Sarah in the spotlight
With a new-found love of fitness, an ever better social life and a promising career on the horizon, 23-year-old Sarah Delaney from Mullingar, County Westmeath is stepping out of the shadows after losing more than 3st*.
"I was on holiday with my friends last summer when I realised something had to change. The girls were all taking selfies in their bikinis, while I hid myself under a towel trying to avoid getting in the shot. Although I enjoyed spending time with them in beautiful California, my fun was marred by feeling so uncomfortable. I heard about Slimming World through a friend, who said to me, ‘I’m going to join, get slim and get a boyfriend!’ – and I thought I’d give it a go, too. So here I am, 3st 4½lbs lighter, two dress sizes smaller and feeling fantastic!
"I’d never been particularly happy with the person staring back at me in photographs. It wasn’t just holiday snaps – whenever I saw pictures of me with my slimmer friends, I’d wish I looked like them. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t overweight, and the pounds really crept on when I started secondary school and bought all my food from the canteen.
"I suffered from guttate psoriasis – a skin condition that causes outbreaks of red patches. It often occured after a throat infection and when it flared up, an itchy rash would spread across my whole body. It made me just want to stay indoors, so no one could see me.
"I became more self-conscious about my weight when I went to university. I was studying to be a physiotherapist and felt that as a future healthcare professional, I ought to be slim and healthy. Instead, my tunic was so tight I could hardly breathe. One day, I refused to go into class for a body mass index session because I was worried I’d be put on the scales. Another time we measured our blood sugar and mine was really high. The turning point came when I attended a workshop about the impact that being overweight has on bones and joints. I remember listening to the lecturer, thinking, ‘Who am I to preach this to a patient when I’m overweight myself?’. That, and my holiday experience, were the triggers I needed.
Joining Slimming World
"In October 2015, I walked into group for the first time feeling so nervous – and walked out feeling totally motivated. My Consultant Adam’s new-member talk really inspired me and I came back a week later with a 6½lb loss!
My housemate joined Adam’s group with me, and it really helped to follow the plan together and share meal ideas. I soon got into the habit of planning my menu for the week ahead, cooking everything in low-calorie cooking spray and making sure I had lots of fresh fruit, veg and lean meat in the fridge.
"At uni, you’re going to want to go on nights out or for food with friends, and you can – it’s just about making lower-Syn choices. Before I joined group, I’d drink cider or creamy cocktails – now I’ll have a shot of vodka or gin in a tall glass filled to the top with diet mixer.
"One of my friends and I had got into the habit of making a regular trip to Nando’s and I thought I’d have to give it up. Then my friends at group explained how I could still enjoy my chicken treat by making healthier choices. Instead of having half a chicken, chips and garlic bread, I’ll order a quarter serving of grilled peri-peri chicken breast for 3 Syns, plus a corn on the cob without butter and a plain mixed-leaf side salad, which are both Free – and I enjoy it just as much.
"I’d lost 1st 4lbs by December and went home to Ireland for Christmas excited about showing off my weight loss. So when nobody seemed to notice, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Instead of it affecting my motivation, though, it just made me even more determined that they’d notice next time. My original aim was to lose 2st, which I did by March. I then reset my target to 10st 5lbs – and achieved it in April. Then four weeks later I reached my final target of 9st 9lbs – and I was ecstatic!
What kept me going was setting myself mini goals for occasions where I wanted to look my best: Christmas, a university trip to Hamburg, Easter holidays.
"My weight loss was a steady 1-3lbs a week and, although I did have a few gains along the way, after going to a festival or on a student trip, I’d get straight back on plan again. This time when I went home to visit my family in March, they really did notice the difference. Hearing them say, ‘Fair play, you’ve done so well!’ (and getting into my size-10 jeans!) felt really amazing.
"My sister, Nichola, is three years older than me and, growing up, I admit I felt envious of her figure. She never seemed to struggle with her weight like I did, and that affected our relationship at times. Throughout my weight loss she’s been so supportive and proud, texting me to find out how I’m doing and how many pounds I’ve lost each week – and that’s meant everything to me.
"Discovering exercise that I enjoy has been a gamechanger for me. In February, I joined a gym for the first time and started with a weekly spinning class. As my fitness and confidence improved, I felt ready to try new types of exercise. Now I do strength and cardio training – and I’m so much more toned. I’ve just completed a 120K cycle ride from Dublin to Kilkenny for Alzheimer’s Society, riding alongside my mum, two of my aunts and my uncle. It was a really special achievement because we did it for my grandmother, who is suffering from the disease, and raised £5,000 between us.
"Since losing weight I'm more organised, more sociable, more confident and I feel more professional. I’m currently applying for jobs, going to the gym regularly, helping out in a friend’s clothes shop and shadowing physios to gain more on-the-job experience. I feel in control of my life and I know I’m living each day to its fullest. I look and feel healthy and fit, and I know I’ll be able to set a good example to my patients – I can’t wait to get started."
Sarah’s day on a plate...
Breakfast Pastry or chocolate bar and a coffee
Lunch Ready-made BLT sandwich with a packet of crisps and a fizzy drink
Dinner Shop-bought lasagne or pasta carbonara
Snacks Family pack of crisps, bag of chocolate buttons, and full-fat houmous and crackers
Breakfast Weetabix with skimmed milk and an apple
Lunch Huge turkey salad, with home-made coleslaw and light salad cream from my Syn allowance
Dinner Lean steak with carrots, peas and, of course, plenty of Slimming World chips
Snacks Hi-fi bar (from group) and fresh fruit
*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.