My future's bright
Gaining weight put Ellie Songu-Mbriwa’s life on pause. The 21-year-old from Cleveland, Middlesbrough is now 2st 9lbs slimmer and with an unshakable confidence, she’s making the most of every moment.
“Throughout my childhood and early teens, I’d always been slim and I loved the fresh, tasty food Dad used to cook for us. Then, at 16, when I started studying for my A levels, I got a job in the pizza restaurant where Mum worked as a manager – from then I would eat at least one 10inch pizza on every shift. Now, with my own money to spend, too, there was nothing stopping me picking up fish and chips between classes.
“My body changed quickly and I went up three dress sizes in around 18 months. All my friends were slim and fashionable and I started comparing myself to them whenever we went out. I felt so self-conscious. Then, my whole world turned upside down when my grandad passed away and not long after, Mum and Dad split up. I developed anxiety and depression and felt like I couldn’t cope – I dropped out of my A levels.
“Occasionally I tried to slim down, usually by trying whichever fad promised the fastest results – weight loss supplements, waist-cinching corsets and I even downloaded an app to slim down my photos on my phone – nothing made me feel better.
“It was my older sister Emma, who helped me discover that losing weight didn’t have to be torture. ‘I’ve lost a stone at Slimming World’, she told me. ‘You should come with me.’ I wasn’t sure. My nana and great aunt were members so it didn’t seem somewhere I’d fit in. Swallowing my nerves and walking into group, I saw girls my own age chatting with other members and I didn’t feel out of place at all.
I was amazed to find I could eat pasta and lose weight – it sounded like the perfect plan for me.
“I started having big cooked breakfasts using low calorie spray, a tomato-based pasta dish for lunch and stir-fries with beef, noodles and lots of veg for dinner. In a few weeks I’d lost half a stone!
“Sadly, I started letting life get in the way. I began a law degree and one of my classes clashed with group so I stopped going. I lost all motivation and gained back the weight I’d lost. I dropped out of uni and was on the verge of hiding myself away again.
“That’s when it dawned on me – I was having fish and chips one evening when I started craving the fresh, healthy food I’d been cooking while Food Optimising. ‘This time I want to focus on changing my whole attitude to food’, I said to my Consultant Clare.
I threw myself back into group!
“To keep me on track at work, I got creative with lunches making Healthy Extra ‘b’ wraps and adding Syn-free pizza toppings, like tomatoes, mushrooms and chicken or I’d microwave a jacket potato and fill it with beans and serve with a salad. What a difference losing that first stone made – I felt so pleased and confident that I could hush those critical voices in my head.
“When I turned 21, I celebrated by going to a festival in London with a couple of friends – I went completely off plan but I realised a gain doesn’t have to mean giving up. I got straight back on plan and achieved my target of 9st 12lbs. Everyone in group was clapping so loudly, you’d think they all got to target, too!
“Everything has changed for me since losing weight, including the way I look, feel and act. When I’m out with my friends, I no longer feel the need to compare myself to them. Short skirts, skinny jeans – for the first time I’m happy with whichever outfit I choose. It’s not just about having a size-8 figure that I don’t mind showing off – my wardrobe oozes confidence because I do, too. I’m now completing my law degree and I can’t wait to see what the future will bring!”
*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.