"At 5ft 9in, I've always been a tall girl. Growing up, I was bigger-boned and larger than my friends, but I was never an unhealthy weight.
Then, when I turned 19 and got into a new relationship, my lifestyle changed. It wasn't that I ate loads, I was just eating all the wrong things and at the wrong times.
At the same time, I became very comfortable in my relationship and didn't go out with friends as much.
Soon, I'd put on so much weight that I felt embarrassed to go for a run. It was so painful that I'd end up breathless and with shin splints. Aged 22, I began training as a nurse. It was a high-pressure job and I had unusual shift patterns, so I skipped a lot of meals.
I'd often eat very little during the day, then turn to takeaways, crisps and chocolate when I got home.
Unsurprisingly, in those three years, I'd gained 5st and weighed more than 17st.
I'd tried joining another slimming group, but found that having to count everything I ate took all the joy out of eating. I didn't stick at it for very long.
In September 2013, something clicked in my head and I decided to change. By then, I'd reached a real low point in my life. Not only had I lost my sense of hope, I'd also lost sight of my happiness entirely.
I'd cry when I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror, because I hated the way I looked so much.
One night, getting ready to go out with friends, I worked myself up so much that I broke down. In that moment, I realised that if I spent the same amount of energy that I did hating myself on something positive instead, my life would be completely different. I knew I had to take back control of my life.
Some of my family members and friends had lost weight with Slimming World, so I decided to join my local group in Surrey.
On my first weigh-in, I was 16st 13lb, so I set myself a target of losing 5st.
Learning how to cook without butter and oil was the first step.
I started using low-calorie sprays, and made other healthy swaps, like wholemeal bread instead of white.
The best thing was, I could still eat crisps and chocolate in moderation. For the first time in years, I felt in control.
Soon, I was making Slimming World versions of my favourite meals, like their 'lean mean chilli con carne'. It was unbelieveable how much I could eat on the plan!
Within four months, I'd lost 3st. Once I started to slim down, I took up exercise again. I joined a gym, got a personal trainer and began cycling.
By June 2015, I'd hit my 5st target. The following December, I found out my group had nominated me as 'Miss Slinky'. They voted me the member whose confidence was most improved and said I was an inspiration. It was an honour.
I was even more humbled when I won the national Miss Slinky 2016 award in January this year. When my consultant and I found out, we both burst into tears.
When I joined Slimming World I never imagined my achievements would be recognised or that I'd win anything. Now, I really want to show other people they can do it, too.
My life has totally changed. I've lost 5st 5lb and dropped six dress sizes. I'm now a healthy size 10-12 and weigh 11st 8lb.
But it's not just the physical transformation – the psychological changes have really impacted on me, too. Although I love my figure and healthy lifestyle, it's my new, positive outlook that's been most beneficial.
For the first time in years, I value my life. I've gone from sitting on the bus, taking up two seats and feeling like an inconvenient nuisance, to giving others hope.
Better still, I've finally qualified as a nurse, and now I can set a good example to my patients. Healthier really does mean happier, after all."
By Paisley Gilmour
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