Kelly’s top of the class after 18st weight loss


- A primary school teacher from Merseyside has been named Slimming World’s Woman of the Year 2023 after losing an astonishing 18st

- Kelly Barker, 43, once weighed 28½st and worried that she would die on the operating table if she opted for bariatric surgery

- Since joining Slimming World, Kelly has lost almost two-thirds of her bodyweight and now loves kayaking, rock climbing and fell walking with her teenage son

A Merseyside primary school teacher who has lost a incredible 18st has been named Slimming World’s Woman of the Year 2023.

Kelly Barker, 43, joined her local Slimming World group because she feared she would die on the operating table if she went ahead with the weight-loss surgery recommended by her GP.

She says: “I struggled with my weight my whole life. As a child I was placed on a special diet and had to be weighed at school. While the other children were eating fish and chips, I would have to eat a separate meal on my own – usually something bland like boiled fish and potatoes. It made me believe that weight loss was miserable, embarrassing and shameful, and it didn’t work – I gained weight every year into my adulthood.”

Kelly, who lives with her 15-year-old son, Josh, in St Helens, says going away to university made her weight increase further: “As soon as I had control over my own food choices, it was like the floodgates opened. Everything I wasn’t allowed as a child was suddenly available to me. I was in a vicious cycle of comfort eating that wreaked havoc with my weight and continued for years. I would try to lose weight sometimes but the only way I knew how was massively restricting myself with crazy fad diets which, of course, I could never stick to.”

Kelly’s weight also began to affect the way she felt at work. She says: “I’ve always loved my job as a teacher, yet I often felt like a hypocrite – especially when teaching the children about healthy eating and being active. My joints and back would be in agony after a day of teaching and although I’d plaster a smile onto my face, I just felt like a fraud.

“My big wakeup call came when my GP recommended weight-loss surgery. I researched the procedure and knew that my weight made me a huge anaesthetic risk. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would die on the operating table.”

Thankfully, Kelly enlisted the help of her cousin Fiona, who is a Slimming World Consultant. She says: “Fiona had tried to encourage me to join her group for a long time, I had to be ready myself though. Deep down I’d been worried that it would be yet another failed weight loss attempt and that I’d be made to feel the way I’d felt my whole life when it came to food. How wrong was I? From the moment I joined the group I was surrounded by warmth, kindness and compassion.

Kelly Barker, Slimming World's Woman of the Year 2023

From the moment I joined the group I was surrounded by warmth, kindness and compassion.

Kelly Barker, Slimming World's Woman of the Year 2023

“I can’t lie, standing on the scales for the first time was daunting – not least because I was terrified I’d be too heavy for them to weigh me (they could, thankfully). Although that number was frightening – it also felt like the start of something. Fiona told me that she would never give up on me and she has remained true to that promise. She and my group have been there every step of the way. They helped me discover in myself the belief that I could do it and I now look at that moment as the biggest turning point in my life.”

Kelly soon began to enjoy Slimming World’s eating plan and learned to build healthier habits around food. She says: “Cooking from scratch every night and planning my meals was a big change for me. I started by picking simple recipes with a few ingredients and quickly discovered that I could Food Optimise all my old favourites like curries, pizzas and Chinese dishes.

“I’d been in a battle with food for most of my life so being shown that I could eat generously, cook the most amazing meals and never go hungry was groundbreaking for me. It wasn’t just about changing what I put on my plate, there was a big psychological shift too – I had a whole new relationship with food. I eat much better now than I ever have. The children at school often ask, ‘What’s in the lunch bag today, Mrs B?’ and I feel proud to show them the plentiful, colourful, fresh and healthy food I am enjoying.

“Obviously losing 18st has been fantastic for my health and my confidence but by far the best thing to happen is the relationship I now have with my son. I no longer feel like I embarrass him, and he tells me he is proud of what I have achieved. He is a county and regional level swimmer so being more in tune with my own activity levels and nutrition has brought us so much closer together.”

Kelly began to get active herself with the help of Slimming World’s physical activity support programme, which helps members to create a personal plan to increase their activity levels at their own pace. She says: “My activity levels before I lost weight were basically zero. As my journey progressed, I found I had so much more energy – so when Josh suggests fell walking, rock climbing or kayaking now, I’m excited to get involved rather than worrying I’ll be over the weight limits.

“We’ve recently been on holiday to the Lake District. As I sat on top of the fell after a tough climb, I looked out to the view of the lake below and tears came to my eyes. I was thinking about how much I had been missing out on, all these beautiful views and experiences. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve saved my life by losing weight – and these days it’s a life worth living.”


Name: Kelly Barker

Age: 43

Height: 5ft 3ins/160cm

Starting weight: 28st 7lbs/180kg/399lbs

Current weight: 10st 7lbs/66kg/147lbs

Weight loss: 18st/114kg/252lbs

Dress size before: 32

Dress size now: 10

Date joined Slimming World: May 2018

Group: Kelly attends Fiona Foulder’s Marshside Slimming World group in Southport, Merseyside

Before menu

Breakfast: Something on-the-go like a pastry from the petrol station on the way to work

Lunch: Sandwiches, crisps and cakes from a bakery

Dinner: A takeaway pizza  

Snacks: Crisps, chocolate, biscuits, cake, pies

After menu

Breakfast: Overnight oats made with fat-free natural yogurt and plenty of fruit

Lunch: Homemade soup, pasta salads or a crustless quiche

Dinner: A curry made from scratch with rice or a homemade Slimming World kebab with chips made in the air fryer

Evening: A Slimming World Hi-Fi bar (available in groups, online and in selected Iceland stores), fruit, yogurt or a small chocolate bar


For further information please contact Lucy Fisher in the Slimming World press office on lucy.fisher@slimmingworld.co.uk or on 01773 306852.


Notes to editors

●        This story is NOT for syndication to any magazines without the consent of Kelly Barker and the Slimming World press office (details above).

●        Slimming World and Kelly Barker retain copyright of all images attached to this press release. After photos should be credited: Slimming World/Paul Buller, Graeme Simpson

About Slimming World

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 physical activity support programme, Body Magic helps members to overcome any barriers around exercise. Members choose when to start and they set the pace, finding activities they genuinely enjoy, until regular physical activity becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine. 

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, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), The Royal College of Midwives and others to help shape the future of weight management in the UK and Ireland.

For more information about Slimming World’s approach visit slimmingworld.co.uk or slimmingworld.ie

Follow Slimming World on Twitter at twitter.com/slimmingworld or become a Slimming World fan on Facebook at facebook.com/slimmingworld

For the Press Office visit our newsroom or email public.relations@slimmingworld.co.uk