I've found a new happy
Growing up with a chronically ill twin sister, Lisa Young from Pickering, North Yorkshire tried not to dwell on her weight – until the unthinkable happened. Here’s how she went on to lose more than 9st* and treat every day as a new chance.
"For as long as I can remember, my weight was always the elephant in the room – something everyone (especially me) was aware of, yet never talked about. Emma and I were born in January 1987 as non-identical twins. Soon after, she became very ill and lost weight rapidly.
"When we were six months old, the reason behind Emma’s ill health finally became clear. She had cystic fibrosis, a condition that causes your lungs and digestive system to become clogged with mucus. There was – and still is – no cure, and she was put on tablets and medication to control it.
"As we grew up, Emma and I couldn’t have been more different but we both ate exactly the same – we had a shared sweet tooth and loved fizzy drinks and chocolate. While this led to me being the biggest girl in our class, Emma still struggled to put on weight, and I can remember being conscious of the difference in our sizes from as young as six.
"My low self-esteem followed me to secondary school, and when our friends started inviting Emma and I shopping, I dreaded it. No matter how bad these things made me feel, I couldn’t talk about it, not even to Emma. I was too embarrassed to put it into words. If my weight did come up, a nearby adult would just smile and say, ‘It’s who you are, Lisa, big and bubbly. You’re lovely’.
Student life – and loss
"When I went to college to study floristry and started going on nights out, I turned to fad diets to shift my excess weight. I managed to lose a stone on mealreplacement shakes, then as soon as I started eating again, I put it straight back on, plus another stone.
"Then, in November 2009, something happened that shattered my world. Emma passed away. She was my best friend, the other half of me, and now she was gone. My grief was breathtaking. Desperate to seek comfort wherever I could, I turned to food. Before long, my size-20 clothes were too tight and I was too heartbroken to care.
"In October 2010, I met Michael outside a pub where we were both waiting for friends. Because we lived in a small area, I was surprised I hadn’t seen him before. I was attracted by his kind face and when we started chatting, we connected instantly. After our first date, we were inseparable.
"Just as it had been with Emma, the one thing I couldn’t talk to Michael about was my weight and to my size, it didn’t mean I was comfortable in my body – far from it. As time went by, I began to realise how badly I was damaging my health with my constant overeating. I had asthma and needed my inhaler two or three times a day. And my legs were constantly sore from carrying around so much weight. I was so ashamed. Emma hadn’t been able to help being ill, whereas it was my choices that were making me unwell. I felt as though I was letting my gorgeous sister down.
A warm welcome to Slimming World
"I first heard about Slimming World on Facebook. Almost on impulse, I decided to go along to my nearest group. I didn’t tell anyone, not even Michael because, although I wanted to lose weight, I wasn’t convinced I could do it. I’d tried before and failed.
"On my first evening at group in July 2014, I was terrified. I thought I’d be made to read my weight out to everyone – I decided if that happened I’d just walk out. Of course, it never came to that – it was completely private.
I felt better when our Consultant, Linda, sat down with me and the other new members and said, ‘If you follow this plan, you will lose weight’. She said it with such conviction and understanding, I believed her.
"Once I’d studied my Food Optimising book at home, I realised it was perfect for me. I followed the plan to the letter and, just as Linda promised, I lost weight – a stone in three weeks. I thought my losses might stop after that, and while they did slow down, I carried on losing around a stone a month for six months.
"I’d have porridge with fruit for breakfast, followed by home-made soup or salad for lunch and lots of healthy snacks, and I’d finish the day with a recipe from the Slimming World cookbooks – curry, stew or (my favourite) sticky chicken. Because it’s made with honey, it really satisfies my sweet tooth – worth it for a few Syns!
"In December 2014, customers started to comment on my changing shape. I was delighted – and not just because of the kind words. My healthier lifestyle was paying off. I was sleeping better and waking up full of energy. My leg pains had vanished and I barely needed my inhaler. Life suddenly felt more positive.
A different reflection
"I decided it was time to celebrate by investing in some new clothes. It was so much fun to pick up clothes that were pretty rather than just functional – and to find they fitted me!
Now I weigh 10st 1lb, I’m a size 10 and a completely different person. Rather than slumping on the sofa as soon as I get home from work, I’m always on the go, either swimming or going for long walks with Michael.
"He’s been so supportive. He was always there to congratulate me on my losses and to pick me up on the rare week when I had a gain – as were Linda and the rest of my group. I feel I’m better at my job, too; because I’m much more energetic, I get loads more done. I know Emma would be so proud of everything I’ve achieved.
"It’s taking my brain time to catch up with my body and I still have moments of panic where I think I won’t be able to fit into a seat, or that I’ll be the biggest person in the room. Then I’ll catch a glimpse of a slim woman in the florist-shop window and realise, after a second or two, that it’s me."
*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.