‘Should I assume we have happy news and that’s not just a fat tummy?’ The customer was smiling so I laughed off the comment, but obviously I felt embarrassed – especially as a queue had formed. Still, it was an easy mistake to make as my tummy often got in the way of my work as a shoe repairer. It wasn’t the first time I’d had weight-related issues at work, either. Once I’d got stuck in a pair of big knickers that I was trying on behind the machinery! Again, I’d laughed about it with my colleagues, but this comment was the final straw – I needed to make a change.

Old habits

My weight had been fairly steady after having my daughter, Eleanor, 11, but it started to creep up around six years ago – due to a combination of unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. I’d skip breakfast, then at work I’d eat doorstop bread slathered with butter and cheese before grazing on biscuits, chocolate and donuts. A typical dinner would be lasagne or pie and chips at the pub, often with several wines or a couple of beers. As a result I’d reached 14st 9Ibs, which affected not only my health but also my mood and self-esteem.

I felt tired and low all the time, and was stuck in a vicious cycle of eating to make myself feel better – which, of course, in the end made me feel worse! I’d even spoil nice occasions as I’d be so snappy while getting ready, purely out of frustration that clothes didn’t fit me the way I wanted them to. My 37th birthday was a real low point. Despite being treated to a trip to York, I couldn’t fully enjoy myself because I didn’t feel good in my outfit.

Lifestyle shake-up

I’d tried loads of diets over the years – from cabbage soup to skinny coffee – but I’d found them too restrictive and unsustainable. Slimming World seemed to be the exact opposite: it was a healthy lifestyle change. I decided to join Slimming World Online to keep me on track between group sessions. The online tools are really useful, and the app makes it so easy to check Syns. Plotting my results on the weight loss chart helped to keep me focused, too.

To begin with, Eleanor and my partner, John, ate separately, but once they saw me cooking Slimming World-friendly breakfast muffins, dirty fries and Nutella French toast, they obviously wanted what I was having. It’s so easy to adapt family favourites with Slimming World – using 5% fat mince, low-calorie cooking spray for frying and skipping the cheese when making a cottage pie, for example. Even my colleagues are eating better as I’m no longer taking chocolate and cakes into the shop. If I fancy something sweet, I’ll snack on fruit, meringue nests with fruit and fat-free natural yogurt, or reduced-fat ice cream. Oreo Thins are another favourite, as they come in individually-portioned packets that stop me from getting carried away!

As the pounds dropped off, my energy levels improved and I felt able to add exercise into my life. I started taking long walks in the fresh air with Eleanor and John – eventually building up to 10-mile hikes. These are sometimes followed by a roast dinner or a ‘fakeaway’ Thai green curry, and even the odd gin and tonic in the pub (using my Syns, of course!).

Clothes confidence

As well as discovering a new love of the great outdoors, one of the best things about my weight loss is that I can enjoy clothes again. When I’d lost 3st 8lbs, I went shopping to replace my old size-18 wardrobe with size 10s. I don’t even hesitate over buying skinny jeans now – I take them straight to the checkout without worrying about having to return them the next day. When I was bigger, I dreaded special occasions – now I get excited about them. I recently bought a beautiful blue dress from Coast for a family christening and felt fantastic!

Now that I have my target weight in sight, there’s no way I’d go back to my old eating habits. I no longer have to work around my tummy when I’m repairing shoes, and my customers are full of compliments – I’m told how nice I look instead of being asked when the baby is due!

Maryanne shares the tips that helped her to achieve weight loss success

  • As a busy working mum, I’m all for taking shortcuts to make cooking quicker and easier – I use microwave veg bags and batch cook easy meals like curry or chicken stew so that I always have something healthy in the freezer.

  • Let the online community support you! I’m really motivated by the success stories on Slimming World Online, and I have 1,000 Instagram followers at slimmingworld_mez80 who celebrate my own successes with me.

  • When you’re following Slimming World, you don’t need to give up the things you enjoy. We still socialise at the village pub and eat out once or twice a month – I just use the app to help me make healthier choices.

  • No one wants to be cooking separate meals for different family members. Adapting your family’s favourite recipes so they’re Food Optimising friendly will make your life easier and mean that you’re all eating more healthily, too.

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