You hear people say, “I saw this (particular) photo and I didn’t recognise myself. I knew something had to change.”

In late August 2020, we went on a trip down to Cornwall and ended the break with a few nights in The Cotswolds. Now, I know I’m not alone in having put on a few pounds during Lockdown 1 (and then Eat Out to Help Out didn’t help me out at all, thanks Bojo – no, I only have myself to blame!) but that didn’t make me feel any better as my jeans got tighter and my boobs were trying to escape my bras on the daily.

I mean, I’m one of these people who usually can have a jar of jam in the fridge for 3 years, hardly touching it before it goes out of date, never spending time having breakfast at home before leaving for work. But for some reason, I thought Lockdown 1 gave me the right to get through 3 jars of Asda’s own Raspberry Jam (it is good) with toast most mornings. That’s just one example of what a little piggy I had become. I started baking. That’s so not like me, but what else were we to do other than paint fence panels and bake Victoria Sponges whilst on Furlough?

Anyhow, you get the idea. I was eating more,  feeling a difference in my self and my clothing. And something had to change.

I left that UK break knowing that the time had come to do something about my diet. I’d heard that Slimming World (S.W) had worked for a few people before and there was a group I could join that met once a week at the top of my road. So, on 14th September 2020, off I trotted – on foot, the car was left on the driveway – to sign up and get weighed. My scales at home weren’t the best, I knew that. I could put them on the floor at one side of the bathroom and be 1 stone heavier than if I placed them on the other side of the bathroom. (What’s that about?!)

I was happy to be letting someone else know my weight (one person by the way, your weight is not shouted out to the whole group, something I’d asked the group leader in advance of turning up, as that would have 100% put me off!). If you’re sharing your goal, you’re more likely to succeed if you ask me. This is why, about 2 months in to my weightloss journey, I decided to tell my followers on Instagram about what I had been doing because quite quickly, it was obvious I was losing weight.

In fact, I lost 2 stone by the end of January 2021. Getting dressed up a little at Christmas time had felt fantastic, even with the heavy restrictions we faced, set out by the Government. 

When you join S.W, you’re asked to set yourself a target. I hadn’t given that much thought prior to joining, but I knew I wanted to feel better in myself and get back in to some smaller clothes that were piled up in my wardrobes.

For the sole reason on getting the scales to an easy, round number, I decided I’d set mine at 2stone 5.5lb.

The thing is with me, if I have a target, no matter if it’s at work or in my personal life, I’m going to hit it. My willpower is incredible, if I do say so myself. I knew this would be tough and if honest, I did think nahhhhh, I’m going to struggle to do this. But hand on heart, as each week passed, the weight on the scales just kept going down and down. Not once on my journey (other than Christmas week when I put 0.5lb on, I mean, hey, let me off there please!) did I see the weight on the scales increase! Some weeks I would ‘maintain’, when you’re the same weight as the week before, but most weeks I would lose between 0.5lb and 2lb. In week one I lost 4lb, which felt great. That got me off to a great start!

With the S.W plan, it’s true what they say; you can really eat so much. I’ve shared pictures of my meals (mainly Dinner or Tea, as we call it up North) throughout the last 6-8 months on my Insta stories and have had replies from people saying they can’t believe I can eat what I do and still lose weight.

The main changes I made were:

  • Not cooking with butter/oils.
  • Using Fry Lite low calorie spray for when you would normally use oil or butter
  • Reducing alcohol intake (I didn’t really drink a lot before but now stayed away from Wine other than on 2 or 3 special occasions from September to Christmas)
  • Made all dinners fresh from scratch e.g. no ready-made sauces for Bolognese or Curry
  • Cut out sugary treats but did allow myself a treat if I had a day out somewhere (which of course, wasn’t often during Covid life!)
  • Swapping any white bread products to wholemeal variety
  • Choosing a grilled chicken kebab on a Friday night from the Take-Away instead of the usual pizza (whilst watching my BF have his!)
  • Dried pasta over fresh pasta (you can have as much dried pasta as you like, but not fresh!)
  • Any meat was 5% or less fat e.g. Mince Beef, Aldi Skinny Meatballs, Aldi Skinny Burgers, Bacon Medallions instead of rashers. You quickly get used to this and in fact, I’d always tend to by 5% or less fat meat beforehand, but it wasn’t a rule before I joined.

I did (and still do) the food shopping at either Aldi or Asda. Aldi is soooo good for low fat meats and also low ‘syn’ snacks, I only really needed to go to Asda for a few branded items each week.

Here are a few low ‘syn’ items I recommend buying to make sure you’re still having gorgeous tasting foods:

  • Aldi chocolate covered rice cakes ( one rice cake is 4 syns and I have one every night with a cup of tea)
  • Hartleys 10 cal jelly
  • 3 x Babybel Light per day (allowed on one of your Healthy Extra A allowances)
  • Aldi low fat yoghurts (0.5 syns each)
  • Heinz low cal salad dressings
  • Sweet Freedom syrups (I found in Aldi middle aisle) 0.5 syns per tspn

I’ve been asked many times over the last few months, via my Instagram DMs, for ideas on what to eat for Dinner, Lunch, Snacks. With this in mind, I thought I’d share with you what a typical weekly evening meal routine looks like for me since joining S.W:

  1. Monday Aldi Skinny Burger, in a wholemeal breadbun, S.W chips, corn on the cob and salad
  2. Tuesday Spaghetti Bolognese with Aldi Skinny Meatballs (x6) and grate low fat cheese (30% less fat cheddar)
  3. Wednesday Nandos Fake-Away (chicken thighs with branded Nandos sauce, Uncle Ben’s 2 min rice packet in chicken flavour and corn on the cob
  4. Thursday Gammon steak, S.W chips and peas
  5. Friday Grilled Chicken Kebab in a white pitta bread (call the cops!) and salad..NO MAYO from the takeaway, I put my own 11 Cal Heinz Mayo on it.
  6. Saturday meal out if allowed at the time (Covid rules) choosing a fairly healthy meal or if not, a Chinese takeaway. Yep. I still had takeaways on a weekend throughout!
  7. Sunday Chicken roast dinner cooked in a  S.W friendly manner (no oils) and counting the gravy as syns.

As someone my weight and height, I am allowed to have between 5 and 15 syns a day. You get a book when you join to guide you on how many syns are in which foods and the S.W app is a big help for when you’re in the supermarket and you can scan the bar code to tell you how many syns are in that meal/snack/drink. To be honest, I quickly got in a routine and would buy and eat the same things from the supermarkets each week and so rarely used the app after the first 2 months or so.

I have kept a food diary since joining S.W and can honestly say, they’re right, it helps so much with keeping an eye on what your daily intake is. When I was going to group each week, before Lockdown 2, handing in your diaries each week meant the group leader could have a look at them at home and be able to offer advice on where you could make changes. With my weight going down each week, I made no changes to how I was doing things. It was working. If I wanted to try and lose a but more in one particular week, I’d try my best to eat more ‘Speed Foods’ that week e.g. fruit and veg.

I hit my target of 2stone 5.5lb mid way through March 2020. Exactly 6 months after joining. What an achievement, I was thrilled. I was buying clothes 2 dress sizes smaller and the weight was still coming off each week. This was starting to become a little annoying when new clothes were fitting me for all of about 3 weeks and then they were too big for me. Vinted became my best friend.

In April, I decided to leave the group for a couple of reasons. Due to Lockdowns, I had been paying each week to basically weigh myself at home (by the way, I bought myself some new digital scales back in November 2020 which are fantastic and like what was used in group sessions. I actually bought the Weight Watchers branded scales from Argos as S.W don’t do their own) and send my weight to my group leader by text. It felt a little frustrating paying to do this but it was no fault of S.W, they were just sticking to Lockdown measures and rules. Another reason was I moved to the other side of the city in late March, so would not have gone back to that group anyway after Lockdown. Also, I was at a point where I knew what I was doing. I didn’t really mind if I stuck at this weight or lost more and I knew what I had to do in order for it to happen.

Weight has continued to come off and as of early May 2021, I hit 3 stone. I still stick to writing a daily food diary, I drink Gin most nights  (1 Gin with low calorie Indian Tonic water) and I have a few extra treats than what I had been doing, but being sensible with it. It’s all about balance.

In case you wondered, I did not do any exercise throughout. Of course, I walk but due to the house renovation we were not able to go on long walks like we usually would at weekends. The constant lifting and carrying and movement in my arms from all the painting will have helped though I’m sure.

I could go in to more detail with how S.W works, but that could get a bit nerdy for this blog. It’s very simple to follow and you get to eat lots of food so what is not to love? Get in touch with me if you want to know more.

Joining Slimming World was one of the best things I ever did in recent years. I can highly recommend giving it a try but if you do, go in to it with determination and a hunger for success. If you want to get in touch with me to ask for any tips or have a question about how it works, please comment below or even better, come and find me on Instagram where you will also be able to see lots and lots of images taken throughout my journey.

I’ll leave you with this. My main Before & After photo. This was the photo taken in Oxford whilst staying in The Cotswolds early September 2020 vs a photo taken on March 12th 2021 for a virtual Business Awards. I am now more than half a stone lighter than this pink dress selfie.

Thank you for reading and if you don’t already, do follow me over on Insta and if you’re a YouTube fan, I also have a channel on there.

Natalie x