I’d been chasing my four-year-old up and down the climbing frames all morning – it felt so good to be buzzing with energy. It wasn’t so long ago that I’d have been sitting to one side having a coffee, feeling frazzled and self-conscious.

I grew up with two brothers and four sisters, and I was always a slim child. My weight problems started when I moved to London from the Isle of Sheppey at 18. By the time I met my husband, Keith, when I was 19, I’d already gone up two dress sizes. We both loved our food and quickly settled into a life that revolved around eating together

I started getting tummy cramps and dry and sensitive skin, and my hair stopped growing so I started paying for expensive hair extensions. When the doctor told me I had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), I thought, ‘Ah, that explains why I’ve been getting so much bigger. It’s my hormones.’ It didn’t occur to me that my eating habits could be behind my weight gain.

I was 21 when my son, Jake, was born. When he was nine months old, my mum, Rosemary, died suddenly aged 59, after suffering a stroke. Two months later, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and in just eight weeks, we lost him, too. My brothers, sisters and I felt incredibly numb as we tried to come to terms with losing both our parents in such a short time.

I still wasn’t eating healthily and knew that could eventually have a serious effect on my health. What if Jake lost me as early as I’d lost Mum and Dad…or even earlier?

A new beginning

My sister-in-law, Jade, had been going to a Slimming World group on the Isle of Sheppey. When I saw her, 2st lighter, I had to find out exactly how she’d done it. She told me she’d never once felt hungry and – one thing that stuck with me the most – that no food was banned, including crisps!

In winter 2010, I joined my local group. My Consultant and the other members were so friendly and reassuring. 

After years of having crisps for breakfast, I started my days eating wheat biscuits topped with fruit and fat-free natural yogurt. Home-made soup soon became a lunchtime favourite, and Keith and I couldn’t get enough of Food Optimising curries. 

I started planning ahead – filling the fridge with ready-chopped fruit and vegetables for snacking, and always having a stock of Popchips (3½ Syns for a 17g bag) and Walkers Quavers (4½ Syns for a 16g bag) for times when I craved crisps. 

By the time Keith proposed, 10 months after I joined group, I’d already reached my target of 9st 7lbs and was a size 10. Being petite, I wanted to lose a little more before walking down the aisle and I thought toning up might give me more confidence, too. I started going to spinning, Bodypump and HIIT (high intensity interval training) classes every week – it didn’t take long for me to get the fitness bug!

I no longer dread changing-room mirrors – I love going shopping!

Last September, I threw a family birthday party and wore a fitted little black dress. This time when I saw a photo of myself, I felt so proud of how far I’d come. I have hardly any PCOS symptoms, my hair is growing again and I’m always full of energy.

The ultimate reward, though, is being able to chase the kids around the park without feeling worn out. I no longer just exist – I live... and I’m loving every minute of it!

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