This article comes from the heart and goes out to anybody out there who might be struggling to reach or maintain a healthy weight for whatever reason. Three years ago (February 2016) I joined Carol O’Neill’s Slimming World group in Laverstock having been encouraged to do so by a friend who was fed up of me complaining about trying to lose weight and yo-yo dieting. I had never ever anticipated that walking through that door would change my health forever. Indeed, the last three years has been the most wonderful journey of friendship, camaraderie, fun and fat loss (!) and I would like to share it with you.
I have not been blessed with the best of health with an underactive thyroid since my 20’s, an overactive parathyroid – and removal of a parathyroid tumour, various pregnancy complications including molar pregnancy that was removed surgically – though I was fortunate to get the “all clear” after that and after the birth of my daughter so I was never diagnosed with the big ‘c’ and did not need chemotherapy. I have been through an emergency rupture of an ectopic pregnancy followed by surgery, and a uterine prolapse after childbirth followed by surgery. Following years of fatigue and weight gain I had both big toes straightened up surgically as bunion type deformity from fallen arches was preventing me from even walking the mile to school.
Unfortunately my emotional eating during low moods and hormonal imbalances as well as chronic fatigue that was most likely associated with stress caused me to progressively gain weight. I sought both comfort and energy from high calorie foods that were often high fat or sugar content. Even my oat based cereal bars that were promoted as healthy eating were actually full of sugar. I went for quick fix energy foods to get through my day. Sound familiar?!
Before losing weight I had come to accept my size and resign myself to it. I did not like it – but I accepted it. Average female size in the UK was bigger than it had been in the past so I decided I was pretty standard size. My polite friends reassured me that I did not need to lose weight when yo-yo diet after yo-yo diet failed. I did not like the fact that I was having to buy size 18 clothes but people reassured me that it must have been due to my height! My physiotherapy uniform no longer fitted and I was buying baggy men’s tracksuit bottoms in order to feel comfortable. Deep down I felt overweight and very sad – as well as too shattered to do anything about it. I avoided the camera wherever possible and did not see how overweight I was then – even in these pictures;
Looking back… it is now really obvious how overweight I was and how unhealthy I looked. The main thing I still see is the low self esteem and self loathing in my eyes and the extreme sadness in my eyes that accompanied how I felt. I will never ever forget that feeling. I felt like a terrible role model working as a physiotherapist.
I am married with two young children aged 5 and 9. I also run the busy clinic and work as a musculoskeletal physiotherapist. I have a very busy and demanding life so my day-to-day eating needs to fit in with my rather ‘full on’ schedule. I am an older Mum and my driving force for weight loss was wanting to be around for my children as long as possible. I am very conscious that the every single elderly person making it out to attend our clinic and every single elderly person who is out and about in town… are slim. It is a harsh image – but it is the accurate reality. I wanted a better chance of longevity and this was my prime reason and motivation for my weight loss. It was the gun to my head that was required!
Apologies for the length of this article but I felt that it was important to set the scene as I understand what it is like to have low energy, low mood and an exceptionally busy work and family life.
Slimming world was successful for me and has been sustainable long term without too much effort. It is a healthy approach to embracing a wide variety of really healthy sustaining foods and you never feel hungry. I have been at my target weight for some time and continue to make really good healthy eating choices. I still indulge from time to time and still have treats every single day – but I also have learned to moderate and avoid long term binges on comfort food. I have not followed any form of strict or restrictive diet – quite the opposite – I eat way more than before… things that are really filling, healthy and sustaining.
Slimming World teaches “food optimising” which is a very flexible programme where you can choose to eat free foods until you are full including lots of unlimited lean meats, vegetarian protein foods, vegetables, fruit and carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice and pasta. You have to have a measured dairy (or equivalent) option daily, as well as a measured fibre choice – whether cereal or bread etc. Treats are whatever you want them to be as long as they are measured and limited. You have to drink plenty of water and have a varied diet. At least one third of what you are consuming should be “speed food” which are the vegetables or fruits that are of lower energy density. Cooking the ‘slimming world way’ also serves to limit fats and sugar. This for me was the only downside as our nervous system (brain!) and hormones depend on intake of healthy fats. This is probably why I craved (and ate!) a lot of good quality nuts and oils.
The wonderful side effect from following “food optimising” was the massive increase in fruit and veg that we consume at home. We already ate a fair amount but we now get through so much more! Our more plant based diet has helped with energy levels, blood sugar regulation, hormonal changes, mood… and much more! Now that I am at my target weight I am also cooking with healthy oils again. I continue to attend a Slimming World group every week (for free!) and continue to be inspired by members sharing their ideas and recipes and weight loss stories. Getting on those scales each week does most definitely encourage those ongoing healthy choices too!
My new consultant in Harnham is Sharon Morris and she has kindly contributed to this newsletter. She herself with a severely underactive thyroid has lost SIX STONE with Slimming World…
“Marie joined us at Slimming World Harnham in January 2019, Marie was already at her Target weight, and has become a valuable target member… after losing a fabulous 3 stone and achieving her weight loss dream… Marie has stayed to group every single week since, and is a huge inspiration to the other members in the room, and also on the groups Facebook page where she shares all her amazing recipes and ideas to help others to continue to lose weight and find their healthier lifestyle for long term success, while living life at the same time…”
Harnham Slimming World members meet in the Memorial Hall every Tuesday evening with two sessions either at 5pm or 7pm, where the Harnham community (and surrounding areas) meet, help and get inspiration every single week.
I would like to say a huge thanks to Carol O’Neill – whose Laverstock group I attended. Carol is a wonderful consultant and is now a close friend. Her support over the last three years has been amazing and has been one of the reasons for my slimming success. Carol’s herself lost THREE AND A HALF STONE in spite of domestic violence and a diagnosis of chronic fatigue / ME.
CAROL’S GROUP ARE…
WEDNESDAY NIGHTS 5.30pm & 7.30pm ST ANDREW’S PRIMARY SCHOOL
FRIDAY MORNING 9.30 am BEECHES FAMILY CENTRE BULFORD
SATURDAY MORNINGS 9.00am & 11.00am OLD SARUM COMMUNITY CENTRE
You Can Contact Carol for More Information on 07850185175 or
E-Mail her on firstname.lastname@example.org
In conclusion… my journey continues and I still weigh in every week without fail so that I keep going with my healthy food choices. I refuse to go back. I continue to have plenty of treats and really enjoy all foods – but in moderation. I eat more fruit and veg than ever before and that brings huge health and energy benefits.
And a final bonus – as a physiotherapist, I genuinely appreciate and totally understand the physiological and musculoskeletal effects of both carrying extra weight as well as the benefits of losing weight. Losing weight has not only has made me ‘feel’ great – but it really has also reduced the strain on all my weight bearing joints and bodily systems. My blood sugars are far more steady and my immune system is better. With the right support – anything is possible.