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We know many people out there are finding it harder to be healthy during the coronavirus pandemic. When we received an email from Danielle telling us she’s been staying on track with her weight loss goals, even though lockdown started just one week after she joined Slimming World, we couldn’t keep her inspiring journey to ourselves. This is her story…

Bounding across the garden, I scooped up my daughter, Arya, and hopped into the paddling pool. As we splashed around in the water, Arya giggling away, I thought about how I wouldn’t have been able to do this when I weighed 13st 12lbs. Back then, my partner Ryan was always the one to play with Arya while I watched from the sidelines, feeling too shattered to join them.

Although I’d been putting on weight since I was 18, when I’d treat myself to a takeaway pizza every lunchtime while working in a busy nursery, I really started to struggle after Arya was born. Looking after a newborn is hard work and I got into the habit of snacking on a family-sized bar of chocolate throughout the day to give me energy. By the time Ryan got home from work, I’d feel too tired to cook (not that there are many meals you can make with a baby in one arm!), so we’d order a takeaway or heat up a microwave meal.

As Arya grew, I found it hard to do all the things I wanted to as her mum. I couldn’t even get down on the floor to play with her because I knew I’d struggle to get back up again. At the same time, my asthma was getting worse. Pushing Arya’s pram up the hill to our house would leave me gasping for breath, and some days I’d get shooting pains in my chest that stopped me getting out of bed.

When my uncle invited us to his housewarming party, I was dreading it. On the day, although it was warm, I insisted on wearing a big, fluffy coat over my baggy jumper. Then I spent the afternoon sitting in the corner of a sofa, watching Ryan chasing Arya around the living room as she crawled between family members.

Back at home that night, I sat scrolling through the party photos on my phone – until I saw one that shocked me. Somehow, someone had managed to snap a pic of me without me knowing and I couldn’t believe how big I looked. As I stared at the photo, I knew I needed to make a change. At the party, I’d got talking to my uncle’s partner. She’d just joined a Slimming World group that had opened at the end of my road, and she told me how much she’d been enjoying the eating plan. I wondered if it could work for me, so that night I texted her: “I’m going to Slimming World with you tomorrow.”

At group the next day, I listened as the Consultant, Caroline, explained that as part of the healthy eating plan, I could have my fill of pasta, rice and potatoes. It sounded too good to be true! I had nothing to lose, though, so I went home and started a new routine. For lunch I’d have a jacket potato with lots of tuna and salad. Then, instead of ordering a takeaway for dinner, Ryan would look after Arya while I cooked us a Food Optimising meal. We had lots of favourite dishes, including spaghetti bolognese, chicken fajitas and Chinese chicken curry with noodles – Ryan used to say that he didn’t like Chinese food, but even he loved the Slimming World version!

When I weighed in at group a week later, I was amazed to see I’d lost 6lbs, even though I hadn’t felt hungry once. I was ready to throw myself into Food Optimising and get to my 10st target weight… but then the UK went into lockdown and my Slimming World group had to temporarily close. Food Optimising was still so new to me and I worried that, without the support of Caroline and my fellow members, I’d slip back into my old eating habits.

For the next couple of weeks I tried to stick to the plan as well as I could, using Facebook groups and Instagram for meal ideas and keeping motivated by picturing myself getting a big loss when group eventually reopened. Then Caroline told me she was launching a Slimming World virtual group! I was relieved, but also a bit nervous: I was still incredibly self-conscious about my size and I didn’t feel ready to let everyone see me on a webcam.

Caroline was very understanding and reassured me that I didn’t have to turn my camera on if I didn’t want to, but within a few minutes of our first virtual group getting under way, I realised I had nothing to worry about. Everyone was incredibly supportive, sharing tips and stories about how they’d been coping during lockdown, and no one cared what anyone looked like. The next week, I turned my camera on and enjoyed getting more involved, sharing my own ideas and telling everyone how my week had gone.

With the support of group, the weight continued to come off and I was feeling confident as my 21st birthday approached. Although I was sad that I couldn’t meet up with my friends and family, Ryan and I had decided to make the best of it by ordering dinner from a takeaway that had recently reopened. I used the food search in the Slimming World app to plan what I was going to order, and I was looking forward to enjoying a birthday meal within my Syns allowance.

When the day came, though, all that went out the window. Throughout the day, friends and family turned up to drop off cakes and chocolates, and I found them too hard to resist. Although I carried on Food Optimising for the rest of the week, when I weighed in and found I’d maintained, I felt like I’d blown it. In group, Caroline and the other members helped me to see that I didn’t have to let one day define the rest of my week, and I came away feeling much better. I followed the plan to the letter the following week and I lost 4lbs!

Now 3st lighter, I’m only 6lbs away from my target weight and I’m determined to get there by the time my real-life group re-opens. My asthma is back under control and, having dropped three dress sizes, I recently felt confident enough to wear shorts for the first time in years. Best of all, I finally have the energy to chase Arya around the garden and play in the paddling pool. I can’t wait to take her to the play park for the first time when lockdown is lifted. Being an active mum is an incredible feeling.

It’s fantastic to hear how Danielle has been keeping herself motivated – and how the support of her Slimming World group, running temporarily as a virtual group, has helped her to achieve her weight loss dreams. If you’d like to join a My Slimming World Virtual Group, your local Consultant will be happy to tell you more.

We’d love to hear about your weight loss journey, whether you’re just starting out, have overcome a slimming setback or are nearing your target. Tell us your story!

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