My weight had yo-yoed for decades, but it steadily crept up during a really turbulent time, when my marriage ended, I was made redundant and I had to sell my house. Depression kicked in and I was in such a bad place – the only thing that made me feel better was food. I had absolutely no confidence. I’d go to the supermarket at 5am or 10pm so that no one would see me, I wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone and I hid my body in baggy clothes. It was so lonely.  

At 27st 5lbs, my health began to deteriorate and I suffered chest and foot pain, headaches and breathlessness. I had loads of embarrassing incidents, too, like the time I couldn’t fit in a pub chair and had to swap seats with another table where the chairs didn’t have arms. Everyone was whispering and I’d wanted the ground to swallow me up.

I tried various diets but nothing worked and I hated meal-replacement milkshakes – I want to be able to chew my food!

My journey with Slimming World began in September 2018, when my sister, Jackie, said she’d been thinking of joining and asked if I’d go along with her for moral support. I was petrified when I first walked through the doors of the group. My head was swimming with questions: Will I be the biggest one there? Will the scales be able to take my weight? Will everyone ask me how much I weigh? Thankfully, it was nothing like that. There were people of all shapes and sizes in the room, everyone was so helpful and friendly and, most importantly, we were all there for the same reason.

As I learned about the Food Optimising eating plan, I slowly began to change my mindset. I was so surprised that I could still enjoy all my favourite meals, like spaghetti bolognese or curry, just cooked in a slightly different way. I gradually adopted new eating habits and made healthier choices – it was simply a healthy new way of eating. Dining out and cooking for other people has always been a way of socialising for me, and – when we’re not in lockdown – I love that I can make delicious, healthy meals for my friends and family that we can all enjoy together.

I was just trying to be a good sister by going to group with Jackie, but months later, I realised she had actually been the one joining to help me! 

After a month or so of great losses, I began to feel excited about what I could achieve and my sister felt comfortable enough to stop attending. 

My group feels like family now and my Consultant, Carole, is wonderful – she genuinely cares and that makes a big difference. There have been difficult weeks, where things haven’t gone to plan and I’ve thought: ‘What’s the point?’ But the group has always supported and encouraged me. Because so many other members have been there themselves, I always come away from the sessions with lots of ideas and strategies to overcome whatever challenge I’m facing and I head home feeling much more positive about the week ahead.

By the time I’d lost 6st, I felt confident enough to start exercising. Before, I’d only ever walked from my car to work – I was too scared to go any further, as I’d get out of breath easily and need to sit down. Now, I can walk for miles, and if I don’t go for a walk, I start getting itchy feet! I’ve joined a gym so I can start to tone up, too.

I carried on attending group throughout the lockdowns via the weekly Zoom sessions. With that support, I was able to stay focused on my goals – and I’m so pleased I did. I lost 31lbs in the first lockdown and reached my target weight of 10st 5lbs!

My BMI has gone from 54 to 22, I’ve swapped my size-34 clothes for trendy size 10s, and I just can’t stop smiling. I’m much more confident now, I don’t hide behind baggy clothes any more and I’d love to start dating after lockdown. And now I’m at my slimmest and happiest, my ambition is to travel the world when it’s possible and have some great adventures. Something I wouldn’t have ever dreamed of doing before.  

When I first joined Slimming World, I never thought I’d be here, 17st lighter. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself. And being named Woman of the Year is like the cherry on the cake… or should that be fruit salad?! My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

Jenny’s day on a plate

Breakfast

Thick white bread spread with butter and peanut butter.

2 Weetabix with almond milk and blueberries.

Mid-morning snack:

Biscuits and two packets of crisps.

An apple and some carrot sticks.

Lunch

Corned beef and pickle sandwich with another packet of crisps and a chocolate bar.

A big bowl of chicken or prawn salad.

Dinner

Fish fingers, chips and beans.

A mushroom, bacon and onion omelette with lots of salad or a Food Optimised spaghetti bolognese, followed by a fresh fruit salad.

Evening snack

Slice of cheesecake with double cream, half a bar of chocolate, a bag of peanuts and a family-size bag of crisps and/or ice cream.

Fat-free yogurt and popcorn.

You can watch Jenny talk about her incredible weight loss here...

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