At my biggest, I reckon I could have won an Oscar for best actress. I played the part of the cheerful pub landlady so well that even my own husband didn’t have a clue I was deeply unhappy with my weight.

I’d gained 2st at university, when home-cooked meals had given way to a typical student diet of takeaways, snacks and beer. At a size 16, I looked so much bigger than my size 8-10 friends and I decided to take drastic action – by going on a crash diet. I ate little more than tuna and lettuce for a week, and it was as miserable as it sounds. I lost some weight, then gained it straight back again when I couldn’t stick to it any longer.

A plateful of spaghetti bolognese changed my life forever.

My friend Natasha invited me over, and as she stood by the cooker stirring a delicious-looking pasta sauce packed with meat and juicy tomatoes, she mentioned it was ‘on plan’ – and that’s when she told me about Slimming World. ‘I’ve lost 7lbs without being hungry once,’ she said.

I decided to join Slimming World Online. For breakfast, I’d have lean bacon cooked in low-calorie cooking spray, with poached eggs, spinach and my Healthy Extra toast. At lunchtime, I’d make something I could take to work, like soup or a pasta salad. Then in the evening I’d still have all of my favourite dinners, just made the Slimming World way – even burgers and fish and chips were on the menu.

After I’d lost 11lbs, I had some very happy news – baby number two was on the way. Slimming World works with the Royal College of Midwives, so with my midwife’s support I carried on Food Optimising. When I weighed in shortly after Max was born, I was delighted to discover I was at my pre-pregnancy weight of 10st 7lbs.

There are times when Mum definitely knows best – and in my case it was the moment my mum asked me to come to her Slimming World group. I agreed I’d go with her to the group she’d joined. From that very first evening, I felt at home in the friendly, supportive atmosphere. The room was filled with lovely people from all walks of life and of all ages. Now I realised what I’d been missing out on – group gave my weight loss such a boost!

As the weeks progressed, my motivation soared.

After two months I reached my target of 9st 7lbs. I know I’ve discovered a way of eating that can keep me slim for life. After years of yo-yo dieting, I’ve been at target for more than 15 months.

The best thing about losing weight is how confident I feel. Recently, Mum treated us to a makeover and shopping day. Being the centre of attention and having to try on outfits would have been my worst nightmare three or four years ago, but now I absolutely loved it.

I’m so much more confident in other ways, too. I even went for a very exciting job interview – and got it! Now, if I ever start thinking I’ll fail at something, I just remember what I’ve achieved as a Slimming World target member. I’ve found a new self-belief!

Elena’s five fave recipes

1. Slimming World burgers

I make Free burgers using lean beef mince (less than 5% fat) and have mine with a Healthy Extra wholemeal roll, baked sweet potato chips and a lettuce, tomato and onion salad.

2. Sticky chicken

You can’t beat a full-of-flavour, low-Syn dish to cheer up a difficult week. I serve up my Sticky chicken on a bed of crispy salad with plenty of Slimming World chips.

3. Easy omelette

My top quick dinner is a mushroom, spinach, tomato and lean ham omelette cooked in low-calorie cooking spray and with lots of salad on the side.

4. Carrot and coriander soup

My husband, Neil, is a soup genius and often cooks up a big batch for me to take to work. He likes to try out different recipes from Slimming World’s Little Book of Soups, so we never get bored. 

5. Chicken korma

Who needs a takeaway? My family loves this mild, flavoursome curry – I just add in whatever veg I’ve got in the fridge and dish it up with boiled dried rice.

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