I've come back fighting
When faced with a devastating health diagnosis, 34-year-old Karen Scales had two choices – give up or keep losing weight. Here’s how she found the strength to carry on and shape her future. She's lost a jaw-dropping 9st*.
"Clutching my husband Harry’s hand, I waited for the specialist to speak. From the look on his face, I could tell that my test results had confirmed his suspicions. ‘I need to let you know that you have multiple sclerosis,’ he said. The room began to spin. I was only 30 years old and I had two young children who needed their mum. How could this be happening?
"When I was finally able to speak, all I could think to say was: ‘Am I going to die?’. The specialist shook his head firmly and reassured me. When I asked him what I could do to help myself, he gently suggested that losing weight might help me manage my symptoms. His advice came as no surprise to me – I was 16st and had already started my journey with Slimming World.
Give up... or give my all?
"All I could think about was how it might affect me as a mum. In those early weeks, many of my friends and family suggested I stop going to group. ‘You’ve got enough to deal with at the moment,’ they’d say. ‘Give yourself a break.’ I knew they were only trying to be kind as they could see how much pain I was in on a daily basis, but I was determined not to give up.
Staying on plan became my focus. I couldn’t control what the disease was doing to me, so instead I wanted to show my body the love and care it deserved by taking control of my weight.
"Food planning, keeping track of what I ate and making all of our meals from scratch also gave me a project when I desperately needed something to occupy my mind. And, when everyone realised I was determined to stick with it, they all rallied round to help. If the pain was too intense for me to drive to group, a friend would pick me up and ferry me there, and my dad would step in when she wasn’t around – between them, they made sure I never missed a week.
"Meanwhile, my eating habits had been thoroughly transformed. I’d start my day with overnight oats, then for lunch I’d have home-made vegetable soup or a huge chicken salad and finish it off with some fruit. For dinner, I’d make a family-friendly Slimming World spaghetti Bolognese or chicken fried rice, for example. Harry and I didn’t even have to give up our Friday-night takeaway – I’d order myself grilled chicken skewers and we’d share a small portion of chips for a fraction of the Syns of what I used to order.
Thanks to Syns, I never had to go a day without chocolate! I love sitting down with my cup of tea and a Cadbury Freddo for 5 Syns, or a chocolate teacake for 5½ Syns, as a daily treat.
"I’ll never forget my first annual check-up in July 2013. ‘Come through and we’ll get you weighed,’ the nurse said. When I’d stepped on the scales, she looked me up and down and then flicked through her notes, frowning. As she asked me to confirm my name and date of birth, I realised she didn’t recognise me from the weight in my notes. ‘It’s me, I’ve lost another 5st!’ I announced proudly. ‘Blimey, I thought you’d sent somebody else!’ she said, laughing. Just after that, the specialist walked in and his jaw dropped, too! In that moment, I felt so proud of what I’d managed to do for myself in the past year.
Since then, I’ve lost another stone – 9st in total – bringing me to my target weight. I firmly believe staying to group was my secret to getting here and I still go every week without fail – there’s no way on earth I’m going to put those stones back on.
Looking to the future
"Losing weight has been truly life-changing. I do have dark days and my symptoms can vary hugely from one week to the next. I’m sure, though, that if I were still 9st heavier I’d be finding everyday life so much harder than I am now – I rarely need my stick and I’ve never had to use a wheelchair.
"It may sound crazy, but even though everything has changed beyond belief since my diagnosis, I’m actually happier. Why? Because I’m so proud of myself for losing the weight that had been holding me back, and which would have made my life more difficult now. With loads more confidence and a positive attitude, I feel ready to face whatever the future may bring. And, through maintaining a healthy weight, I know I’m continuing to give myself the best chance I can to live a long, full and happy life as I watch my beautiful children grow up."
*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.