How a teacher found a new zest for life and energy after losing more than four stone

Usually, I’d go on a crash diet before a holiday, regaining any weight I lost afterwards. This time, though, knowing I’d be able to wrap myself up warmly for most of the holiday, I didn’t put myself through that misery. When we got to the lagoon, I changed into my swimming costume and thanked the lady who handed me a towelling robe. Then I saw the label: she’d given me an XXL! I tried to hide how I felt as I didn’t want to spoil the day for Jonathan, but he could tell I wasn’t my usual, bubbly self. “How come you don’t want me to take any pictures?” he asked, confused. “My size is getting me down,” I mumbled.

He always told me I was gorgeous no matter what, but he could see how upset I was and promised to help me lose weight when we got home, if that was what I wanted. My first thought was exercise, so a week after we got back, I went to a spinning class, and was so exhausted I left the one-hour session after 20 minutes on the bike.

Growing up, I’d been slim and active, going to dance and theatre school with two of my sisters, Laura and Louise. We’d put on performances for Mum and Dad, showing off our tap, ballet and jazz routines. The three of us looked so similar, even our grandparents mixed us up! So, when my dress size began creeping up as I settled into my relationship with Jonathan, I couldn’t help comparing myself to them. Jonathan and I ate out a lot, and I’d have bruschetta, lasagne with garlic bread, then cheesecake – with glasses of Prosecco and rosé.

Before long, I was struggling to fit into my favourite jeans, while my active 6ft 4in boyfriend didn’t seem to have gained a pound.

Before our first holiday together to New York, I ate nothing but plain chicken and rice for two months. I lost 1½st and it was torture! In America, I told myself I’d done the work and ate all the pizza, burgers, steak and chips, and cheesecake I wanted. Back home, I carried on eating whatever I fancied and within three months, I was heavier than before.

By now, Jonathan noticed he was gaining weight, too, and we kept saying we’d lose it together. “We’ll start on Monday” became our motto.

After university, I went on to do teacher training. I loved working with kids, especially at the age when they were too old for nappies, but too young for teen hormones! Children can be brutally honest, though. On a placement, one little boy told me I was ‘big like Mummy’, and it hurt. He didn’t mean to upset me, but I started to worry about going to job interviews in case they judged me by my size and thought I wouldn’t be able to teach PE.

My older sister, Faye, had a toddler and a new baby, and not long after my trip to Iceland she told me she was joining Slimming World. “Will you come for moral support?” she asked. I was sure she was thinking more about me than herself, but didn’t want to hurt my feelings, and I found myself saying: OK then.

My sister, Laura, would be turning 21 in February 2019, a month after Faye and I joined Slimming World, and as she made her plans, part of me didn’t want to go. She was having a big family meal, followed by a night out with her slim friends, and all my nice clothes were still far too small for me.

To my surprise, I really enjoyed making recipes from scratch. And we began experimenting with new things, such as making burgers using lean mince. At first, I’d cook enough at night for lunch the next day, then after a while I mixed it up with tuna or salmon pasta salads. By Laura’s birthday, I’d lost 1st and it was a real confidence boost when my grandparents told me how lovely I looked in my black, size-16 jumpsuit.

For our third anniversary as a couple, in April 2019, Jonathan and I stayed in a posh hotel in Alderley Edge, popular with Premiership footballers. I’d lost nearly 2½st and wanted to look the part, so I’d bought myself a fitted, black wrap dress with sheer, puffed sleeves…in a size 12! In May 2019, after four months of steadily losing weight, I braved another spin class…and this time, I lasted the full hour! It was still really hard, but I felt a fantastic sense of achievement; it was as if my old energy had returned. Then, Jonathan and I started going for walks up the hill by my house. Before, our free time had been spent eating sweets or crisps in front of the TV, or going out – now it felt really special to be fit and active together.

I also started going to the gym and doing weights to help tone and shape my figure as the weight came off. It was a brilliant moment when my old jeans slid over my thighs and hips. And by the time Jonathan and I went to Florida in the summer, it was time for a shopping trip! I showed Jonathan my haul of size-10 shorts, vest tops, bikinis and sundresses.

You’re beaming, he said, and I smiled even more broadly. I truly felt as if the sun was shining inside me again.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, my weekly group has moved online – so I can still get all of the support and encouragement I need. I found the change in routine difficult at first, yet as soon as I joined my virtual group I got right back on track. It’s lovely to see everyone each week – it makes me feel like we’re all in it together.

Jonathan and I are still going for walks and I’ve swapped going to the gym for at-home workouts for now.

When I reached my target weight in November 2019, I couldn’t quite believe how much I’d changed in just 10 months. Jonathan had lost 2½st and Faye had lost 1st 10lbs, too, so we all had something to celebrate. Soon afterwards, I was invited on the annual Christmas girls’ night out, and this year, rather than hiding away at home, I wore a sparkly size-8 zebra-print dress. OMG! said one friend. You look amaaaazing! said another.

Unlike nights out before, I didn’t shrink from the cameras and I felt relaxed when photos were shared online.

Now we’re similar sizes again, Laura, Louise and I have an efficient system of sharing outfits. One of us will buy something and we’ll negotiate who gets to wear it next – it’s like a clothes library!

The biggest change for me has been overcoming my reliance on crash dieting – now I understand that it’s not about depriving myself then indulging, it’s about healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.

I’m so much happier in my own skin, which is just as well as when I heard I’d won Slimming World’s Miss Slinky 2020 two months after reaching my target, I felt excited about posing for the official photos. Now I’m a qualified teacher, and my self-esteem shines at work, too. In PE, I bound with energy.

And when one of the kids yells: Come on, Miss, let’s have a race, I’m dead competitive and give them a run for their money! Jonathan and I are thinking about returning to the Blue Lagoon some day.

“This time I’ll feel confident with or without my robe, and the smile on my face will be broader than ever.

The May/June edition of Slimming World Magazine is on sale on newsstands now. Slimming World is gifting all members of its new temporary virtual groups a free copy of the May/June issue of Slimming World Magazine to thank them for their continued commitment, while stocks last.

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