I pulled my too-big blazer tight and hoped no one would notice me as I shuffled down the corridor to my next lesson. From as early as I could remember, I’d been bigger than the other kids my age, and they made sure I knew about it. I couldn’t wait to get home where I could escape the laughing and taunts about my size, and comfort myself with chocolate bars, a sausage roll and a packet of crisps.
The more weight I put on, the worse the bullying got and I became incredibly self-conscious. Getting dressed to go out with my friends, I’d look in the mirror and feel deflated by what I saw looking back at me. I longed to be able to wear bright, trendy clothes like other girls my age but, already a size 24, I felt more comfortable covered up in loose cardigans and black leggings that I hoped hid my shape.
Although I desperately wanted to change, no matter what I tried – from diet shakes to cutting out entire food groups – my weight kept creeping up. My GP had referred me to a dietitian who encouraged me to cut back on sugary foods. By now, though, I was getting constant attention from the bullies, and I continued to turn to chocolate and crisps to make myself feel better. It was a vicious cycle that I just couldn’t break out of.
At my next appointment, the dietitian told me: “If you don’t lose weight, the next step could be a referral for gastric bypass surgery.” I glanced at my mum and felt a sting of shame – had things really got that bad?
Mum had gently encouraged me to slim in the past. Now, though, I wanted to do it for me. When she told me she was joining a Slimming World group that had just opened near our house, I didn’t need any encouragement. “I’ll join with you,” I said. Even so, there was a huge part of me that was nervous about the idea. I knew I’d probably be the youngest person there, but what if I was the biggest, too?
As soon as Mum and I walked into group, I realised I had nothing to worry about. Everyone was really friendly, and I discovered that I didn’t need to get hung up about what I weighed or how much I wanted to lose. I followed the Free2Go eating plan*, which was all about focusing on healthy food swaps rather than weight loss, and I loved it!
I started having overnight oats with fruit for breakfast, followed by a pasta salad or an omelette filled with peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes at lunchtime. I also helped Mum in the kitchen, learning to make Food Optimising versions of spaghetti bolognese, hunter’s chicken and cajun chicken pasta. They were all really filling and, because I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t need to reach for snacks to lift my mood after school.
Having the support of my Consultant, Karen Barker, and other members in group made a big difference. Whenever I had a week where I felt like I’d struggled, they rallied around to help me get back on track. They would set me fun challenges, like trying different fruits and vegetables or walking at least 10,000 steps. It never failed to fire up my motivation.
I noticed the difference in myself quicker than I expected. After losing 1st, my clothes felt looser – and the more I could see the weight coming off, the more motivated I felt. When my size 24 jeans no longer stayed up, it was time to go clothes shopping. It was exciting to go to all the high street shops and not feel restricted in my choice of outfits – I bought tight-fitting crop tops and dresses in a range of colours, and I couldn’t wait to show them off to my friends.
Losing weight inspired me to get more active, too. Before, even a short walk was enough to leave me breathless and with sore feet, so I started off gently by taking the stairs instead of the lift and walking wherever I could. As my confidence grew, I signed up for a Zumba class and then strength-training sessions at the gym, and before I knew it, I was exercising four times a week.
After I’d finished my GCSEs, I decided to move to a new school to start my A levels. Although I was nervous about stepping out of my comfort zone and meeting new people, as soon as I got started I felt like a completely different person. The shy, anxious girl was gone and in her place was a confident young woman who felt comfortable making new friends and speaking up in lessons.
I’ve been at target since December 2019, and, while the past few months have been challenging, seeing Karen and my fellow members in My Slimming World Virtual Group has helped me stay focused. I got some great ideas for how to have a Food Optimising barbecue, and I’ve kept up with Body Magic by skipping and lifting weights in my back garden, as well as going for runs with my brother.
I was supposed to be taking my exams this month, which sadly isn’t happening, but I’m not going to let it hold me back. I’m currently filling out my application to train as a police officer and I’ve already secured a university place starting in September. Losing 8st 5½lbs has opened up a whole world of possibilities for me, and I know this is just the beginning of a bright future.
You can read more about Holly’s journey here.
Sadly, Holly isn’t the only one who’s been bullied for being overweight. Unkind remarks from others – or even from ourselves when we don’t like what we see in the mirror – can have a big impact, as our Mind Your Language report showed. It’s incredibly inspiring to hear how Holly has rediscovered her confidence and reminds us that kindness is key to breaking that negative cycle.
If confidence and negative self talk is something you struggle with, you’ll find lots of understanding, help and support in a My Slimming World Virtual Group or our encouraging Online Community. Together, we’ll help you find your brighter, happier future, just like Holly has.
And if you’re currently on your weight loss journey or have already achieved your weight loss dreams with Slimming World, we’d love to hear your story.
*Children aged 11 to 15 can attend a Slimming World group when accompanied by a parent, guardian or family member who has most responsibility for their meals at home. They’ll follow the Free2Go plan, especially created to help young people make healthy food and lifestyle swaps, with access to their own Free2Go app. If you’d like to find out more about Free2Go, your local Slimming World Consultant will be happy to help.