"Looking back, the worst thing about being overweight was how much it held me back. Painfully aware of my size 22 frame, I refused to get involved in life. Instead, I was always ready with an excuse to remain on the sidelines.
Now I'm a perfect size 10 and can't imagine shying away like that. I can't believe how long I spent feeling I was on the outside, looking in.
I started putting on weight as a teenager. Although my mum had taught me how to cook and I knew which foods were healthy, I developed bad habits early on – namely, snacking. I loved chocolate, crisps and ice cream.
I met my husband, Christian, now 30, when I was just 15 and that didn't help either. We'd go out for a big lunch or get takeaways at weekends. By the time I hit my twenties, I was a size 18.
At 6ft 1in, I was tall so told myself it didn't matter, I had more places to hide my excess pounds than my shorter friends. I found clever ways to disguise my curves. I'd only ever wear dresses or skirts with cardigans, even in the summer. And I avoided jeans the same way I avoided the scales.
But that didn't stop my weight affecting my self-confidence. At family parties, I started dodging our silly games. I hated the thought of all eyes being on me, so I became quieter, more withdrawn. I was desperate to fade into the background.
Things got worse after I had my first baby, Oliver, now five. So much so, when Christian and I got married when I was seven months pregnant with our second son, Oscar, we only invited immediate family. At the time, I told everyone we wanted to get married, not have a wedding. Now I know I couldn't have faced walking down the aisle at that size in front of everyone we knew.
After having Oscar, I was two stone heavier and couldn't shift it. Although I was only in my mid-twenties, I felt like a frumpy old woman.
Then, in January 2013, I got talking to a girl on a night out. She was slim, gorgeous and radiated confidence. As she told me she'd had twins, followed by another baby, my jaw dropped. But she confided it was all down to Slimming World. She'd put on weight during her pregnancy, just like me, but she'd done something about it.
Looking at her, I was filled with determination. So the next week, I attended my first Slimming World group.
I was mortified to discover I weighed 18st 3lb but in a way it was the kick up the bum I needed. Afterwards, I read though the plan and by the time I'd been food shopping and organised my first week of meals, I couldn't wait to get started.
I'd always known snacking was my main problem but I never thought that'd make much difference to my weight. But I realised I was making lots of small little mistakes that were all adding to the overall problem.
So instead of having buttery toast and cereal for breakfast, I'd have fruit and fat-free yogurt. For lunch, I ditched the pasta and cheese toasties and opted for an omelette or jacket potato with beans.
I discovered that my dinners had always been fairly nutritious, I just needed to adjust the way I cooked them. So I stopped adding butter and milk to my mashed potato and started using low calorie spray rather than olive oil.
I wasn't sure how much difference it would make but as it turned out, it was a lot. I lost six pounds in my first week! I was delighted.
I'd always thought because I didn't eat fast food or drink a bottle of wine every night, my diet was healthy. But there were loads of little tweaks I could make to shed my unwanted pounds.
Not only did I change the way I ate, I also started running. At first I was so embarrassed, I'd only go after dark so nobody would see me. And I could only get to the end of the road before I was gasping for breath. But slowly I started being able to make it round the block, then a couple of miles.
After 10 weeks, I'd lost two stone and felt incredible. I'd already dropped to a size 18 and, with my confidence emerging, I bought a pair of jeggings, the first pair of trousers I'd dared to put on since I was 12.
Everyone noticed not only my slimmer figure and new clothes, but the big smile across my face.
It took me 10 months to get to my target weight of 12st 3lb but even then, the weight kept dropping off and within two months, I'd dropped to 11st 6lb and could slip into size 10 jeans.
Now, I feel like a completely different person. I've never felt so happy, so sure of myself and so proud. Proud of what I've achieved and how I look. And I never thought I'd say that."
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