We can enjoy festive season now we are trimmer than before
Belfast mum of two Stephanie Wilson lost ten stone, while Londonderry couple Maureen and Eamon Cregan shed a total of 14. They tell Karen Ireland about their year-long battle with weight loss in time for Christmas
Stephanie Wilson (28) is married to Warren (39). She works as a classroom assistant and they live in Belfast with their two girls, Emma (7) and Amy (4). She says:
Last Christmas I was the heaviest I have ever been in my life. I was a size 26 in clothes and weighed 23 stone and six pounds.
I have never been skinny and have always been one of those women who battled with their weight.
Growing up, as a teenager I started to put the weight on. I would never eat fruit or veg or anything healthy and it slowly started to creep on.
I looked at myself in the mirror last Christmas and realised I needed to do something. I couldn't go on like this any longer.
We had planned a four-week family holiday to Florida in July, and I didn't want to be the big fat person on the plane or walking around getting out of breath.
I had always been pretty active and always on the go, but around this time my breathing started to suffer and I was struggling to catch my breath after a walk.
I really wanted to do something for the girls so I was a better role model for them; to be fitter and healthier and could keep up with them so we could do things together.
So at Christmas time I vowed to change and on the first week in January I joined Slimming World. Initially it was very intimidating as I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know anyone there and was worried I would be the heaviest in the class.
I got a real shock when I first stepped on the scales and realised what I weighed, but everyone was lovely in the class and very encouraging and that made me even more determined.
The first week I lost five pounds and I was so pleased with myself.
That made me think - yes I can do this.
The classes were important and going along and getting weighed every week kept me motivated, and I lost weight every week.
I enjoyed the friendship of the group and all the information about healthy eating.
I would get recipe ideas which would help me plan meals when I was out shopping.
Instead of just deciding every day what I was going to cook, I started to plan my meals in advance and shop accordingly.
I set myself a personal weight loss goal of five and a half stone by the time we were going to Florida. When the time came I lost six and a half and was so pleased.
We had a fantastic holiday. We had saved for it for two years and I wanted to make the most of it. I looked better and felt great and was able to keep up with everyone walking around.
When I was shopping I would buy loads of fruit and veg and eat that every day.
On a typical day I would have fruit for breakfast; apples, oranges and strawberries, and then I would have my own homemade soup for lunch, or a salad.
Dinner would be one of the recipes. My favourites were Diet Coke chicken and the curries.
I used to eat takeaways all the time. But once I started to cook I loved it.
Previously I would have had a takeaway for tea and then when the girls were in bed I would tuck into snacks, such as crisps, chocolate and junk food when watching TV.
That was my downfall really, looking back.
To be honest my weight never really bothered me in the past. I was always happy and bubbly. It wasn't until last Christmas when it hit me how unhealthy I was and I vowed to be different for this year.
Now I have got my mojo back. I do feel like a new woman.
I love going clothes shopping and this year I will be able to treat myself to a nice party outfit instead of just whatever fits me.
I am now a size 12/14 and weigh 13 stone, six pounds.
The hardest part about the year was worrying about Florida but it all worked out well. I was worried I would put a lot of weight on over there.
Everyone is so proud of me. My mum gave me an envelope recently with £140 in it - £1 for every pound I lost - to go out and treat myself to some new clothes.
The girls are over the moon and were so excited every time I came home with a certificate.
I have an exercise bike in the house and try to do 20 minutes every night when I can.
My advice to anyone would be - if I can do it, you can.
Yes, you will have good weeks and bad weeks, but it is just about sticking at it and keeping going.
I've had loads of messages from people in the group and even strangers on Facebook asking me how I lost all the weight, and I am only too happy to help others.
While you do have to make certain sacrifices along the way, it is so worth it.
I want to keep going as I enjoy the social aspect of the meetings as well."