Sitting in a hospital bed, nursing shooting pains in my abdomen, I felt like I was staring death in the face. I’d been admitted to hospital in early 2013 with diverticulitis, a painful condition that had caused cysts and lesions to grow on my bowels, and now my organs were starting to shut down.
I was in hospital for three weeks before being discharged. From then on, I felt like I was living on borrowed time. The doctors had said losing weight could help me recover, but I didn’t see how it was possible. My weight had crept on since I was a teenager and, by then, I weighed over 22st. I’d tried countless diets over the years, including calorie counting, meal-replacement shakes and even diet pills. If I ever lost more than a couple of pounds, they soon went back on again, and then some.
A year later, my son, Scott, and his partner, Abby, welcomed baby Joseph – my first grandchild – into the family. I was ecstatic, and even more so when they asked if I’d look after him when they eventually went back to work. I pictured myself playing with him in the garden and walking to the park together. Then reality hit home. While recovering from my hospital stay, my weight had crept up even further and now, even bending down to trim my toenails had become a struggle. How would I cope with an energetic toddler running around the house?
The turning point came when Abby showed me a magazine story about a woman who had lost weight with Slimming World. She looked amazing and the plan sounded easy to follow, so I thought it could work for me as well. ‘I think I’m going to join,’ said Abby. ‘Do you fancy coming with me?’ I later realised that she was really asking because she knew I didn’t feel confident enough to join by myself, and knowing she’d be by my side gave me the strength to go for it. ‘Let’s do it,’ I said.
As Abby led me through the doors, I was a bundle of nerves. But after being greeted by a sea of smiling faces, I suddenly felt safe. When the Consultant, Susan, explained how much I could eat, I doubted I’d lose anything. For a week, I followed the plan, eating more than usual to prove my point. To my astonishment, I’d lost 5½lbs at the following week’s weigh-in.
After years of skipping breakfast, I started my days with overnight oats and lots of juicy berries. Lunch was often a home-made soup, and for dinner I’d make something really tasty like a ginger chilli chicken stir-fry. After just two weeks of Food Optimising, I noticed my diverticulitis symptoms had eased.
At group, I started joining in the conversations about what everyone had been eating, and it felt like a real turning point in my relationship with food. I was keen to pick up tips on how to satisfy my sweet tooth, and the other members gave me lots of ideas, like drinking sugar-free soft drinks and swapping to lower Syn snacks. And using my Syns to enjoy a bar of chocolate meant I didn’t feel like I was missing out and I stayed in control.
As the numbers on the scales came down, I felt ready to start trying a bit of Body Magic, Slimming World’s activity programme. I was still too nervous to contemplate exercising outside, where I worried passers-by would watch me sweating and panting, so I decided to try dancing in my living room. Each afternoon, I’d draw the blinds, pop on a CD and bop around the house for as long as I could. At first, I’d be out of breath after the first song, but slowly it began to feel easier, and soon I was dancing for an hour at a time. Feeling more confident, I started getting off the bus a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way home.
In October 2016, I reached my target weight of 10st 9lbs, and I couldn’t believe how much my life had changed. Instead of being stuck at home on my sofa, I was walking 10km or more each day, and, although the diverticulitis will always be with me, I hadn’t had any symptoms in months. Joseph had also been joined by his little sister, Aliana, and when they came to visit, I could chase them around the garden and get down on the floor to play in their pop-up tent. I was the active nanna I’d so desperately wanted to be.
I’ve maintained my weight loss for over four years now, and I’m much more confident. In 2019, I celebrated my 60th birthday by doing all the things I’d never had the confidence to do when I was at my biggest. I visited a treetop adventure course, rode the world’s longest zip line, braved a fire walk and even did an indoor skydive. Best of all, I wake up every morning with a big smile on my face. I’m finally living the life I’d always dreamed of!
*Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.