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When I was 41, my son Ben, who was 14 at the time, returned from school to find me lying on the bed unconscious. An ambulance was called and it turned out I’d had a stroke. I was in hospital for a week, I couldn’t speak and I had no sensation down my right-hand side. 

Results of tests showed that I had a hole in my heart and needed surgery. Although everything went okay with the operation, I knew that being overweight had been a contributing factor to the stroke.

Finding the answer

I was horrified that my son – and my whole family, in fact – had to go through such an ordeal though. Having lost my own mum when she was just 43, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my children without theirs. 

I’d struggled with my weight since childhood and, being a yo-yo dieter as an adult, I’d tried many times on my own to lose weight. It would work for a bit, then I’d put the weight back on as I’d feel restricted and unable to eat the foods I love. I knew what I needed was a long-term solution not a quick fix.

The answer didn’t come straight away but when a Slimming World leaflet came through my door just after Christmas, I decided to join my local group that January. 

Nicola before and after 2

The power of group support

Even though I desperately wanted to make a change, I was scared. So much so that I actually didn’t go that first week, it took another seven days for me to pluck up enough courage. I went the following week, and I’m so glad I did! As soon as I walked in, my fears went away, and I was put at ease as everyone was so welcoming.

Although I was one of the biggest people there, 12 other people joined the same week and that united us immediately. As I heard my Consultant, Lori, talk about the plan and the support that surrounded it, I remember thinking, ‘this could actually work’!

Fitting slimming around my lifestyle

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me about joining Slimming World is that I never expected to meet so many lovely people. As well as Lori, it’s the other members who keep me motivated and we share amazing recipe ideas!

What I find incredible about the Slimming World plan is the fact that you can eat the foods you love, never go hungry and still lose weight. It’s so flexible. I cook from scratch now, I’ve cut out butter and I use low calorie cooking spray instead of oil.

I never feel like I’m missing out though, I’ve just adapted the way I shop and cook. We’re quite a sociable family so we’ll often visit the local pub or enjoy meals out with friends and none of that has had to stop.

I can still socialise and lose weight! Instead of drinking lager and lime or cider, I’ve swapped to gin and when we eat at a restaurant, I swap out the chips for a jacket potato and salad with my steak. 

MORE ON THE BLOG: How to eat out and lose weight – the Slimming World way

Nicola before and after

Getting active, step-by-step

Since losing weight, I’ve been able to walk further and found simple things like going up the stairs or getting up off the settee much easier. Sheffield is a very hilly city and before joining Slimming World, I would often struggle and end up out of breath when walking the dogs.

Slimming World has a physical activity support programme called Body Magic which inspired and helped me start to get more active. I did it gradually, at my own pace and I’ve taken up cycling. Now my daily bike ride can see me cycling anything between 10 and 20 miles! 

A new zest for life

Losing weight has meant I can now enjoy more time with my husband Richard as we cycle together, as well as walking more with my children Ben, 23, and Molly, 21. I love getting out in the fresh air and it’s incredible the sense of achievement I get once I’ve been out. 

Just a year after joining Slimming World and 10st lighter, I’d completely turned my life around. Five years later I’m still so proud of what I’ve achieved. I’ve gone from a size 24 to a size 12 and I have so much more energy. Being healthier has given me a new zest for life and I’m over the moon that I can say yes to the things I love and still lose weight.

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