Fitter, healthier, happier… Here’s how mum-of-two Rasha Saberi from Kingston-upon-Thames lost more than 3st* and bounced back to her fabulous best. She's 30-years-old and is 5ft 4ins tall.
"Falling in love and having two babies are the best things that have ever happened to me – and the worst things to happen to my waistline! I met my husband, Arash, at university, and getting to know each other involved dates at restaurants or enjoying homecooked dinners together. My weight gain wasn’t drastic; I just got a bit too comfortable and didn’t notice the pounds creeping onto my size-10 frame.
"I felt fine about my weight until Lilyana was 11 months old and I was invited to a family wedding. I wanted to look good in my outfit – and in the photos – and I resorted to quick-fix meal-replacement shakes to slim down a little. I felt weak, irritable and had no energy, yet somehow I pushed through all that and managed to lose a stone in a few weeks… but I quickly put back on everything I’d lost as soon as I started eating normally again. That was in June 2010 and my weight yo-yoed for the next two years, until I fell pregnant with my son, Aryan.
"As my weight crept back up, my confidence plummeted and I began to feel nervous and anxious. It was easier to hide myself away, refusing invitations to nights out and staying at home with Arash and the children instead. I longed to be able to wear skinny jeans and sleeveless tops. As a curvy size 16, though, I resorted to an everyday ‘uniform’ that covered me up and sucked me in.
"The day my go-to outfit stopped feeling comfortable was the day that I decided something had to change. It was May 2014 – I remember looking in the mirror and noticing that I was only just squeezing into my trusty khaki jeans, and that my favourite cover-up cardigan no longer covered me up! As I stared in shock at my reflection, I remembered a friend saying she’d lost weight with Slimming World. So I went online to find my local group, called another friend who I thought might come with me, and we decided to go along that same evening.
After hearing about how the eating plan worked, I went home and read my new Food Optimising book cover to cover. From the very start, I realised this was a way of eating I could maintain for life and that it could fit in with my family, too.
"I lost 4lbs in my first week and the weight just continued to come off. I’m quite a methodical person and I like planning meals, so I found making shopping lists and keeping a food diary really helpful. I learned to recreate my favourite Iranian dishes without oil by making them in a slow cooker. And whenever I did get stuck, my group was on hand with their support and advice.
"I reached my initial 10st 7lbs target in September 2014, four months after joining. I was thrilled – even on my previous quick-fix diets, I’d never got down to less than 11st. Knowing I could be slimmer and still enjoy proper food was amazing, and I thought, ‘I can’t just let this go’.
"At first, I found maintaining my target much harder than losing weight in the first place and I’d get cross with myself each time I had a gain. For example, at one point I’d actually slipped a little below target and weighed 10st 3lbs. Then I went on holiday, stopped going to group for a while, lost some of my focus and stopped weighing my Healthy Extras. When I finally went back to my group three months later and stepped on the scales, I was 10st 10½lbs – I’d gained more than half a stone! That really shocked me and I felt I was losing everything I’d worked so hard for. My Consultant helped me go back to basics and I started a food diary like the one I’d kept when I first joined. That week I lost 3½lbs, getting me back on track. In September 2015, I decided to reset my goal to 10st, and I achieved it three months later.
There are still some weeks when I find it difficult to stay on plan. When I’m feeling this way, I ask my Consultant if I can sit in while she explains the plan to new members. That really reaffirms my commitment to keeping the weight off.
"Even now I’m at target, I like to stay for the whole group session to hear everyone’s success stories; they’re always such an inspiration. And if someone is struggling, I can sometimes offer advice, because I’ve felt like that, too, and come through it.
"Just a couple of months after joining Slimming World, after I’d lost almost 2st, I began to have more energy and feel more confident about myself. I decided to venture out with the children for short walks in Richmond Park, near where we live. Then, when Aryan started nursery, I suddenly had a few hours to myself each morning. I decided I’d use the time to go for longer, faster walks, and set myself the goal of crossing the whole width of Richmond Park – about two-and-a-half miles.
Exercise started to feel different – more rewarding. After a little while, I could cross the park easily. It was such a great feeling and it gave me the confidence to take on the challenge of training for a Race for Life run.
"I also go to a Clubbercise class: a kind of dance aerobics that you do in a darkened room with disco lights, waving glow sticks! A few members were talking about it at group last winter and, because running in the cold and rain wasn’t very appealing, I thought I’d give it a go. I have two left feet and no co-ordination – I always seem to be heading in a different direction to everyone else – but I love it! I go with a few other Slimming World members and it feels like a girls’ night out.
"Losing weight has allowed me to be my true self. There’s no hiding away any more. I love social events, and being invited out is a joy now that I actually enjoy getting dressed up. My next goal is my career. Before I had my children I completed a degree in interior design, though I always had an excuse for not starting up a business. After losing 3st, I finally have the confidence to go for it! I can’t wait to see what happens next..."
Dinner for four
Here’s how Rasha gets her whole family excited about healthy eating.
Finding dishes we can all enjoy together has been surprisingly easy. My kids love getting involved in the kitchen. They’ll help me by peeling the oranges for a fruit salad or assembling their own healthier pizzas.
Themed meals are another way we keep things interesting. For Mexican night, I’ll make a Slimming World chilli con carne. The children and Arash will have theirs with a wholemeal wrap, while I’ll spoon mine into leaves of romaine lettuce, with chopped tomatoes and my Healthy Extra cheese. I’ll also bring out the chopsticks for Chinese night or I’ll make fish and chips – baked salmon fillets topped with extra-light soft cheese and crushed Ryvita Thins, served with Slimming World chips and broccoli. It’s the kids’ favourite.
My favourite Iranian dishes still get a look-in – I make marinades for meat using delicious Syn-free ingredients and use low-calorie cooking spray when frying. And, instead of cooking my rice the traditional way, adding lots of oil at the end to give it a crispy base, I do it in my slow cooker, which helps the base crisp up all by itself.
Turning a dinner into an occasion makes all of us appreciate the food we’re eating, and we love sitting around the table as a family. Arash has benefited from the Slimming World effect, too. He’s lost 1st 7lbs since I joined group, just by enjoying our tasty new family recipes.
*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.