All change for Charlotte
Student life sent Charlotte Fellows’ weight soaring. Now she’s lost 5st 10lbs*, fired up her fitness and bagged herself a gorgeous new boyfriend into the bargain.
"For years I was too self-conscious about my size to speak to boys. I assumed that even if I did talk to them, they wouldn’t be interested in me – especially as sometimes lads would comment on how big I was. While these strangers didn’t seem to have a problem talking about my weight, it was more difficult for my family. I think I would have listened to my mum if she’d told me how worried she was, but she kept quiet because she didn’t want to hurt my feelings. She knew how low I felt and, understandably, didn’t want to make me feel worse.
"The bigger I got, the more my confidence shrank. I found clothes shopping embarrassing. I’d go into Topshop and compare myself with other girls trying on their skimpy outfits, then get upset in the changing room because I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. The worst time was when I was on a trip to Las Vegas with my mum; we went to Urban Outfitters for a treat and I couldn’t find a single item of clothing that fitted me. I sobbed and sobbed, thinking ‘I’m 19 – this is the time of my life when I should be looking my best and instead I feel humiliated about my body’.
"It was when I got to university that I really started to struggle. The main problem was my nightlife. I ate OK during the day, then I’d go out with friends and at 3am, after a few drinks, we’d all buy a takeaway. Ironically, I always chose a diet cola with my burger and fries! The late-night extras soon had an impact and by the end of my first year, the weight had really piled on.
"When I saw an old high-school picture of myself on Facebook, I was devastated. I looked much slimmer and now, here I was, two years older and 3st heavier. I was trying to squeeze into size-14 clothes and refusing to admit I really needed a size 16. I immediately began calorie counting and, although I lost a few pounds, I knew I needed more support to make a real difference. That’s when my aunt suggested Slimming World. She had lost 2st in six months by Food Optimising and encouraged me to give it a go.
The start of the 'new' me
"I made losing weight my New Year’s resolution for 2014. I’d dipped in and out of fad diets in the past, like the fruit detox where I ate nothing but grapes for three days and a no-carbs plan that was just horrendous! Now, I was determined to slim down sensibly and for good. I joined a group in my hometown of Chester at first and my lovely mum came along for support. Then, when I returned to university for the spring term, I went to my local group in Headingley with a friend.
I remember reading through all the books my aunt had given to me and having this feeling that Slimming World was an opportunity to change my life. All I had to do was stick to the plan and I’d see results.
"At group for the first time, it struck me that everyone seemed like friends; there was no competition, just support. I’d been nervous because, at 19, I thought I might be the youngest there. I needn’t have worried – not only were there other girls in their teens, I also discovered the whole group shared similar feelings and experiences, whatever their age. One member had put on a couple of pounds that week and not one person judged her; they understood exactly how it felt. I immediately felt safe from humiliation and knew I could come back the next week whatever happened. The encouragement from the other members and Holly, my Consultant, has been amazing.
"I lost 4lbs in my first week and a stone in the first month. I felt on top of the world when I got my Club 10 award soon after! I’ve found the plan really easy to stick to, even with a student budget (and lifestyle!). For a start, I always make sure I have plenty of quick ‘go-to’ food in the fridge, like sliced ham and chicken and hard-boiled eggs, so I’m never tempted to buy an unhealthy snack or fast food. I also plan my main meals for the week and build lots of flexibility into my menus. I’ll buy lean mince and think of two meals I could cook with it – that way I can make lasagne if I don’t fancy the chilli I’ve scheduled.
And I’ve learned to be clever about when I go grocery shopping, hitting the supermarket in the evening when more expensive fresh food like fish or lean meat is reduced. That way I can snap up a bargain to cook with or freeze for another day.
"Knowing the Syn value of foods has completely changed my eating habits. Before I joined Slimming World, it never occurred to me to worry about that extra beer or glass of wine – in my head, drinks didn’t really count. It was the same with those late-night takeaways – I didn’t see them as real food, so I could almost pretend I hadn’t had them. Now I’m a lot more conscious of what I’m eating – and drinking. I go for low-Syn vodka and diet mixer instead of large glasses of wine; that way my Syns stretch further and I enjoy myself more knowing I’ll still have a loss at my next weigh-in. Eating out is as enjoyable as it was before – I just choose more wisely from the menu, ordering simply cooked meat and lots of veg, rather than bread, pasta and creamy sauces.
"My high point was going on holiday and losing half a stone! I’d been island-hopping around Greece for three weeks and had loads of fun – I just made smart food choices. I’d eat salad for lunch, then grilled chicken for dinner and I’d use my Syns for something sweet afterwards. By August 2014, eight months after joining Slimming World, I’d reached my original target of 10st. I was a size 12, but still felt I could lose more, so I set a new target weight of 9st.
The first time I had a gain, it really got to me. I put on 2lbs earlier this year and felt so defeated – why now, when I’d never gained before? I decided to go back to basics and really commit to sticking to plan 100 per cent. Sure enough, the weight came off again the following week.
These days, I’m averaging a loss of ½lb a week. It can be frustrating that it’s not more, especially as I had such a flying start, but the numbers on the scales are still going in the right direction and I’m so close to target, nothing is going to stop me now.
A summer of success
"I want a six-pack before the end of summer! When I was younger I’d play football and go to the gym, but that all stopped when I went to university. Now, thanks to Body Magic, I’ve rediscovered my love of fitness. I go to the gym five or six times a week and I also go running. My goal is to be able to run 10km – I’m up to 7km now. When I first joined the gym, my mum took me shopping for some exercise gear and it was mortifying; the leggings were incredibly tight and all the tops seemed so clingy! I knew I couldn’t let that stop me, though, so I’d head to the gym at 8pm when it was quieter and fewer people could see me. I muddled along at first, not sure what I was doing, then gradually gained confidence. Now I’m happy in my Lycra and I don’t care who sees me!
I’ve now got a wonderful boyfriend, Josh, who I met just after losing my first stone. We’ve been together for a year and a bit and he jokes he’s an unofficial member because he eats all the same meals.
Without Slimming World, I would never have had the courage even to speak to Josh, let alone get to know him well enough to form a relationship. We're both living in Spain for four months this summer and I'm still Food Optimising – even with all the temptation of ice-cream and tapas. Inspired by my Slimming World journey, I'm starting a second degree in nutrition next year – I can't wait. I always hoped that losing weight would boost my confidence and my belief in myself – what I didn’t expect was that it would do the same for my love life!"
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose
You'll find more delicious recipe and menu ideas at your local group, along with all the help you need to get started and reach your target weight.