The student's guide to slimming
How Vicky Davies lost almost 4st while studying for her degree – without missing out on a moment of uni life...
"They call it the Fresher 15 – when you put on 15lbs in your first year at university – but, to be honest, I easily gained double that!
"I had always been ‘curvier’ than my friends and I steadily put on more weight from the age of 16. When it came to the end of that first year, though, I knew that if people were going to describe our group of friends it would be ‘the blonde one, the brunette one… and the big one’. If the girls were going for a night out on the town, I’d hardly ever join them, because I couldn’t find anything to wear that I felt nice in. I had no self-confidence and I’d get out of breath just walking round the hilly streets in Sheffield.
"In April 2011, both my grandads passed away. I was devastated and my way of coping with the loss was to eat everything in sight. At one point, I did try joining a gym, but I felt the fitness instructor made derogatory comments about my size. Needless to say, I never went back.
"One night when I did join the girls I’d made a real effort, doing my hair and make-up and wearing a new dress. For once, I felt attractive – until I saw the pictures. All my friends looked lovely, and it was as though someone had just stuck me on the end; I didn’t fit in. I didn’t look glamorous or slim like them. Even my smile was forced for the camera.
"I knew then I had to do something, and that I couldn’t do it on my own. A friend of my mum’s had been successful with Slimming World, so, too – at the end of my first year at uni – Mum and I decided to go to group.
"When the Consultant at group told Mum and I we could still eat pasta, rice and potatoes, we both thought, ‘This can’t be right!’ I knew straight away that I wanted to lose around 4st – I set my target and was determined to get there.
"I’d lost 2st by the time I went back to university in September 2011. I began cooking recipes from Slimming World magazine or the website, making sauces for pasta and home-made risotto, and incorporating my Healthy Extras into meals including pizza toasts made with wholemeal bread, which I’d eat with a big salad.
Once term started, it was very different to trying to lose weight at home – my housemates were Chinese takeaway fans, for a start! Sometimes, I’d join them and go for lower-Syn dishes – maybe chicken in oyster sauce or beef with mushrooms (both around 5 Syns). Other times, I’d just eat what they were having and try not to beat myself up about it, reassuring myself that Slimming World is a lifestyle change, not a crash diet, so there’s no harm in occasionally joining in.
"I found my exam period in January 2012 quite challenging in terms of my slimming, even though I only gained a pound or so. I spoke to my mum, who reminded me that the important thing was to concentrate on my university work. Even if I did put on a bit of weight, I only had to go straight back to Food Optimising 100 per cent after my exams and I’d soon lose it again.
"From then on, if I had exams coming up, I made sure that I prepared plenty of meals beforehand, so I didn’t have to worry about cooking. I made big batches of curry or soup and froze them.
I’m always late and rushing about in the mornings, so breakfast is never a priority. Now I make sure I take some fruit and a fat-free yogurt with me or, if I have got time to make something, I go for wholemeal toast with scrambled eggs.
"At uni, I would prepare a tub of new potato salad or tuna pasta for lunch. And because I’m a big snacker, I’d always have at least two pieces of fruit with me in case I got hungry.
I saved cash by walking everywhere. Our house was a 15-minute walk up a hill from lectures, so not quite worth getting the bus, but plenty far enough to get out of breath! As I lost more weight, I noticed that the walk became easier and I no longer felt shattered when I reached our front door.
"Now, while I’m not really much of a gym person, I do enjoy Body Magic that’s a bit different. I found some pole-dancing classes near campus, and there are Zumba and even burlesque classes that I want to give a go, too!
"After I joined Slimming World, I’d make sure I had a substantial tea before a night out, so I wasn’t tempted by late-night snacks. I drank vodka with diet lemonade or diet cola, measuring it out so I knew exactly how much I’d had. And if I did feel the need for a fry-up next morning, I made it Slimming World-style.
"When it comes to Syns, I’ll treat myself to a small Milkybar (3½ Syns), or a packet of Walkers French Fries (4 Syns for a 19g bag), or maybe some popcorn (around 5 or 6 Syns for 25g) if I’m watching a film. If I’m eating out with friends, I might use my Syns to share a dessert.
"Shopping is fun again! I love going online and buying going-out dresses. If something doesn’t fit, I just think, ‘Well, it’s not right for my shape’. I don’t let it get me down.
"Two and a half years on from the start of my journey, I feel fantastic. I graduated from university this July and was so proud of how much I’d changed. Now I’m at target, I have so much confidence – I really feel that if I can do it as a student, I can do it anywhere!"
*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.