From fat friend to bikini model!
Overhearing a group of young men describe her as the ‘fat friend’ inspired Jodie Rigby-Mee to lose an amazing 6st and drop five dress sizes. Now she’s celebrating having maintained that loss for an incredible 11 years and winning a national award for her long-term weight management success.
Jodie, from Royal Leamington Spa, was just 17 and on her first girls’ holiday when she heard a group of boys she and a friend had been talking to refer to her as the ‘fat friend’. She says: “It took my breath away and I ended up back in the hotel room in tears. I truly felt at my lowest.”
Back home, Jodie, who’s now 32, joined her local Slimming World group and went from 16st 7lbs to 10st 7lbs in two years – a weight she’s maintained ever since. Two years ago, after nine years at her target weight, Jodie decided to leave behind her career working for airlines to open her own Slimming World groups and help other people achieve their dream weight too, and now she’s been named Top Target Consultant 2017.
She says: “Losing weight when I did completely changed my life. It gave me so much more confidence in every respect. I was able to pursue a career as cabin crew, including moving to Dubai for five years and becoming a safety trainer teaching people how to put out fires, jump down slides and float on life-rafts, which I’d never have been able to do at my heaviest. I married my husband in a size-10 wedding dress, took part in a bikini photo shoot for a magazine and had a happy, healthy pregnancy with my little boy.
“I’m so grateful for all of the opportunities Slimming World has given me, so to get this award is amazing and I feel passionate about taking this opportunity to show people that it is possible to lose weight and keep it off – I should know, because I’ve done it!”
Jodie, who is married to Nigel and has one son, three-year-old Jenson, had struggled with her weight since her teens and says she remembers always being two or three dress sizes bigger than her friends: “Everyone always said I had ‘puppy fat’, but I never grew out of it and when I went to college my weight became more out of control. By that time I had my own money though so I could just buy clothes in the next dress size up and I avoided talking to anyone, including my parents, about my weight.”
However, Jodie was to be confronted by the reality of her size on her holiday to Spain. She had also been left embarrassed after starting a new job at Gap and having to choose her uniform from the menswear section because none of the women’s trousers or skirts fit her size-20 frame. She also suffered with asthma, migraines and painful knees due to her size, which are no longer an issue now.
Her godmother Marion suggested they join Slimming World together in May 2002. She says: “If I’m honest, I spent all day trying to think of excuses not to go with her. I thought everyone would really judge me for being so big at such a young age. My fears were completely unfounded though and the truth is that you walk into a room full of people who all feel exactly the same way as you do and who totally understand what you’re going through.”
Jodie was also stunned to discover that losing weight with Slimming World didn’t mean going hungry. She began following the Food Optimising healthy eating plan and swapped her pre-packed sandwiches and jarred sauces for tasty, homemade options. She says: “I’d tried other diets in the past but none of them taught me anything about food – I’d ‘spend’ all my allowances on unhealthy foods or end up starving hungry on shakes and pills. This was completely different and I still eat the same way today. It’s great because Nigel and Jenson can eat the same meals and it’s easy to make healthy choices when I eat out too. Lots of my friends have joined Slimming World after seeing how well I’ve done, so they’re always happy to choose somewhere Slimming World-friendly to eat when we go out or we stay in and make a Food Optimising feast – and because nothing’s off the menu we can still treat ourselves to a glass of wine too!”
When Jodie began working as cabin crew she found it easy to Food Optimise around the world and would often board a long haul flight with lots of Tupperware filled with healthy meals and snacks.
She reached her target weight in December 2005 and believes being more active has been a big factor in helping her to stay there. She says: “I loved receiving awards for every half stone I lost and for being active, it’s amazing how motivating it can be to have something to work towards – and to get a new sticker on your book, of course! The fact that Slimming World recognised all activity, even every day jobs and tasks, made exercise seem much easier and more realistic. I built up slowly over the years and now I am a gym member and love running. Running around after Jenson is also a good workout and my parents are keen walkers so we like going out together and it’s made us closer too!”
I feel passionate about showing people that it is possible to lose weight and keep it off – I should know, because I’ve done it!”
In 2014, after moving back to England from Dubai, Jodie decided to make a career change too and trained as a Slimming World Consultant. She says: “It’s the most rewarding job I could ask for – I love seeing people reach a goal because I know exactly what that feels like. I’m really honest with my members and they know I’m still a Slimming World member too – I attend a group every week to get support to stay on track, even after all these years. I want them to know I’m human too and show them that Food Optimising isn’t a diet to go on and go off, it’s a plan for life.
“When I first joined Slimming World meeting members who’d reached their target weight really inspired me because it showed me that what I wanted was possible, I love doing that for my members and hope by winning this competition I can inspire even more people.”
Jodie’s top tips:
Food diaries: Keeping a food diary is a great way to refocus you if you ever need it, such as after a holiday. It helps you to keep track of what you’re eating and seeing it in black and white can help you to feel back in control.
Get support: I still go to my Slimming World group as a member every week as I need the support as much as my members do, I’m still human after all!
Don’t reward yourself with food: I’ve learned food is fuel, not comfort, and I try never to reward myself with food. Instead I’ll treat myself to a bunch of flowers or some new clothes – I love shopping now I’m a size 10!
Name: Jodie Rigby-Mee
Height: 5ft 6in
Starting weight: 16st 7lbs/231lbs/105kg
Current weight: 10st 7lbs/147lbs/67kg
Weight loss: 6st/84lbs/38kg
Starting dress size: 20
Current dress size: 10
Date joined Slimming World: May 2002
Date reached target weight: December 2005
Length of time maintained: 11 years 2 months
Date became a Consultant: June 2014
Group: Jodie lost weight at the Leamington Slimming World group, run by Consultant Nikki Ryan, and now runs her own Slimming World groups in Leamington and Bishops Itchington.
Breakfast: Big bowl of sugary cereal with full-fat milk or sausage roll
Lunch: Burger and chips or ham and cheese baguette with a bag of crisps and a chocolate bar
Dinner: Chicken in a jarred sauce with deep-fried chips
Snacks: Crisps, chocolate
Breakfast: Fruit with quark or grilled lean bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and baked beans
Lunch: Homemade butternut squash soup with wholemeal bread or a jacket potato topped with tuna and salad
Dinner: Homemade spaghetti Bolognese or stir-fry with Slimming World’s Chinese 5-Spice Sauce, available from Iceland.
Snacks: Fresh fruit, fat-free yogurts, high-fibre cereal bars, low-calorie hot chocolate topped with light whipped cream and mini marshmallows. – ends –
Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell (OBE, FRSA) in 1969. There are now more than 18,000 groups held weekly across the UK and Republic of Ireland via a network of 4,000 community-based Slimming World Consultants, who receive specific training in the role of diet and physical activity in weight management, as well as sophisticated behaviour-change techniques.
Slimming World’s healthy eating plan, Food Optimising, is based on the science of satiety and energy density. Our phased activity programme, Body Magic, eases members into activity until it becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine. The principles behind Slimming World’s philosophy are based on a deep understanding of the challenges faced by overweight people and a recognition that those who struggle with weight carry a double burden, the weight itself and a burden of guilt and shame about their weight. Slimming World’s programme integrates practical, up-to-date advice with a highly developed support system based on care and compassion, and Consultant training focuses on facilitating behaviour change in a warm and friendly group environment. Consultant training is delivered through the Slimming World Academy. Slimming World also invests in a comprehensive research programme to develop its support for long-term weight management. The group support provided by Slimming World is recognised as effective by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the NHS.
For more information about Slimming World’s approach visit www.slimmingworld.co.uk or call 0344 897 8000.
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