I feel like me again
Now 4st* slimmer, 33-year-old Chloe Walker from Brighton is brimming with energy to share with her two little girls. Here’s how she made healthy weight loss work around her growing family...
"Moving to work on an idyllic Caribbean island with my fiancé, Russell, was the adventure of a lifetime… and a disaster for my figure. I barely noticed the weight creeping on and when my size 10-12 bikinis became too tight, I simply bought bigger ones.
"In January 2012, with just six months to go until our wedding and a size-10 dress to fit into, I panicked! I went on a self-designed crash diet, existing on sushi and green tea. It was a pretty miserable way to live. By the time we returned to the UK for our wedding in June 2012, though, I’d lost 1st and managed to squeeze into my dress. We had a fantastic day and then honeymooned at an all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas.
"Back on the Cayman Islands, Russell and I fell into our happy routine again and in time we were ready for a new adventure – parenthood. We’d always planned to return home to bring up our children, so as my due date neared, Russell and I waved goodbye to the Caribbean and flew back to the UK.
"Back home, I decided to reacquaint myself with all the home comforts I’d missed, including fish and chips and sugary tea. By the time I was full term, my weight had gone up to 15st 7lbs. Although I knew it was natural to put on weight during pregnancy, I’d gained more than 4st and I felt really unhappy with my size. I knew it was down to my diet of treats as much as my growing baby.
"We were thrilled when our daughter, Bonnie, arrived safely in August 2014, weighing 6lbs 15oz – and I was so consumed with love for our little girl that my weight was the last thing on my mind.
"I only realised how bad things had got when I was invited on my first girls’ night out after having Bonnie. As I sat on the sidelines, watching my friends laughing and enjoying themselves on the dance floor, I longed to be the old, fun-loving me.
Finding new perspective
"Though I’d often pass our local church hall and see a Slimming World banner, I couldn’t quite muster the courage to go along. Then Russell and I had a conversation that really brought things into focus for me. We already knew we wanted to give Bonnie a brother or sister, and now we agreed that we’d like to start trying again soon. Suddenly everything was clear. ‘I’d like to be healthy this time,’ I told Russell. ‘I’m going to lose weight first.’
"So in May 2015, when Bonnie was nine months old, I finally took the plunge. On my first night at group, the Consultant, Hannah, gave me such a warm welcome that I wondered why I’d been worried about joining.
As I listened to the new-member talk, I realised this wasn’t a faddy diet – it was a way of re-educating myself about nutrition. I started by making simple changes such as swapping fatty high-Syn sausages for Syn-free Slimming World ones and replacing olive oil with low-calorie cooking spray.
"After a month at group, I was delighted to find I’d lost 5½lbs. Then something unexpected happened – I learned I was pregnant again. I was thrilled, of course, but there was something bothering me... I really didn’t want to go through another pregnancy with my weight spiralling out of control, risking weight-related complications. Yet I felt sure that when I told Hannah I was expecting, she’d advise me to stop Food Optimising. To my relief, she explained how Slimming World is the only weight-management organisation to work with the Royal College of Midwives. That means members who are pregnant or breastfeeding can safely continue to attend Slimming World to get the support to manage their weight healthily and avoid excess weight gain. After getting my midwife’s support, it was agreed I’d continue going to group and just follow some simple guidelines.
"Needless to say, my growing baby came first. In order to get enough energy and a good balance of nutrients, my Consultant advised me to double up on my daily Healthy Extras. So I had 500ml semi-skimmed milk each day and more portions of wholemeal bread. And all the unlimited Free and Speed Free Foods I was already eating meant I was having plenty of fruit and veg.
A welcome change
"As my pregnancy progressed, it was a world away from the last one. My baby bump was growing nicely, yet my arms and legs were becoming slimmer and I had so much more energy. Some people didn’t understand, though. Concerned friends and relatives asked me why I was ‘dieting’ during pregnancy. So I explained that rather than trying to lose weight, I was simply following a safe and healthy eating and exercise plan so that I could curb any excess weight gain and, in fact, have the healthiest pregnancy possible.
It was really reassuring to have my midwife on board. At every check-up, she was delighted with my blood-sugar and iron levels – and at one visit, she even said to me: ‘Well, whatever you’re doing, keep it up’.
"At six months, I went out and bought some size-14 maternity jeans and pretty maternity tops. For the first time as a mum, I felt stylish rather than frumpy. I was also full of energy, which meant I could enjoy my time with Bonnie more.
"In March 2016, three days after our second daughter, Tallulah, was born weighing 6lbs 14oz, I returned to group and took her with me. Everyone fussed over her and took it in turns to have cuddles as I stepped on the scales for my weigh-in.
"As I was breastfeeding, my Consultant talked me through the best way to Food Optimise to make sure I got the extra energy and calcium I needed, and gave me a leaflet explaining everything. I lost steadily each week, soon reaching my target weight of 10st 10lbs. I felt I could lose a little more, though, so I lowered my target to 9st 7lbs.
"It felt great to pack away my size-14 maternity jeans, and buy myself a new-mum outfit of size-12 skinny jeans, some lovely breastfeeding tops and comfy pumps for walking around with the double buggy. Russell really noticed the difference in me, too. Although he’d never commented on my weight before, now he kept telling me how good I looked. We started having regular date nights, going for dinner and dancing. I loved getting dressed up and feeling glamorous again.
"By the time we jetted off on our first family holiday to Spain in July 2016, I’d reached my final target of 9st 7lbs and had bought a whole new summer wardrobe. I felt so at ease in my size-10 bikinis; splashing around in the pool with Bonnie and Tallulah, rather than worrying how I looked. It wasn’t just about being slim; I felt like myself again.
"When I first had Bonnie I only walked small distances. Now I have my Platinum Body Magic award which I'm very proud of. I regularly walk four miles a few times a week and always try to clock up 10,000 steps a day using my fitness tracker. Pushing the girls around in their double buggy really helps to tone my legs, arms and shoulders, too. When we go to the park, beach or soft-play centre, I can run around without feeling tired – we have so much fun together. I attend group now as a target member and I know there’s no chance I’m letting go of my new habits and the inspiring people I’ve met there – the slim, happy, healthy Chloe is here to stay."
Online info for mums...
Slimming World is the only national weight-loss organisation to support women through their pregnancy and while breastfeeding. We’ve worked with the Royal College of Midwives to develop our policy for new mums and mums-to-be. You’ll find lots of information and expert advice about eating well, staying active and managing your weight at slimmingworld.co.uk/rcm
*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.