Me, Ronnie and Annie having fun at home
I was born in 1983, and raised in Milford. I attended Rodborough School and went on from there to study catering at college.
I have an older brother who is 4 years my senior and sister who is 7 years older than me. Sadly, I lost my mum when I was only 5 years old, to a heart and lung transplant that just didn’t take. She was very poorly when we were younger and because of these circumstances I was raised by my grandparents. I had a great time living with them and was spoilt rotten!
My brother and sister lived with my dad. It was a strange situation really. They would come over in the evening for dinner and then go back to their house again afterwards. Either way I wanted for nothing and always felt I had everything I needed.
On the beach in 2014
My earliest memories are of the late 80s and early 90s. My grandparents had a massive garden with a big fruit orchard in it. We would steal the fruit and my grandad would shout at us like Mr McGregor, chasing us out of his fruit cage! When I look back, all I can remember is rolling hills, sunshine, swinging in trees and having fun. I spent most of my childhood playing in the woods.
I always loved food and cooking from a very young age. Me and my Nan would spend most Saturdays making something. I can remember making cheese scones and big cakes and having great fun decorating them. I was an avid Brownie and Girl Guide and my first badges were always the baking ones. In fact, I even went on to work as a cake chef at Birtley house nursing home for a little while.
My grandparents loved me deeply and their way of taking care of me was to feed me. Food seemed to be the solution to any problem. If I was upset, they would feed me. If I was bored, they would feed me and so on. I always used to refer to my grandmother as a feeder.
Me with my 2 kids
She would dish up huge portions of food and wouldn’t let me down from the table until I’d finished the lot.
There were always puddings on the menu too. She loved cooking and loved feeding people and to be completely honest, I loved being fed!
I was always overweight and can remember weighing 8 stone when I was just 8 years old. However, it never held me back or caused me to feel unhappy, at least until the last couple of years. I had a really good group of friends and was always the life and soul of the party. People used to say that I was just like Dawn French because I was so funny and overweight.
Most of my weight went on in my late teens because I started earning my own money and could buy whatever I liked. I moved out of my grandparents’ house when I was 19 to live with my now husband and we didn’t really know “how” to eat. A salad to us was just a couple of bits of lettuce and cucumber with potato salad and coleslaw, we had no idea what was good. We would eat sausage and mash exactly how my Nan would have cooked it, with cream and butter, it was delicious, but we both gained quite a bit of weight between us.
It was hard to move around and look after a house and children
From a very young age my dad used to call me his ‘little fat and funny’. I can remember asking him if I could do ballet with my sister. He replied “No, because you’d look like the fairy from ‘Willo’ the Wisp’, you know the one that’s too fat to fly?”
So from a young age, I’d pretty much accepted that that was my natural body shape. I’d tell myself that that was where my body was happy and I just had ‘big bones’.
My dad was 6’ 4” and my mum was 5’ 1” and tiny and I used to say “I’ve got my mum’s height but my dad’s frame.”
At the zoo having fun
But that was just an excuse I suppose. I discovered later in life that all our bones are about the same size! There’s no such thing as ‘big bones.’
My sense of humour was a defence mechanism100%, it was a shield to hide behind I think, if I could make people laugh. I like to talk a lot and very quickly and I’d always be the one that got the jive in first about my weight, to make sure that nobody else did it.
I was essentially a happy person but I would hide behind my weight quite a lot. I wouldn’t go to certain social situations if I knew I’d have to get dressed up and have a nice dress. I can remember having to be convinced to go to a Burlesque night with three of my girlfriends and they were beautiful. The thought of getting dressed up into something like that mortified me. I did go in the end but I didn’t feel comfortable the whole time. I spent the whole time trying to put my coat on and pull my skirt down, that kind of thing. Nowadays I’m quite happy to go off to a Burlesque night and I really enjoy it.
Out partying with a friend
For me I had two ‘light bulb’ moments. The first one; I’ve got a daughter now who is 7 and a son who is 4. At the time of this moment, my daughter Anne was 2 and my son was 6 weeks old and I’d just put him down for a nap. I can remember struggling to walk up the stairs. When taking him to his cot, I got quite out of breath. Then coming back down and as I sat on the sofa my daughter said to me “Mummy do a puzzle” and my first thought was ‘if I go down on that floor, it will be really hard to get back up.’ I remember looking at her and thinking ‘this isn’t fair on you’. Anne has very mild cerebral palsy, it doesn’t really affect her much but she is a bit wobbly on her feet. She was due to start school and I thought ‘you deserve better than this, because kids are cruel, kids can be horrible about anything, and the last thing you need is an overweight mum at the school gates, I need to be there a bit more for you’.
Another ‘light bulb’ moment was shortly after Anne’s 3rd birthday. My sister-in-law sent me photographs of the party and it was quite a shock to me to recognise how much weight I had gained. Having two children meant I gained weight, but it was seeing the back of myself and thinking ‘I don’t actually know who that person is’, and then realising it was me.
On my first weigh-in with Slimming World, I weighed 16 stone 11 pounds, which was the heaviest I’d ever been. But in contrast what I used to call my happy weight was 13 stone, which was when I got married, it was my comfortable weight. To me I felt I just needed to lose a couple of stone to get back to my happy place, my wedding rings weren’t fitting.
Healthy food all the way
I have had many diets, from cabbage soup diets, (which is where you live off nothing but cabbage soup for a week), where I dropped 10 pounds in a week, then gained 10 pounds the next. I did Slim Fast for my wedding which involved drinking daily shakes and having just one sensible meal in the evening. Once again, I lost 2 stone doing that diet but when I stopped and started eating like a normal human being, I gained 3 stone. I knew I needed something that was going to fit in with my family, so that I wasn’t cooking 20 different meals a day and involved eating normal food. Anybody will tell you that I’m not a ‘non-eater’, I like big portions of food and that’s what I need to survive.
My husband wasn’t in as bad a position as I was when I started Slimming World. He had gained some weight while I was pregnant as well. In fact, he lost about 2.5 stone by proxy, just through changing how he was eating, and now he’s at a perfect weight for him. But I’ll never forget when I told him that my sister had emailed me the photographs of Anne’s birthday. I opened the email up on my laptop, and just closed it afterwards and said to my husband, “Okay, on Tuesday night I’m going to Slimming World” and his reply was “Uh-huh”, nothing else. And from Day One he absolutely supported me. Now when he cooks a meal, he makes sure that he’s doing it the Slimming World way.
I only found Slimming World literally when I googled it. I found out where my closest one was – just a 10-minute walk from my house. Two days later I just walked through the door. I took a big deep breath, opened the door and went in. I had done it before, back on the old plan when it was very confusing, but I wasn’t prepared to do that again. I walked in and met my amazing consultant Jemma, who’s now one of my best friends. It was the moment when she said I could eat pasta, that I knew I was onto a winner, because I love pasta. My favourite dish is a Carbonara, in fact my final meal before going to Slimming World on that Tuesday, was a Carbonara, because I was thinking ‘I won’t be able to have this again’. To discover that I could still eat burgers and chips that I make myself, was mind-blowing and I could remember thinking it could never work. My first week I ate more than I’d ever eaten in my life. We had lasagnes and burgers and it was just incredible, and I said to my consultant the first week, ‘I’ve done nothing but eat all week’. She smiled and said “Good.’ I weighed myself and had lost 6.5 pounds in the first week.
My husband and kids
The reason for that was cooking with the right ingredients, zero fat and completely cutting down on the amount of sugar. The beauty of Slimming World is that nothing is restricted, you can have a little bit of what you fancy. Like with a Carbonara you take out the cream and cook the proper Italian way by whisking up an egg and parmesan that are carefully measured out – that’s the perfect Carbonara – with some additional lean bacon and mushrooms. I like to throw in courgettes as well – its divine. You would never know that it was ‘diet food’ as people call it.
I lost 6.5 stone in 52 weeks exactly, so on the 1st anniversary of joining the group I hit my original target. I then sat at target for a couple of years then I lowered it and lost 7 stone in total and kept it off for 3 years. At my last weigh- in I was 9 stone 10 pounds.
Slimming World has made a huge difference to me personally. I have real confidence now, not a false confidence. I run a lot and quite a distance. My husband always asks how long will I be when I go out for a run and I say I don’t know. I’ve run from my house in Farncombe, to my in-laws’ house in Cranleigh, along the railway track which is 17km.
From this . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . to this!
I am part of my children’s life now. When we go to soft plays, I don’t sit on the edge I go down the slide with them.
We were looking back at old photographs and I showed them to my son Ronnie who was 6 weeks old when I joined Slimming World and I asked him “Who’s that?” and he didn’t actually know. The fact that they will never remember me looking like that, has had a knock-on effect to my children’s life as well, because they eat really healthily. As I was looking through their baby books the other day I recalled that Annie’s first words were ‘Mummy’, ‘Daddy’ and ‘cake’. Ronnie’s were ‘Annie’, ‘Daddy’ and ‘banana’. That just shows the difference between how I raised each of them to start with. It’s amazing, that banana was Ronnie’s first proper word.
They love our lifestyle and get involved themselves with the cooking as well. We go off for big bike rides as a family as I’ve got a trailer on the back, so I’ll take both kids out in that. My husband doesn’t pull a child on his little tiny bike but I’ve got a bike that can I slog up hills on. I’d never could’ve done that before I lost weight.
New recipes to try
The last time we were cycling up a hill altogether, I said to my husband, “This is really, really hard” and he said “Yes, but you do realise the weight of the trailer with the children in, is still less than the weight you have lost.” To think I was just carrying that around with me, is hard to believe!
At the time I joined Slimming World I’d stopped working as a chef. I worked as an Outreach Work in a Children’s Centre, providing family support and running children activities. It was located in the Children’s Centre in Farncombe, near where I live. But I actually fell in love with Slimming World so much that I remember thinking ‘I want to do this’. It was about the time I’d lost 4 stone in 6 months I thought, ‘This in incredible, I want to help other people do the same.’ So I went along to the Opportunities Meeting and bit their arm off when they told me I was the right person for the role. I did my training, picked up my first group in Bramley on a Monday night and opened with 72 new members. It was bedlam, absolutely crazy. I then took over the running of the Cranleigh morning group, taking that from 32 members to 70 members in a couple of weeks and then last January I opened up the Cranleigh evening one again and got 37 new members in one night.
So, that’s where I am now, it’s a full-time job. It has been completely life-changing for myself, my husband and family.
Me running with a friend in my first ever 5k after losing 4 stone
One thing I always say is that even if I’m not a Consultant in the future, I will still be a member of Slimming World. I still weigh in every single week at my group at Farncombe. If I don’t terrible things happen and I need to stay on track. That’s the beauty of Slimming World – you don’t pay once you get to your target weight, to encourage you to stay there. For me my next role is to become a Team Developer, so I’ll be running my own group of Consultants, helping and supporting them.
I’ll be moving up a notch but still running my groups, because if any of my members read this and think I’m leaving they might cry!
Me meeting Margaret Miles-Bramwell, the founder of Slimming World.
If people were to ask me for advice about weight issues, I would say they should never be afraid to ask for help.
You will never regret it. If you don’t try to address it, you’ll never know. I think back to that first night when I walked through the Slimming World doors, and remember thinking ‘here we go again, this will never work’. But actually, something changed in me that evening and I knew it was different and it was going to work. You need to believe in yourself, and most of all know that you are important. As a working mum, with two small children, it’s easy to put yourself low down the packing order, but actually, mothers are so important.