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Why you’ll be seeing less of us in 2012

Every year it tops the list of New Year Resolutions — losing weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle. In Northern Ireland obesity rates have reached crisis point with 60% of the adult population said to be overweight or obese.

Drastic measures to tackle the problem at government level include a threat to tax fast food.

For the many that failed to keep last year’s resolution and are vowing to try again this New Year, there are many more who did succeed in transforming their lives for the better in 2011.

Their inspiring stories all share a common theme — along with their slimmer figures came renewed health and vitality, a newfound confidence and a better appetite for life.

That was certainly the case for two local women who recently represented Northern Ireland in a national slimming contest after losing more than 20 stone between them.

Claire Moore, from Coagh Co Tyrone, and Theresa O’Neill, from north Belfast, made up one-fifth of the finalists in Slimming World’s Woman of the Year 2011 contest when they became the only women from Northern Ireland to reach the final 10.

Claire (30) lost 8st 10 1/2lb and Theresa, 50, dropped 12st 10lb.

Now a svelte size 10, she has been able to ditch her shapeless size 22 wardrobe in favour of the high street fashions she has never been able to wear.

A thrilled Theresa was so depressed in her tent-like size 32 outfits that she now can’t stop buying new clothes and even treated herself recently to a pair of skinny jeans, size 12. Both women also suffered severe ill health problems because of their obesity but now entering the new year happier and healthier they are also proof that weight loss can be done.

‘I lost out on adoption because of my size’

Theresa O’Neill from north Belfast (50), works in a care home, is married to Gerald and is a foster mum. She says:

I wasn’t big as a child but in my teens my weight just seemed to creep up and I remember when I was in secondary school I hated doing PE because of my size.

I did get teased at school and as I was always tall (I’m 5ft 8ins) I was called ‘the big girl’. It was a time when fast food places were just starting to open up and I lived on takeaway food.

When I was 19 I weighed 16 stone. It did knock my confidence, especially when it came to going out to buy clothes. I couldn’t get what everyone else was wearing and had to buy old-fashioned adult clothes.

In my 20s the weight kept going on pretty fast, again because I lived on Chinese takeaways and chippy food rather than cooking healthy meals. I remember I would have gone to the bakery on a Saturday and thought nothing of spending between £20 and £30 on fresh cream buns for just me and my husband.

It started to affect my health and it got to the stage when I was attending my GP nearly every month. I was having constant chest infections and I got asthma because of my weight. I also had high blood pressure and sciatica.

I was also very self-conscious about my size — if photographs were being taken then I was always the one behind the camera or sitting on the sidelines.

It got to the stage when I hated going out because I felt that everyone was staring at me. Children would say ‘look at the size of that woman’. It was very hurtful.

I used to enjoy going out for meals with my husband but I stopped it because I didn’t want people staring at me. I even missed the weddings of two of my nieces because I would have felt too uncomfortable.

We went through the adoption process some years ago and didn’t get accepted because my weight was a problem. It has affected every area of my life. I’ve tried to diet lots of times but nothing ever worked. The crunch for me came after I was rushed to hospital suffering sudden breathing problems. I was warned that I was in danger of a stroke or heart attack if I didn't lose weight. It was like a wake-up call as I didn’t want to die and leave my family.

I had overheard some girls talking about Slimming World while they were tucking into a huge ‘fry up’. I couldn’t believe they could eat foods like bacon, eggs, mushrooms, potatoes and baked beans and lose weight so I asked them about it. They explained Slimming World's Food Optimising eating plan to me and I thought it sounded good so I decided to find out about a group in my area.

I was really nervous joining my local group. After that first night talking to the Slimming World Consultant Ann-Marie Grant I felt so good that I left the group feeling as if I had already lost a stone. I couldn’t believe that I could eat so much and lose weight and was allowed unlimited Free Foods like chicken, pasta, lean meat, potatoes, fish, rice, fruit, vegetables and fat-free dairy products. I never used to eat vegetables but I love them now, it has brought me back to my childhood when my mum cooked healthy food. My husband has lost over two stone and loves cooking healthy Food Optimising meals like curry and pasta dishes too.

Since joining Slimming World I have lost 12st 10lb and dropped from a dress size 30/32 to a 12/14.

Not only has it transformed my life but my family's lives too as I can do so much more with them now. I enjoy going to the gym, swimming and walking. Clothes are a real pleasure. I can’t stop buying them now and I have had to buy a new wardrobe to keep them all in. I’m more confident than I ever was in my life. I was able to get a new job working in a nursing home which I absolutely love and I recently went out with all the girls for a Christmas party which I could never have done before. I have got my life back. For anyone struggling with weight I would tell them to get themselves up and out to their nearest Slimming World class.

‘I felt self-conscious when on nights out’

Claire Moore (30) from Coagh in Co Tyrone is a housewife married to Michael. The couple have three children Aaron, (12), Kieran (10) and Shea (9). She says:

I’ve been overweight since I was a teenager. I became pregnant with my first child at 17 and had all three children fairly close together so I didn’t lose my pregnancy weight in between.

My size really increased and my health suffered. I had pre-ecalampsia with all three pregnancies and was told it was because of my weight. During my second pregnancy my blood pressure was so dangerously high that the doctor told my husband he might have to choose between me and the baby and I was advised not to have any more children.

I was on the pill when I became pregnant with my third child and after he was born I was urged for my health’s sake to get sterilised.

Looking back that is the one thing I regret in life. Now that I am that bit older I would love to have a daughter but unfortunately that won’t happen now.

In my 20s my weight went up to 19 stone 6 1/2lbs at my heaviest and I was wearing a size 22. I had to dress much older than my age as I could only find very frumpy old-fashioned clothes to fit me. My confidence went and I wouldn’t even get changed in front of my husband.

The turning point for me was when I went to a football dinner in November 2009. The only thing I had to fit me was a tunic and trousers and every other woman there was wearing a dress. I was so self-conscious I wouldn’t even go to the Ladies.

There and then I decided that this time next year I would be wearing a dress like everyone else. I had tried lots of different diets and attended slimming clubs but never managed to stick to eating healthily. I would start every Monday with good intentions but by Monday night they’d be out of the window. I had heard about Slimming World from a friend and, when I got a leaflet for a local club in Moneymore in January 2010, I decided to go along. I felt sick with nerves when I thought about walking into the room, especially about stepping on the scales, but the Slimming World Consultant Julie Friel was so friendly that she made me feel as though I was in a safe place.

I actually came away thinking that the diet was too good to be true because you could eat so much. In my first week I ate loads and was able to enjoy all the food I love and be full and I lost 11 1/2 lbs and that did it for me. By the third week I had lost one stone 6lbs and I wasn’t depriving myself of food. It’s not really a diet but a healthy way of life and I have found that it really is true, you are what you eat.

Now I have lost 8st 10 1/2lb, dropping from 19st 6 1/2 lb to 10st 10 1/2lb and from a dress size 20 to a 10.

I’m able to dress to suit my age and I have a lot more energy and can do more with the children. I also feel confident for the first time in years and at the Slimmer of the Year awards I got up and danced for the first time in my life and I danced all night, it was wonderful.

I was never able to wear dresses, even my wedding dress was borrowed and now I wear them all the time. I would urge anyone thinking of losing weight this New Year to join their local Slimming World support group. You will get results and the support you need from the consultant and the other members.

Everyone is in the same boat and you can eat so much and never feel hungry or deprived. Keeping it off is my challenge now and why I still go every week to my class.

For further information visit www.slimmingworld.com or tel: 0844 8978000

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