I knocked on the door, stepped inside and gasped as everyone shouted: ‘Surprise!’ My friends had thrown a party to welcome me home after a summer doing voluntary work in South Africa before my final year at uni. It was such a kind thing to do, but being in the spotlight made me feel really uncomfortable. I’d put on quite a bit of weight during my 12 weeks away, and I was convinced that everyone must have noticed.

As soon as I could, I joined my local Slimming World group. I knew I had a challenge ahead, though. I hadn’t been slim before I’d gone to South Africa and my size-18 clothes were tight by the time I got home. The family I stayed with fed me generously and I’d also enjoyed lavish meals out with them. I snacked on big bars of chocolate every day, too.

I knew that Food Optimising would help me get into healthier habits, and hopefully I’d soon get back to the size I’d been before.

Every Sunday morning, I wrote a meal and snack plan for my week ahead. Then I’d go to the supermarket and stick to my shopping list, which was plenty to satisfy my hunger. I was seeing great results on the scales week after week, and was soon back to where I’d been before going to South Africa.

After losing 2st and feeling my confidence rising, I was asked out on a date, and I did something I wouldn’t have done before – I said yes. Harry and I hit it off and became a couple. When we ate out, he let me choose the restaurant so that I could stay on plan, and six months after joining Slimming World, I was picking up my 3½st award in group.

Facing a challenge... and overcoming it!

Not long after, I moved to a new pad in Newcastle and started my first full-time job – it was such an exciting and busy time! Before long, I was only dropping into group every now and then. The scales started going up again, and after just six months in my new job, I’d gained 2st.

My clothes no longer fitted and I felt sluggish. Worst of all, I didn’t feel confident at work. I felt as if my low self-esteem was not only starting to hold me back in life, but also stopping me from making the most of my new career. Something had to give.

Harry was such a great support. If I was talking about going off plan, he’d just say: ‘Are you going to feel good about this choice tomorrow?’ It reminded me to focus on my goal. Something had shifted in my mind – this time I was determined to make a permanent lifestyle change.

My new year’s resolution was to make a fresh start. I joined a Slimming World group that was closer to work and went back to basics with my weekly food planning. I’d have porridge with sliced apple for breakfast, then a filling Free Food salad with lean ham and boiled eggs for lunch. For dinner, I made my favourite Food Optimising recipes, like slow-cooked bbq gammon, or doner kebab served with Slimming World chips.

I told everyone I knew that I’d rejoined group and I started an Instagram account to document everything I ate (@justjessieslife). The more people that followed me, the more accountable I felt to all of them, and it really helped to motivate me.

One of the biggest shifts I made this time around was to take part in Slimming World’s activity programme, Body Magic. I decided to start running and began slowly, with three 15-minute sessions a week. At first I was doing 10 minutes walking and five minutes running. Then I gradually built up my time until, after three months, I was running non-stop for 30 minutes three days a week.

My passion for Slimming World was infectious and the results were speaking for themselves.

The following November, I stepped on the scales at group and was overcome with joy – I was at target. I’d lost 5st 11½lbs and was now buying size-8 clothes. Gone were the stretchy trousers and loose jumpers I used to wear to work; now my wardrobe was filled with slim-fitting shirts and fashionable high-waist trousers and skirts.

My confidence was so high, I volunteered to lead a talk in front of 200 people for work. As I walked to the podium and began to speak, I looked around me – I felt like I’d made it. I no longer wanted to shy away and I was sure that if I could do this, I really could do anything. With that in mind, I went for a promotion, and I nailed it. Then after I’d been in that role a while, I saw a new job that looked great, so I went for it – and got that, too!

My career’s going from strength to strength and I owe it all to my new-found confidence. Losing weight has made me feel good about myself and my body – and I know I want to feel this way for the rest of my life!

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