit.

Back home, I didn’t go out much. This worried my parents, but I didn’t want to risk bumping into old school friends who’d notice how much weight I’d gained. If my friends invited me on a night out, I’d sometimes agree – but when I started trying on outfits, I’d feel so bad about the way I looked that I’d convince myself not to go after all. I was constantly putting myself down, which made me feel even worse and led to me going out even less. 

My turning point came after a holiday with my dad when I was 21. Looking at the photos, I didn’t recognise myself, and I even told myself that Dad must be ashamed to have me as a daughter. Obviously, this wasn’t true, but the fact that my opinion of myself was so low showed me that I needed to take action.

I resolved to lose weight and start feeling like myself again. With the support of my family, friends and boyfriend, Sam, I joined Slimming World and started Food Optimising. I quickly learnt that losing weight didn’t have to mean depriving myself – no food was off limits. I could even have my usual weekend takeaway. I learnt in group which main meals were lower in Syns, then I made my own Slimming World-friendly noodles or egg fried rice to eat with them at home. 

I also started adding some activity to my week. Mum knew how my weight gain had zapped my confidence and, keen to support me, she started joining me for walks. To begin with, I struggled to keep up with her, but before long I was running and leaving Mum behind!

Of course, my weight loss journey had some obstacles along the way. I’d been going to group with a good friend but, after nine months, he moved away. I’d lost 4st 3lbs and, as I was so close to target, I convinced myself I didn’t need group any more. I stopped going, and very quickly slipped back into my old eating habits. 

I realised that I needed the new meal ideas from fellow members, and the members’ website, to stop me getting stuck in a food rut. I also needed the support from group to keep me going – even more so, now that my friend had moved away. Not wanting to undo everything I’d achieved, I rejoined and started trying new food ideas. A few months later, I hit my 10st 6lb target!

Spending time with the other members at group each week was the key to keeping me focused and confident. It really is a fantastic community. We laugh and cry, face challenges and celebrate achievements together. Being part of a supportive group makes it much easier to believe in yourself and each other. I definitely don’t talk myself down any more. Instead, I feel so proud of how far I’ve come. It’s a long way from how I felt on that cruise ship –  and even further away from thinking that my own dad must be ashamed of me.

I wanted the old Olivia back and now she’s here, ready to take on the world!

Olivia Gibbs on holiday - Slimming World blog

Mind your language

Sadly, Olivia isn’t alone in getting into the habit of putting herself down. We know this is something many slimmers struggle with – and something that we strive to reverse by surrounding the member with genuine care, support and positivity.

The Slimming World Mind Your Language report looks at our research into how negative comments from others, including friends, family and colleagues – as well as negative comments that we make about ourselves, can affect weight loss success. It really brought home the message that kindness – including being kind to yourself – is key to breaking that negative cycle. 

If this is something that you struggle with, like Olivia did, you’ll find so much support at your local Slimming World group – or in our online Community for members of Slimming World Online. We will help you find that sparkly Slimming World feeling of self-confidence, pride and excitement for a fantastic feel-good future.

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