I was on holiday with my friends last summer when I realised something had to change. The girls were all taking selfies in their bikinis, while I hid myself under a towel trying to avoid getting in the shot.

I’d heard about Slimming World through a friend, who’d said to me, ‘I’m going to join, get slim and get a boyfriend!’ – and I thought I’d give it a go, too. So here I am, 3st 4½lbs lighter, two dress sizes smaller and feeling fantastic!

I had never been particularly happy with the person staring back at me in photos. It wasn’t just holiday snaps – whenever I saw pictures of me with my slimmer friends, I’d wish I looked like them. I couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t overweight, and the pounds really crept on when I started secondary school.

Feeling self-conscious

I suffered from guttate psoriasis – a skin condition that causes outbreaks of red patches. It often occured after a throat infection and when it flared up, an itchy rash would spread across my whole body. It made me just want to stay indoors, so no one could see me.

I became more self-conscious about my weight when I went to university. I was studying to be a physiotherapist in Liverpool and felt that as a future healthcare professional, I ought to be slim and healthy. One day, I refused to go into class for a body mass index session because I was worried I’d be put on the scales. Another time we measured our blood sugar and mine was really high.

The turning point came when I attended a workshop about the impact that being overweight has on bones and joints. I remember listening to the lecturer, thinking, ‘Who am I to preach this to a patient when I’m overweight myself?’ That, and my holiday experience, were the triggers I needed.

Joining Slimming World

I joined my local Slimming World group and lost 6½lbs in my first week. My housemate joined too, and it really helped to follow the plan together. I soon got into the habit of planning my menu for the week ahead, cooking everything in low-calorie cooking spray and making sure I had lots of fresh fruit, veg and lean meat in the fridge.

At uni, you’re going to want to go on nights out or for food with friends, and you can – it’s just about making lower-Syn choices. Before I joined group, I’d drink cider or creamy cocktails – now I’ll have a shot of vodka or gin in a tall glass filled to the top with diet mixer.

When we went to Nandos I’d order a quarter serving of grilled peri-peri chicken breast for 3 Syns, plus a corn on the cob without butter and a plain mixed-leaf side salad, which are both Free.

I’d lost 1st 4lbs by December and went home to Ireland for Christmas excited about showing off my weight loss. So when nobody seemed to notice, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Instead of it affecting my motivation, though, it just made me even more determined that they’d notice next time.

What kept me going was setting myself mini goals for occasions where I wanted to look my best: Christmas, a university trip to Hamburg, Easter holidays.

My weight loss was a steady 1-3lbs a week and, although I did have a few gains along the way – after going to a festival or on a student trip – I’d get straight back on plan again. When I went home to visit my family in March, they really did notice the difference. Hearing them say, ‘Fair play, you’ve done so well!’ (and getting into my size-10 jeans!) felt really amazing.

Getting active

Discovering exercise that I enjoy has been a game-changer for me. I joined a gym for the first time and started with a weekly spinning class. As my fitness and confidence improved, I felt ready to try new types of exercise. I even completed a 120K cycle ride from Dublin to Kilkenny.

Since losing weight I'm more sociable, more confident and feel more professional. I feel in control of my life and I know I’m living each day to its fullest. I look and feel healthy and fit, and I know I’ll be able to set a good example to my patients – I can’t wait to get started.

Sarah’s day on a plate...

Before

Breakfast Pastry or chocolate bar and a coffee.

Lunch Ready-made BLT sandwich with a packet of crisps and a fizzy drink.

Dinner Shop-bought lasagne or pasta carbonara.

Snacks Family pack of crisps, bag of chocolate buttons, and full-fat houmous and crackers.

After

Breakfast Weetabix with skimmed milk and an apple.

Lunch Huge turkey salad, with home-made coleslaw and light salad cream from my Syn allowance.

Dinner Lean steak with carrots, peas and, of course, plenty of Slimming World chips.

Snacks Hi-fi bar (from group) and fresh fruit.

 

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