Sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, the embarrassing memories from my summer holiday came flooding back. From struggling to fasten the seatbelt on the plane to having a ‘touch-and-go moment’ when being weighed for paragliding, the holiday had been more about humiliation than relaxation.
I’d always been bigger than the rest of my friends – I was ‘the funny one’. When it came to trying to lose weight I was a ‘been there, tried that, spent lots of money and failed every time’ sort of dieter.
Things went from bad to worse when my doctor expressed concerns about my weight – the surgery scales were showing 15st 6lbs – and high blood pressure. I decided there and then that I needed to make a change, and joined my local Slimming World group in Rathfarnham, Ireland. That was August 2014, I was 24, and it’s incredible to think how much my life has changed since then.
The moment I walked into my Slimming World group, the Consultant, Rachael, welcomed me and chatted through the plan, before introducing me to a few of the other members. I immediately felt like I belonged! Everyone was so friendly and looked like they were having so much fun – I was excited for what I could achieve.
Discovering the Food Optimising plan was a revelation and completely changed my attitude to food. I ditched the big bowls of sugary cereals, frozen pizzas and regular takeaways for healthy, wholesome meals cooked from scratch. I found myself really enjoying cooking (and eating!) satisfying, Slimming World-friendly meals like steak and Slimming World chips, or spaghetti bolognese with a mix of pasta and spiralised courgette.
I also loved making ‘fakeaway’ versions of my favourite takeaway dishes – like a Chinese spice bag (a popular dish near us!) or chicken in oyster sauce and rice. They’re so tasty – better than the real versions, I think!
I’ve never felt like I’m missing out and now I love food more than I ever did before.
Going on holiday the following summer was such a different experience – I felt so much better about myself than I had just a year before. I was really excited to jet off with my family to Portugal and, as well as sun, sea and sand, I had the extra satisfaction of an aeroplane seatbelt with plenty of room to spare!
That holiday was also the start of my relationship with running – something that’s become a big part of my ongoing journey towards better health. My cousin, an avid runner, was clocking up miles along the sandy seafront every day, and I made the spontaneous decision to join in. Despite a bit of a rocky start which really made me realise how unfit I was, by the end of the holiday I was managing to keep pace and relishing those daily runs.
My love affair with running continued when I got home, and I was soon lacing up my trainers every Saturday morning for a three-mile run. I dragged my boyfriend along with me and encouraged my new friends from group to join in. Soon we’d created our own little running club, and working up a sweat with my Slimming World running squad is still my favourite way to kick off a weekend.
I’d never considered running for weight loss before but, as well as being a brilliant form of weight loss-boosting Body Magic, it has lots of health and wellbeing benefits. I especially love the feeling of achievement I get from improving mile by mile. And it fits in perfectly with Food Optimising, as I can eat all the protein and carbs I need to fuel my body properly. Potatoes, pasta and rice are regularly on my menu – while some diets see carbs are something to avoid, with Slimming World you can eat these energy-giving foods in unlimited quantities.
The winning combination of Food Optimising, group support and my new running routine meant that I reached my target weight of 8st 12½lbs within two years, losing more than 6st overall. By that point I felt so passionately about the power of Slimming World that I decided to train to be a Consultant. Since 2016 I’ve been running my own groups in Dundrum, Ireland, helping to support other members along their own weight loss journeys.
As for my own journey with Slimming World, I never thought it would take me as far as New York! In 2018 I represented Slimming World in the New York marathon – raising funds for the Irish Cancer Society, through Slimming World’s Smiles charity. It felt incredible to be able to do something to raise vital funds and awareness of a disease that affects so many people, myself included. And, of course, I felt super excited to be taking a bite of the Big Apple!
When I started on my road to better health, I couldn’t have predicted that it would lead me to becoming a Slimming World target member, working as a group Consultant and running the New York marathon. Slimming World helped me to lose weight and gain a whole new life!’
I love the fact that I can eat as much pasta as I want when Food Optimising, but spiralised courgette is a great alternative if you want to up your veg intake.
If you’re thinking of taking up running for weight loss – or any other form of Body Magic – don’t feel like you have to go full throttle from day one. Start gently, take it at your own pace and build up gradually.
Running with other people is a great motivator as you can encourage each other on low-energy days.
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.