Looking into Ant’s eyes, I couldn’t have been happier. Moments earlier, I’d felt so glamorous saying ‘I do’ in my size-8 wedding dress, and now I was confidently posing for photos with my husband, the man who had loved me at every size and supported me through one of the most challenging times of my life.

It was a complete reversal to how I felt when we’d first set a date for our special day. Back then, my confidence was at an all-time low and, even though I was excited to marry Ant, I felt anxious about being a bride and having all eyes on me on our wedding day.

I knew my weight wasn’t helping. I’d been dieting on and off for most of my 20s, each time either calorie counting or trying fad diets, like drinking only shakes. As well as finding it tricky to keep up with the constant weighing and measuring, I’d quickly grow frustrated with depriving myself of the foods I enjoyed. So I’d soon go back to cheese on toast for breakfast, sandwiches and crisps for lunch and a takeaway for my dinner.

As my weight crept up, I became increasingly self-conscious. 

Even with Ant by my side, I felt uncomfortable at social occasions. Getting dressed to go out, I’d look at myself covered up in a shapeless dress and say to Ant, ‘Look how big my thighs are!’. He’d tell me I looked beautiful – Ant was always loving and never commented on my weight. But even with his support, I became increasingly insecure.

In June 2017, Ant and I joined our friends on holiday in Spain. One night, my friend, Cassie, asked me to be in one of her photos and I reluctantly agreed. When she showed me the snap, my heart sank. While Cassie looked relaxed, smiling confidently, I was hunched over to hide my shape and grimacing. 

Seeing that photo brought my worries about my weight into sharp focus. Over the previous few months, I’d been going to the gym every day in an attempt to lose weight, but I’d only lost 5lbs. By then, my wedding was less than a year away and I desperately wanted to feel happy and confident on my big day. I needed to do something different...

My mum had suggested I join Slimming World a few times, but my self belief was so low, I felt too nervous to go alone. So I asked my mother-in-law if she’d come with me. As soon as I walked into group, though, I realised I had nothing to worry about. Everyone was so warm and welcoming, and as my Consultant, Donna, explained how Food Optimising worked, I started to believe I could do this.

I was amazed by the huge variety of meals I could eat. I filled up on overnight oats or my Healthy Extra ‘b’ choice of wholemeal toast for breakfast, tucked into a jacket potato topped with my Healthy Extra ‘a’ portion of cheese and baked beans for lunch and started trying out Slimming World recipes for dinner – I loved pasta dishes like spaghetti bolognese, creamy carbonara and baked vegetable frittata.

The support I got in group was a lifesaver, especially when I felt disappointed on the scales. If I’d put on 1lb when I’d expected a loss, I’d go quiet, feeling frustrated with myself. Then Donna would put her arm around me and say: ‘You’re doing amazingly, keep going!’ It always kick-started my motivation because I realised that if she believed in me, I could believe in me.

Ant was behind me every step of the way, as well, showering me with praise after each loss and raving about the new recipes I tried. I think it helped that he was losing weight, too, just by eating the same meals as me! 

As the pounds came off, I could feel my confidence returning. I set up an Instagram account and started posting photos about my journey. I loved how people made encouraging comments and asked me questions about my weight loss. If I was going out for dinner with Ant, I’d dress up in a colourful outfit that showed off my figure, and I felt completely at ease if someone suggested taking a photo.

Getting to target the day before I tied the knot was the perfect wedding present to myself. It was an incredible day, celebrating our love with family and friends. As Ant and I held each other’s hands to exchange our vows, we were both blinking back the tears. ‘You look beautiful,’ he said. This time, I really believed him, because I felt beautiful in myself, too.

Whenever I look through our wedding photo album, my heart fills with pride, and best of all, I feel like me again!

*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.