In a class of her own
Once bullied for being overweight, school teacher Anna Crooks is now confidently taking her place at the blackboard. Here’s how she lost more than 5st* and gained a new start in life.
“Throughout primary school I was the largest girl in my class, and the other kids in school made sure I knew it. My mum, Hilary, was always there to comfort me with cuddles and home cooked dinners when I’d had a bad day. I’d often fight with my two older brothers, Tom and Matt, for the biggest portion of Mum’s delicious spaghetti Bolognese or roast dinner and I’d never leave a scrap on my plate.
“I thought things would get better when I went to senior school. Instead, on my first day, one of my new classmates called me ‘fatty’ and I realised that, if anything, it was going to be even worse. Outside school, I was a member of a music group – the other kids didn’t judge me for what I looked like and it dawned on me that this was the way school should be. It was then I decided I wanted to become a teacher – I didn’t want anyone to feel as unhappy as I did at school.
“At 14, I underwent surgery to have the fluid drained from the cyst in my brain and I had to have part of my long brown hair shaved off – I was left with a scar and a permanent bald patch. With my confidence knocked even further, I turned to biscuits and chocolate for comfort. As time passed, my overeating became more of a habit than anything.
“Things changed again when I started my degree at Manchester University. Instead of going out and making new friends, like most first years, I hid away in my room and ate. Although all my mates were going out, meeting boys and starting relationships, I couldn’t imagine even looking at a guy I might like!
“The turning point came in January 2015, when my brother’s wife, Toria, explained how she’d lost 6½st with Slimming World. She looked like a new woman and kept telling Mum and me how easy it had been and that she’d never once felt hungry.
“I didn’t feel confident enough to go by myself, so I plucked up the courage to talk to Mum about it – I knew she wanted to lose weight, too, and to my delight she replied: ‘Yes, let’s stop putting it off and do it.’
“The moment we entered the hall, our Consultant, Anne, welcomed us with open arms and made us instantly feel part of a warm family. I was upset to find I weighed 13st 11lbs. Mum, meanwhile, weighed in at 15st 5lbs. Once we got home we looked through our books and started making a plan.
“I was back and forth from university and teaching placements, yet it was still easy to stick to. In the past, I’d often skip breakfast – now I was having lots of fresh fruit with fat-free natural yogurt. For lunch, I’d make my own soup or have a jacket potato with salad.
Mum and I found we could still have all our favourite evening meals – just tweaked slightly. When we made chilli, we’d use less than five per cent fat beef mince and have it with rice and loads of veg.
“Within a fortnight I’d lost 6½lbs and, despite Mum enjoying a week’s holiday, she’d dropped nearly 4lbs. I was so pleased for her and it was just the motivation we needed. During term time, I attended a group in Manchester, so I always had that support and if Mum was having a bad day, we’d spur each other on.
“By January 2016, I actually felt happy enough in myself to join an online dating site – I met someone I really liked. While Ryan was easy to chat to, I felt nervous when he suggested we should meet up. I put on a pair of size-10 skinny jeans and some killer heels – something I’d never been able to do before – and was thrilled when Ryan said how lovely I looked. When he asked if he could see me again, I felt like I was going to burst with excitement – I hope I did a good job of playing it cool!
“A month later, after I’d lost more than 4½st, Mum had her 60th birthday party. I hadn’t seen a lot of my relatives since before I joined Slimming World, and most of them did a double take! Two months later, in April 2016, I got to my target weight of 8st 11lbs. The group burst into applause and cheered when Anne announced it – I couldn’t stop smiling and Mum gave me a massive hug.
“Last September, I started my first teaching job. Instead of being haunted by the memories of my school days, I was brimming with confidence, keen to show children that school can be a fun and happy place for everyone.
“Life is good now. I still go to group and I even started hula hooping recently as part of my Body Magic routine. My relationship with Ryan is going brilliantly and we’ve just started running together, too. If someone had told me two years ago I could be this happy, I’d never have believed them. And I know the best is yet to come.
‘I’m so glad we did it together’
Anna’s mum, Hilary, 61, has lost 5st 12lbs*.
“From the minute Anna was born, she had an insatiable appetite. When the doctors explained she had a cyst on her brain and could need surgery, that became my priority and I didn’t really worry about her weight.
“Naturally, though, we were upset when Anna came home from school in tears because she was being bullied. We hated seeing our sweet-natured little girl so unhappy. Looking back, I realise I wasn’t helping by using so much butter and cream in my cooking.
“When Anna suggested we both join Slimming World, I jumped at the chance. I’d put on a few stone over time and I wanted to do something that would help my daughter. I’m so glad we did it together. If I ever felt tempted to slip back into old habits, Anna would suggest healthy ways I could satisfy my cravings and that really helped keep me on track.
“I weigh 9st 7lbs now, I’m wearing size-10 clothes and I feel absolutely marvellous. The real reward, though, has been watching my daughter transform from a shy and self-conscious girl into a confident young woman who’s happily taking her own place in the world – that’s all any parent ever wants.”
*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.