There was a time when the thought of being seen on a video call filled me with dread. Nowadays, though, when my mum and dad video-call me, I don’t try to avoid it. Instead, I turn on the camera so they can see me and my one-year-old daughter, Nola. It’s little things like that, and being able to clear away Nola’s unwanted cheese chunks without picking at them, that make me feel good. When I tell Mum about these mini victories, she understands. At one time or another, we’ve both been unhappy with the way our clothes fitted, and now we’ve found out how to ditch the diets and make lifelong, healthy changes.
I’d been slim at university, but in the decade that followed my weight crept up. Whenever I noticed I’d gone up a dress size, I’d try slimming shakes or fad diets. Of course, the weight never stayed off for long – because I was miserable. Mum and Dad had both lost weight at Slimming World, but I’d never really thought of it as being for me. Then, in 2014, aged 29, I went into hospital for a minor operation. Recovering at home and looking at photos of a recent family holiday, I was horrified to see an unflattering one of me in a white stripy top. After untagging it, I knew I’d had enough of yo-yo dieting. Mum was staying with me while I got better and had a copy of Slimming World Magazine with her. Flicking through it, I decided to try the 7-day eating plan. The meals were tasty and it was easier to stick to than anything I’d done before – so I decided to join my local group.
One of the first things I discovered from the other members was how helpful it was to plan. The game-changer for me was taking a packed lunch into work – either leftovers from the night before or a couscous salad with hard-boiled eggs, tomato, pepper and cucumber.
As a vegetarian, I’d expected to have to adapt meals – instead I discovered tons of delicious recipes I could try.
I loved the Food Optimising vegetable lasagnes and burgers, and Mum lent me some of her Slimming World cookbooks for even more inspiration. I had a busy social life, so Syns were a lifesaver for me, and if I did go a little over occasionally, at a hen do or wedding reception, I made sure I got straight back on plan again.
I was surprised at how quickly the pounds came off and, after a month – my confidence boosted – I dug out my leggings and started doing some Body Magic. I’d go for a jog at lunchtime and not only did it help me get fitter, it also stopped me from snacking through my break. Staying for IMAGE Therapy in group, where we all share tips, ideas and experiences, had really got me thinking about the reasons I ate – out of boredom, for example – and helped me to start eating more mindfully. Within five months, my new healthy lifestyle had got me to my target weight of 9st 7lbs and feeling back to my best. Some weeks later, we went to visit my brother, Duncan, in Australia. It was so nice having all the family together. And, best of all, when we went sightseeing, my mind wasn’t on whether someone had a camera out. I could just enjoy being in the moment, which meant so much.
I got engaged to my boyfriend, AJ, in 2015, and I hit the wedding dress shops feeling happier in myself than I had in a long time. When our wedding day came round, I felt totally comfortable being in the spotlight, and I wanted to hold on to that feeling. So while we settled into married life, I continued going to group as a target member. The following year, I even got a job at Slimming World head office as an IT project manager. Then, when I’d been at target for four years, I had some exciting news… I was expecting a baby!
Slimming World works with the Royal College of Midwives, so with my midwife’s support, I carried on Food Optimising. At first, it was a bit of a challenge because I went off lots of the Free Foods I loved. I carried on as best I could, filling up on pasta dishes and jacket potatoes in that queasy first trimester. I’d spoken to my Consultant about how to adapt Food Optimising during pregnancy to support me to get the nutrients I needed. Luckily, in my second trimester my love of salad and veg returned, giving me a lot more energy and making my meals more balanced and exciting. I made healthy choices throughout my pregnancy, but after Nola was born in January 2019, things felt more difficult. I began compensating for sleepless nights with early morning chocolate bars and ready meals for dinner, and the number on the scales started to rise...
I told myself that I had bigger things to worry about than my weight, but deep down I knew I was happier living a healthy lifestyle – and I wanted it back. I’d taken Nola out to a coffee shop and I was just about to order a chocolate muffin when I suddenly thought: ‘I bet there’s a group on today’. Checking my phone, I found one across town starting in an hour. Without hesitation, I walked there with Nola in her pram. I had a bit of a shock on the scales, discovering I was heavier than when I’d first joined Slimming World. But I wasn’t going to let it discourage me.
In that room, I felt the same warm welcome I’d experienced before, and I knew I was in the right place to get to where I wanted to be.
The other members offered lots of advice, including ideas for low Syn treats, like Cadbury Freddo bars, which are just 5 Syns. AJ was a huge support, too. Sharing the cooking and looking after Nola meant we could still find time to make healthy meals – he whipped up a great Slimming World vegetarian chilli! Soon, the pounds started coming off. As for Body Magic, I could only get Nola to sleep by pushing her in the pram, so I’d wrap up and go on walks with her twice a day.
Nola was 14 months old when the UK went into lockdown and for a couple of weeks, I found myself adding extra treats, like crisps and frozen pizzas, to my online shop. Then, like before, I reminded myself how much better I felt when I was Food Optimising. In my role in Slimming World’s IT team, I felt so proud that I was able to help Consultants get their virtual groups started up. While real-life groups were temporarily closed, I dialled into my virtual group every week, which really helped me to focus. It wasn’t long until I found my motivation again and I continued to lose weight during lockdown.
Even though she’s just 19 months old, Nola is already enjoying a healthy lifestyle – and helping me maintain mine! She’ll often persuade me away from my laptop to take her for a walk. And, as she likes a lot of the same veg as me, like sugar snap peas and broccoli, it encourages me and AJ to cook them. It feels great to know I’m setting her a positive example. The second time around it took a little longer to lose weight, but I never lost faith that Slimming World would get me there. It’s such an easy-to-follow plan, and as long as I follow it, I know I’ll never want to untag photos of myself again. I love the fact that when Nola looks back on pictures of herself growing up, she’ll see me there in the frame with her.
Hannah’s day on a plate
Big bowl of granola, toast and an orange juice, or a hash brown sandwich from a local cafe.
Healthy Extra cereal with fresh fruit and fat-free natural yogurt.
Triple-cheese sandwich meal deal with an energy drink or smoothie.
Lasagne using a ready-made sauce and lots of cheese, with oven chips and garlic bread.
Doughnuts, sweets or biscuits, or a family-size bag of crisps.
Fruit, bag of low Syn crisps, or reduced-fat soft cheese (2 Syns for 25g) wrapped in meat-free ham.
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.