Ditching fast food for fruit and veg has saved Sarah’s life
Stockport NHS Worker Sarah made a fresh start during lockdown and lost 5st in five months after joining Slimming World through Public Health England's Better Health campaign
By making simple healthy changes following Slimming World’s Food Optimising plan, Sarah has reduced her medication, her asthma attacks are less frequent, and she’s gone down 5 dress sizes!
In January 2021, weighing over 24st, Sarah Brooks, 34, joined her local Slimming World group as part of the Public Health England's Better Health* campaign, not realising at the time that her decision may save her life. And it’s also made a huge difference to her family. The changes they’ve made to their eating habits have seen husband Simon lose 5st too.
“Before I joined Slimming World in January this year, I was in a dark place. I was forced to shield due to health issues meaning I couldn’t perform my duties as an NHS Healthcare Assistant. It tore me apart that I couldn’t do my role and I knew I should be out there helping my team. I really struggled with lockdown, I felt trapped, my routine was gone and I felt like a prisoner. I did the NHS Clap every week and it broke my heart that I couldn’t be there for my patients. I was mentally frustrated and it destroyed me. I didn’t know who I was.
“I’d noticed before lockdown my uniform was getting tighter and a standard shift was getting too much as I’d struggle to breathe and suffered painful swollen feet and legs. I used to have at least four asthma attacks a week and I was taking two tablets daily to help with my breathing. I knew my health was deteriorating and I became very down. My clothes sizes had never been so big, I hid from any cameras and I’d avoid having pictures taken of me and my daughter Mia, 4. In November 2020 I lost my voice as a result of two chest infections which put pressure on my airways along with acid reflux hidden at the back of my vocal chords.
“I’d joined a local Slimming World group before on and off to try to lose weight after my GP had recommended I join, but if I’m honest, I never really embraced the plan. I used to use lose about a stone and punish myself. Then my Slimming World Consultant, Kat, sent me a postcard asking me if I was OK as she’d not seen me for a while and told me about the Better Health Slimming World group offer. I knew I needed help, if not for me then for my daughter, so I took the opportunity and I’m so glad I did!
“Changing my focus and my attitude, I joined the group (which was running virtually during the lockdown), listened to Kat and the other members and was reminded of all that I could eat! I started to really embrace the plan and take it all on board. My mindset changed. I realised I’d been seeing it as a diet, and I realised it’s actually a change of lifestyle. I used to eat takeaways, especially pizza and burgers and I’d snack on crisps and chocolate constantly for comfort and boredom. I’d also been buying food and hiding it away. With support from both the group, and at home from my husband Simon, I began to see food as not a bad thing and gained a better understanding of the value of it.
“Now I cook fresh, I plan all my meals and I’ve boosted my fluids with heathier options too by cutting out all the sugar I used to have in teas and coffees and making sure I have juices that are sugar free. Incredibly, making these healthy new changes to my diet has meant I’ve actually saved money. My food costs have gone down as I’ve stopped buying all the pricey takeaways and ready meals and gone are the family size bars of chocolate and share bags of crisps. I used to eat and eat and never feel full and now I get full very easily. I’ve found a great local grocer where I’m now a regular customer. I’m making healthy, delicious meals at home and I’m loving it! My favourite Slimming World meal is a chicken curry which I pack out with lots of vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, onions and garlic. From the changes we’ve made around food, Simon’s also managed to lose 5st!”
“Before joining Slimming World, I wasn’t active at all. I struggled to breathe if I walked anywhere and experienced pain with my hips, back and knees. Now, I’m heading towards a gold medal in Slimming World’s Body Magic activity programme, where you’re encouraged to take small steps and gradually build up to being more active each day. For me that means housework and the odd walk. I’ll also park at the other side of the supermarket and walk to the store. Just recently I managed to complete my first proper walk covering 2 miles! I took the advice of my doctors to have someone with me, made sure I had my inhalers and ensured it was all flat surfaces, no hills. I was so proud - although my feet ached, it was more of an achievement for me not to be in chronic pain.
I know I need the motivation that I get from the group each week and that I’d have given up if I’d tried to lose weight alone. The tips and help I get from group each week are invaluable and it keeps me focused.
"There’s no judgement, everyone is so supportive, and I’ve made quite a few friends. My confidence is growing too and I find I’m communicating more with the group whereas before I would stay quiet. During lockdown it was fantastic to keep in touch via the virtual classes which we set up although it’s been amazing being able to go along to the real-life groups now they’re back up and running. Every Wednesday if feels like my day. I brush my hair and put some make up on and each week I get that feeling, I’m not on my own here. I love it!
“I had an appointment to monitor my lungs and airways recently at Wythenshawe Hospital and the respiratory consultant said to me, ‘Whatever you’re doing, it’s saved you’. I still have severe asthma and difficulties breathing but since losing weight my asthma attacks are less frequent and I’ve been able to reduce my breathing medication. I’ve gone down five dress sizes, yet I know I’ve got a long way to go as I want to lose more weight, not just for my own health and to be able to return to the role I love, but I want my daughter to be proud of me. It’s broken my heart not being able to do a lot with her before I lost weight. I want her to be healthy and happy and I don’t want her to make the mistakes I did.
“I didn’t think I would ever inspire anyone, I’m just not that person and yet I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved. I find it incredible that simply by making changes to the way I eat and live, I’ve changed my life for the better. I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt with so much more energy, I’m full of hope and positivity and I’m excited about what the future holds for me and my wonderful family.”
Group: Sarah attends the Offerton Slimming World group in Stockport which is run by Consultant Kat Chamberlain. For more information or to find your nearest group, visit slimmingworld.co.uk.
Starting weight: 24st 6lbs
Weight loss: 5st
Current weight: 19st 6lbs
Breakfast: Large bowl of cereal or two, sugary tea or coffee
Lunch: Subway footlong sandwich with cookies or microwavable ready meal
Dinner: Takeaway, nothing homemade – usually large pizza and wedges with mayonnaise or cheeseburger, chips and large cookies for dessert
Snacks: Family sized bar of chocolate, cheesecake, share bag of crisps, full-fat Coca Cola
Breakfast: Fat-free natural yoghurt, apple or banana or overnight oats, tea or coffee (no sugar added)
Lunch: Sushi, homemade soup and toast or rice cakes and banana, sugar-free juice
Dinner: Homemade chicken curry with spinach, mushrooms, onions and garlic and Slimming World chips
*Slimming World is working in partnership with Public Health England (PHE) to support the nation to make a fresh start to a healthier way of life following the disruption to our lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Better Health campaign is designed to support you to make healthy changes. If you’d like to get expert help to discover healthy habits for lifelong weight-loss success, sign up to our exclusive Better Health Slimming World offer.
Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell OBE in Derbyshire in 1969 and has become the UK and Ireland’s leading weight loss organisation with more people choosing to attend a Slimming World group each week than any other weight loss programme. We support hundreds of thousands of people, both in our groups and online, to lose weight and to adopt new habits to stay slim for life.
Over the years our founding principles haven’t changed:
- Our unique programme is based on a powerfully motivating support system called IMAGE (Individual Motivation and Group Experience) Therapy. Underpinned by a deep understanding of the psychology of overweight people, and incorporating the most effective sustainable behaviour change techniques, IMAGE Therapy is designed to inspire and motivate slimmers to make positive changes and to develop new, healthier habits around food and activity.
- Food Optimising is our healthy eating plan, based on the liberating concept of Free Food. We encourage our members to fill up on those foods that are naturally lower in energy density (calories per gram) and also highly satisfying while limiting foods that are highest in fat and sugar and are less satisfying, so they lose weight without ever feeling hungry or deprived and without having to weigh, measure or count everything they eat.
- Our activity programme, Body Magic, encourages members to become more active, more often in ways that they enjoy, until regular physical activity becomes an intrinsic part of daily routine.
Above all, at the heart of everything we do, lies our passion for treating every member with genuine care, empathy and respect.
We’re proud to work with the NHS, Public Health England, The Royal College of Midwives and others to help shape the future of weight management in the UK.
For further information please contact the Slimming World press office on email email@example.com