"When people say they turn to food for comfort, I can sympathise completely. But although I'd always been curvier than the rest of my family – I wore a size 16, compared to my sister Georgina's more slender size 8 – it wasn't until 2009 that I really put on weight.
It was a really tough year – my boyfriend split up with me out of the blue, then my beloved granddad died. I felt distraught and so, to try and cheer myself up, I turned to food. I'd treat myself to a cream cake, some chocolate or a Chinese takeaway.
But instead of making me feel better, the excess food made things worse. As the weeks crept by, my clothes became too tight and I needed to buy a size 18, then 20. When my new, bigger jeans got too tight for me, I couldn't bear to admit I was a size 22, so I switched to stretchy leggings. I knew I must be gaining weight but I still refused to step on the scales.
My confidence, already low after my relationship ended, continued to plummet. I couldn't go on a night out with my friends without downing a couple of glasses of wine for Dutch courage beforehand, and I was horribly self-conscious at the salon where I worked as a hairdresser. The other girls were slim and wore fitted T-shirts and skinny jeans, whereas I could only fit into tunics from plus size shops.
My family tried to talk me into losing weight but I wouldn't listen to them. It wasn't until I saw myself on the newly-installed CCTV at work that I knew I had to do something. I was huge and, as I watched my bulky body moving around the shop, I couldn't believe I'd let things get so bad.
'Why not try Slimming World?' my nana suggested in October 2010, showing me an article in the local paper.
I wasn't sure – after all, I'd tried other diet clubs, a meal-replacement plan, even slimming pills, and none of them had worked. But I didn't want to disappoint my nana, especially when she offered to come with me, so I agreed.
At my first meeting, I was horrified to discover I weighed 16st 4lb. I was also slightly dubious about the diet itself, as was everyone else.
'You seem to be eating a lot,' my friends said suspiciously, as I munched on beans on toast for breakfast and a jacket potato for lunch. And privately, I agreed. But it worked – in the first week, I lost three pounds.
Encouraged, I threw myself into it. I'd allow myself the odd takeaway meal or bar of chocolate once a week, as a treat. The rest of the time, I cooked my meals instead of relying on microwave ones. I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted as long as it was cooked healthily. I even learnt how to make a healthy burger and chips.
Within five weeks I'd lost a stone in weight and joined a gym. I had a personal trainer once a week, to make sure I toned up as well.
It wasn't all plain sailing. There were weeks I'd gain a pound, then the next week lose it again – and a bit more.
I even stopped going to the Slimming World meetings for a year, while I changed jobs to work in a call centre. When I went back in April 2013, I'd gained nearly a stone.
Instead of scolding me for going off-plan, the consultant was really supportive and I was soon back on track. In my first week back, I lost six pounds.
It's taken four years in all, but now I'm a size 12 and weigh 11st 7lb. I look completely different and I feel completely different. I'm much more confident and I can now join my friends when they go shopping. It's dangerous, though – I spent £300 on my first spree! Recently, I was even asked to model wedding dresses by a local photographer.
Now I'm slimmer and happier than ever. Happiness isn't at the bottom of a box of cakes, it comes from feeling positive about yourself, and now I really do."
By Rosalind Grainger and Sarah Whiteley
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