As I hid in the school changing rooms, tears of frustration started to fall. My weight had been an issue since I was seven, and I’d spent most of my school days hiding – trying to avoid either PE or the bullies that called me names. And it wasn’t just insults that were thrown at me – sometimes they’d even throw food at me too.  

I continued hiding from the world through my teenage years. I was convinced that I was an embarrassment to my friends, my parents and even my boyfriend, Sam, and saying no to all the things that teenagers should be doing seemed easier than dealing with my own feelings of shame and humiliation. Girly shopping trips always ended in tears. And, if I did go out, I’d spend the night trying to hide behind my massive handbag, feeling like I didn’t fit in with the group. It was less stressful just to stay at home.

My turning point came just before my 20th birthday. When Sam and my family asked what I wanted to do to celebrate, I gave my stock reply: ‘Nothing special, staying in will be fine.’ It was at that moment that it finally sunk in. I’d lost all of my teenage years – years that are meant to be full of fun and excitement – because I wasn’t happy with my weight.

I was suddenly determined not to spend my 20s hiding away. I needed to face the scales.

My mum is a Slimming World member and I’d always read the magazine that she brought home from group. The real-life member stories inspired me to give it a go for myself. I figured that I had nothing to lose – apart from weight! At my first group meeting, I was shocked to weigh in at 19st 3Ibs. But I vividly remember my Consultant saying, ‘Don’t worry. This will be the last time you see those numbers.’ And she was right. I lost 5Ibs in my first week and I never saw 19st – then 18st, then 17st... – again.

From day one, I was super impressed with Food Optimising and the freedom it gave me. Unlike some weight loss plans, there wasn’t a long list of banned foods. I could have everything in moderation, and I could even eat burgers and still lose weight!

Slimming World also introduced me to a world of foods that I’d never have tried before. When I was overweight, I’d always reach for the same foods as they were easy and I knew that I liked them. The trouble was that they’d fill me up for maybe an hour and then I’d be hungry again. Food Optimising has moved me out of that unhealthy comfort zone and I now eat hundreds of foods that I used to say that I didn’t like. I’ve discovered that healthy food can be both full of flavour and filling, and I love trying new things – jackfruit has been a surprise hit!

Making healthy budget meals – and loving them!

Looking back at what I used to eat before, I can see why my weight had continued to climb. We’d go out for breakfast every Saturday and Sunday before stocking up on snacks for the afternoon. We’d buy savouries like scotch eggs, mini sausages and sausage rolls to go with a stash of treats including multipacks of chocolate bars and share-bags of sweets – all washed down with big bottles of sugary fizzy drinks. For dinner, I’d often order the largest possible pizza and also have a burger, chicken wings and chips on the side. We were spending a small fortune on junk food – healthy budget meals were never on the menu – and, unsurprisingly, I always felt really groggy and had a constant stomach ache.

Now I can still start my weekends with a filling fry-up, done the Slimming World way with low Syn sausages, lean bacon with the fat removed, eggs cooked in low-calorie cooking spray, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, wholemeal toast and a cuppa. What could be better? And Sam and I can still have our sofa snacks – I make my own scotch eggs and we have them along with lean ham, lots of fresh fruit and low Syn jelly. I’ve swapped takeaways for ‘fakeaways’ now. When friends come round, I’ll dish up a healthy curry, which is always a big hit.

Whatever your age, lifestyle or budget, Slimming World can help you lose weight and start living your best life!

Unlike eating plans that I’d tried previously, Slimming World fits well with a young person’s lifestyle. I don’t have lots of money to spare, so being able to cook healthy meals on a budget is important. Some of my favourite healthy budget meals come from the Take 5 cookbook (recipes with just five ingredients). This keeps the cost low and also means that the recipes are really easy to follow – great for someone like me who had never cooked before!

There are also loads of ideas for easy meals that I can throw together on busy days. When I’m trying to juggle studying, work and my now brilliantly busy social life, I find the healthy budget meals from the Slimming World range at Iceland really useful. My favourites are the meatballs, the lasagne and the chunky chips.

Life begins at 21

As the number on the scales started to go down, my confidence levels soared. I started making real friends and feeling like I belonged in a group – and I finally started saying yes to fun nights out and parties. Suddenly, I had a new set of temptations in front of me. Eating before I went out or taking some slimming-friendly snacks with me helped me to stay on plan.

Amazingly, within 14 months, I’d lost 10st and hit my target weight. While I was obviously elated, I did find it difficult to get out of that ‘losing’ mindset at first. I missed the buzz that you get from every weight loss award, so I switched my focus to the Body Magic awards and now I’m on Platinum!

I’ve come a long way from the girl who used to hide in the changing rooms to try to get out of PE.

Now I’m loving saying yes to life. Sam and I recently went on our first holiday together and I wore a bikini – that was a real ‘pinch me’ moment! I’ve ridden rollercoasters at theme parks and climbed trees at an outdoor adventure centre. I’m always up for a girly shopping trip and it feels incredible to be able to wear fashionable clothes that are made for my age group, instead of having to go for older styles because that’s all I could find to fit. Being voted Slimming World’s Young Slimmer of the Year 2019 was the absolute cherry on top! And since then I’ve lost a few more pounds to hit a happy 9st.

People say that your school years are the best years of your life, but mine were miserable. Feeling self-conscious about my weight sucked the fun out of everything. I remember once being invited to a sleepover and frantically cutting all the labels out of my clothes to try to hide my size. Now I’m literally half the person I used to be, and I feel like my life has finally begun. There’s no more hiding away for me!

Five healthy budget meals

Eating well doesn’t have to be expensive. With Slimming World, cooking healthy meals on a budget is easy. We have plenty of simple recipes to keep your shopping list short and help you spend less at the supermarket. Here are our top five healthy budget meals for you to try:

 

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