As I walked into the office on Monday morning, the moment I dreaded each week had arrived once again… My colleague spun around in her chair and asked: ‘What did you all get up to this weekend?’ One by one, my work friends chatted about the places they’d visited, the people they’d seen and the activities they’d enjoyed. And then she turned to look at me. ‘Nothing really,’ I mumbled, forcing a smile. ‘I just stayed at home.’
The truth was my flat was the only place I felt at ease. I just didn’t want to be seen in public and I felt more comfortable watching TV or playing computer games, usually while eating a frozen pizza or a curry made from a jar of sauce.
I could trace my lack of confidence back to when I started sixth form. While my classmates were all off making new friends, I couldn’t even look people in the eye and I’d completely freeze up if I had to speak to a stranger. I stopped going on holiday with my parents, too, because I couldn’t bear the thought of being in a new place surrounded by people I didn’t know.
By the time I left school, my self-esteem was at rock bottom. Other than going to work, I avoided most social situations and stayed at home, comforting myself with home-made brownies and cupcakes and feeling more and more isolated. This vicious cycle caused my weight to creep up.
By the summer of 2019, I weighed over 17st and couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without gasping for breath.
Then, in the April of that year, I braved going to a hockey match with a friend. I’d been to my first game a few months earlier, and I’d instantly fallen in love with the buzzing atmosphere in the arena. Being surrounded by cheering fans, I didn’t need to worry about anyone looking at me or trying to start a conversation – everyone was focused on the game.
This time around, I was invited to meet the team after the match and I desperately wanted a photo with my favourite player, Gleason Fournier. I was too nervous to approach him, though, so my friend grabbed him by the shoulder and asked him if he’d mind having his picture taken with me. As Gleason gamely posed, I couldn’t stop smiling… until I looked at the photo on my phone and my face dropped. I looked so much bigger than I’d imagined.
A couple of months later, I noticed one of my colleagues was looking slimmer and when I asked him how he’d done it, he explained he’d been going to a Slimming World group.
As he told me about all the tasty food he was eating, I thought it sounded like something I could stick to as well.
At the time, the thought of walking into a room full of strangers was absolutely terrifying, so I knew group wasn’t the right option for me. Instead, I joined the digital-only service, Slimming World Online. That first week, I pored over the food lists to get my head around Free Foods, Healthy Extras and Syns, and started my new routine. For breakfast, I’d have ham and egg muffins or fresh fruit topped with fat-free natural yogurt, then either a crustless quiche or an omelette with rice and salad for lunch. Dinner would be anything from lasagne or taco rice bowls to turkey meatballs with courgetti or my favourite dish, chicken chow mein with egg-fried rice.
Within three months, I’d lost 2st and I decided to add some Body Magic to my week. I started by walking around the wharf outside my workplace during my lunch breaks. At first, I could just about manage a single lap, and I’d feel breathless and exhausted when I got back to my desk. I kept going out every day, though, and gradually my walks got quicker and easier and I started adding more circuits. Even when we went into lockdown in March 2020, I kept walking around the dock for my daily exercise, and by the summer I was able to do 18-20km a day.
A big moment for me was when I was doing my laps after work one evening. I was on my third circuit, when one of the anglers who fished along the dock called out to me: “You’re clocking up some distance down here, aren’t you?” His comment caught me off guard, so I just smiled politely and carried on my way, all the while thinking that I should have stopped to talk to him. When I spotted him a week later, I went over to say hello and we ended up chatting for over half an hour. I realised then that I didn’t need to feel nervous about talking to new people, and gradually I got to know more of the regular anglers. I even baked them a batch of brownies, since I wasn’t eating them myself any more.
Everything felt like it was finally falling into place as I neared my target weight of 9½st. Then, in July 2020, I started getting shooting pains in my right ankle, which turned out to be shin splints. For the next four weeks, I was back to being stuck on my sofa all day, as I waited for the injury to heal. Around that same time, I also stopped losing weight entirely. Worried that I was undoing everything I’d worked so hard to achieve, I turned to the Community for support – and I couldn’t believe how many members reached out to me. I got loads of encouragement to stay positive and a few members suggested I add some SP days into my week to boost my weight loss. With their help, the scales started moving in the right direction again and, as soon as my ankle had healed, I was straight back outside, walking around Cardiff Bay.
Sometimes, I can’t believe how different my life was before I lost 8st – especially when I’m out walking, visiting museums or going to hockey matches. Recently, I wore a new black denim dress when I met some friends for an afternoon tea. I thought I looked so good, I plucked up the courage to ask a stranger in the ladies’ to take a photo of me! This time, when I pulled the picture up on my phone, I liked what I saw...
As soon as the lockdown restrictions ease, I’m going to get a passport and fly out to visit a friend in America. I feel like I’m seeing the world and all its opportunities for the first time – and I’m determined to live my life to the fullest.
Find your slimming squad The Community has been one of the biggest driving forces behind my weight loss. Someone is always around to offer support if you’ve got a question or you’re struggling. I log on every day to get meal ideas and read about other members’ successes – it really fires me up for a day of Food Optimising.
Planning is key I find it hard to instantly think up Food Optimising meals that I can make from whatever’s in my cupboards and fridge. And knowing what I’m eating in advance stops me being tempted to order a takeaway or snack on junk foods when I’m hungry.
Switch up your menu There are so many recipes on the website and in the magazine and cook books, that it’s impossible to get bored with what you’re eating. I check the website every Friday before I plan my meals for the week, and I always find a new dish I want to try.
*Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.