Exercise had never been a part of my life as a child. I’d spend my pocket money on chocolate and by the time I was 15, my clothes were a size 16.

I weighed around 15st when, aged 22, I gave birth to Emily. Then Megan came along six years later and my weight crept up to 17st 10lbs. After splitting up from the girls’ dad, I threw myself into my career in recruitment.

I felt exhausted most of the time. I remember seeing a slim, sporty mum in leggings zipping around town with her buggy and thinking: ‘What’s she on?’ For me, it was enough of a physical challenge to get up in the morning and make it through the day. I might as well have thought about going to the moon as to the gym.

Coupling up

By the time I met Steve in 2009, I was a size 20 – and very unhappy about it. Steve, who had a physical job and never seemed to put on any weight himself, told me he loved me no matter what size I was. Our life revolved around working hard during the day, then unwinding with a couple of glasses of wine and a takeaway in the evening.

Falling pregnant for a third time at the age of 39 was a wonderful surprise. When baby Freya arrived, though, looking after her was so much tougher than it had been with Emily or Megan. Now a size 22/24, fitted clothes felt uncomfortable on me, so I stuck to wearing shapeless tunic tops and leggings, and didn’t think about how much older they might make me look.

When Freya was about six months old, I took her for her vaccinations and the nurse asked me if I was babysitting. I felt my cheeks redden as I realised she’d thought I was her granny, not her mum.

As Freya turned into an active toddler, keeping up with her became even harder. Trips to the playground would exhaust me. I’d have to sit on the bench and watch her play by herself. And Megan would take Freya swimming, when I felt it should have been me.

Then, in January 2016, my daughter Emily joined Slimming World. Her son, Freddie, was a toddler now and she wanted to lose her baby weight. Within a fortnight she’d lost 7lbs and when I saw her cuddling Freddie, I had a sudden moment of clarity. I was over 19st now – if I carried on like this, I might not be around for Freya when she was Emily’s age. I took a deep breath and joined my local Slimming World group.

Getting started was easier than I’d thought. I swapped my usual breakfast of toast, butter and jam for a sweet omelette (made by mixing in vanilla essence and a pinch of sweetener) with fruit. Instead of cheese sandwiches for lunch, I had a filling salad with canned mackerel, and my takeaway dinners were replaced by home-cooked chilli or salmon with stir-fry and noodles.

I’d end the day with a treat from my Syns – usually plain quark with a crushed meringue nest, topped with fruit and a crumbled-up Rocky Road Hi-fi bar, bought from group.

At group, I’d listened to other members talk about Slimming World’s activity programme, Body Magic. It sounded like something I’d consider once I reached my target weight. Then Emily told me she’d been to a Bodypump class at our local leisure centre and loved it. By now I’d been at Slimming World for a month and had lost a stone. I decided to join her.

Although I made a beeline for the back of the room, after that first session I felt upbeat and energetic – a sensation I’d forgotten existed!

For the next three weeks, I kept my weights really low, so as not to overdo things or hurt myself. Still, I noticed my energy levels growing and I was sleeping better. I soon felt confident enough to add in a Bodycombat class – a martial arts-inspired workout where you kicked and punched the air. It left me breathless and exhausted… and I was hooked!

Energy overhaul

Within six months, I had a completely different image of myself. I was able to run around with Freya and my grandson, Freddie. In October 2016, just eight months after joining Slimming World, I’d lost nearly 6½st and we went to Majorca on our first holiday abroad in eight years. I wore size-14 dresses when we went out for dinner and walked to the pool wearing a tankini.

I hit my revised target of 10st 5lbs in September 2017. And a fortnight later, I turned 45.

Now, I do at least four fitness classes a week. I still have to pinch myself when I remember that I’m fitter in my 40s than I was in my 20s. I’m confident about the way I look and I love my toned shoulders. Best of all, I love having the energy to play with Freya. Seeing her eyes light up makes me so grateful that I made the decision to change my lifestyle.

I’m never going to take my health for granted again. I’m carrying on Food Optimising to maintain my weight and I’m mixing up my fitness by trying different classes, too. Nothing beats that feeling of coming home from a class, refreshed, glowing and still able to keep a four-year-old on her toes!

If you’re planning to start a new exercise programme, we recommend you check with your GP first – especially if you have an existing health condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. If you’re pregnant, check the suitability of the exercise with your midwife.

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