At 27st 5lbs, Jenny Irons felt isolated and her self-esteem was at its lowest ebb. Finding the support of a Slimming World group, though, helped her lose 17st and rediscover her love for life…
It was the most embarrassing moment of my life. We’d gone to the pub for a family meal, but when I went to take my seat at the table, I realised my bottom wouldn’t fit between the armrests. Although I tried to hide my humiliation, I could feel everyone else in the room looking at me as I waited for a member of staff to find me an alternative chair. When I finally sunk into my new seat, my cheeks were burning with shame. I spent the rest of the night staring at the floor, wishing it would swallow me up.
I’d struggled with my weight for decades, but it crept up even more during a turbulent point in my life. In a short space of time, my marriage ended, I was made redundant and I had to sell my house. I was in a dark place and I ate chocolate bars, crisps and whole packets of biscuits to comfort myself. As I got bigger, my confidence disappeared. I tried to hide my body under baggy jumpers and jeans, and I’d go to the supermarket at 5am so that no one would see me. I felt miserable about the way I looked, so I’d soothe my low mood with crisps and chocolate. It was a vicious circle.
Then, my sister, Jackie, told me she was thinking about joining Slimming World. “I’m nervous about going by myself,” she said. “Will you come with me for moral support?” Of course I said yes. At the time, I had no idea that I was about to discover a whole new way of eating – and what a difference going to a Slimming World group can make. Here’s how I learned to love myself again…
Getting support makes all the difference
Even with Jackie by my side, walking into the Clacton-on-Sea Slimming World group was daunting, and my mind raced with worries: ‘What if I’m the biggest person there? What if I break the scales? What if everyone hears how much I weigh?’ As soon as I walked through those doors, though, I realised I had nothing to worry about. Everyone was really friendly and, later, when I stood on the scales, my weight was written down in my member pack and never mentioned again.
Still, I didn’t actually believe that I could lose weight – I’d tried every fad diet going and nothing had worked. Then, my Consultant, Carole, explained how I could still eat potatoes, rice and – best of all – pasta, as part of the plan. I started to think that this time could be different, and I went home ready to give Food Optimising a try.
Be kind to yourself when you have a setback
I started cooking from scratch, making slimming-friendly versions of my favourites, like cottage pie, chicken risotto and zest salmon pasta. I went back to group a week later, dreaming of having lost half a stone or more. When I stepped on the scales, though, I’d only lost 2lbs. I was gutted. Thankfully, Carole was there to offer her support. She explained that I shouldn’t worry too much about that number on the scales and reassured me that, as long as I carried on Food Optimising, those losses would add up in the end.
Get out of your comfort zone
She was right! Within six months, I’d lost over 6st and, feeling more energetic and confident, I started walking during my lunch breaks. Although I was nervous about people seeing me sweating and panting as I walked around the industrial estate where I worked, I quickly realised no one was watching me. As the weeks passed, my back and feet felt less sore, and gradually I was able to go further and further. Soon, I was walking for up to three hours at the weekends – and if I passed someone on my way, I’d smile and say hello rather than avoiding eye contact.
Be proud of what you’ve achieved
Nearly two years after joining Slimming World, I reached my target weight of 10st 7lbs. Even though we were in lockdown and couldn’t be together in person, the other members clapped and cheered for me during our virtual group session, which was a fantastic feeling. Things got even better a few months later, when I was named Slimming World’s Woman of the Year 2020!
Now I’m 17st lighter, I’ve shrunk so much in size – but my confidence has grown massively! I’ve swapped my frumpy size-34 clothes for tight-fitting jeans and vest tops – all in a size 10! – I’ve got a wonderful new job as a carer and I feel like I’m in my 20s again. The next thing on my list is to get back out on the dating scene when it’s possible. Losing weight has helped me fall in love with myself again – and I can’t wait to share that feeling with someone special.
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