Absolutely flab you loss: Three Northern Ireland women on the secret to beating the bulge
Arrival of new year means there's no better time to set your goals and get in shape
If you want to lose weight successfully in 2020 then getting the right support is key - according to three local slimmers who've managed to stay trim.
Jonene Fatooros, Clare McIvor and Tracey Geddis all managed to lose significant amounts of weight - and crucially keep it off.
Both Jonene and Clare are now consultants for Slimming World and run their own groups, after turning to the organisation for help.
Clare (41), from Newtownabbey, tipped the scales at 19st 3lbs in October 2014.
The biscuit-loving mum-of-two spent her life suffering cruel taunts about her weight - even having a bag of urine thrown at her on a bus when she was a teenager on a night out.
But when bullies turned their attention to her 13-year-old daughter Megan, something inside her snapped.
She joined Slimming World and lost over 8st, taking her from a dress size 26 to a size 10.
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Megan accompanied her mum to meetings - becoming the group's youngest member - and is now a confident 19-year-old with a trim figure.
"I realised Megan was picking up my unhealthy habits," Clare explains. "I was finding sweet wrappers hidden under her bed and bourbons stashed in her pockets.
"The crunch point came in October 2014, when she ran into the house in floods of tears, telling me the kids on our street had taken to calling her 'fat Megan'.
"That night I gave myself a stern talking to. I'd done it to myself, but did I really want to do it to my daughter too?"
For Clare this meant kicking her addiction to custard creams.
"At the supermarket, two-thirds of my trolley would be piled high with packets of biscuits," she laughs. "Every time I had a cuppa, I stacked a row of custard creams between my thumb and forefinger to dunk."
Clare and Megan started cooking together from scratch, using a Slimming World recipe book.
"I ransacked our kitchen cupboards, throwing out all our unhealthy meals and snacks," says Clare. "Soon we were rustling up spag bols and curries, and using the slow cooker to make sure there was a healthy dinner waiting at the end of the day."
In summer 2018, Clare finally hit her goal weight of 10st 13lbs, just before her 40th birthday. Now she runs Slimming World groups of her own from her studio in Carnmoney, telling members that if she can do it, they can too.
Megan says: "My mum is the most motivated woman I've ever met and I'm so proud of her. She's an inspiration to so many people.
"If it hadn't been for her decision to lose weight, my life would have been very different too. She's stopped me going down the same path that she went down and I'll be forever grateful for that."
There's one thing the girls don't allow in their house though… custard creams are banned. "They're like kryptonite!" laughs Clare.
"Not a single custard cream has passed my lips in five years, and I'm keeping it that way."
Jonene Fatooros (57), from Ballywalter, also lost weight with Slimming World - dropping from a size 20 to a size 10-12. At her heaviest, in 2009, she was 15st 7lbs.
Now a healthy 10st 7lbs, she is also a Slimming World consultant, running groups in Millisle, Portavogie and Greyabbey, and has inspired scores of other slimmers to follow in her footsteps.
Before losing weight, Jonene was a self-confessed "secret eater" - sneaking into the kitchen for bags of crisps at night while her husband Brad (58) was watching TV.
"I loved to eat," explains Jonene. "I used to walk down the high street and stop at several different shops, buying a bar of chocolate or bag of crisps from each one, so even the shopkeepers didn't know how much I was eating.
"Then I'd hide the wrappers."
Her weight was making her unhappy; she cut the labels out of the backs of her clothes so when she hung a jacket or cardigan over a chair, no one could see what size it was.
The turning point came when Jonene saw another woman in her neighbourhood losing weight.
"She walked past my house on the school run," she explains. "Over time, I saw her changing, she was shrinking right before my eyes.
"In the end I dashed out one morning and asked her what her secret was. She told me she was doing Slimming World, so I found out which group she attended and signed myself up."
Jonene followed her Slimming World recipe book and dropped 5st over two years. Five years later, in 2015 - and still slim - she became a consultant herself. Jonene now runs a staggering seven groups in her area.
"Slimming World is brilliant because it gives you a support network," she explains. "We're all in it together. And I tell my members that if I can do it, then anyone can. I love sharing my tips for success.
"Now I'm in my 50s, I feel 10 years younger than I did when I first started Slimming World a decade ago."
Tracey Geddis, originally from Waringstown, was also supported through her weight loss journey… but she turned to TV presenter Davina McCall for help.
The 53-year-old, who works as an advanced nurse practitioner in the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Manderville Hospital, took part in a TV show called This Time Next Year, on ITV, and lost 10st 7lbs by the time the show aired in January 2019.
She has continued with her journey since, and even did some modelling for Yours Clothing in the summer.
Tracey decided it was time to change her life after losing her best friend, Ruth Ingram, aged 49, very suddenly in August 2016.
"We were like two peas in a pod; we met working at the hospital and shared a flat together," says Tracey.
"We were both big girls and both loved huge portions of food. We often spent evenings cooking together in our shared kitchen, heaping our plates with shepherd's pie or vegetarian chili, smothered with lashings of melted cheese.
"Or we'd sit at the table with cups of tea, setting the world to rights over a packet of digestives or bag of Haribo."
After losing Ruth, who collapsed and died suddenly in their flat, Tracey comfort ate in grief, piling on 5st.
"I took on extra shifts and duties, often staying until 10pm," she says. "Then I'd drive home via McDonalds, buying two cheese burgers, five chicken selects, fries and a bottle of coke.
"Parking up in an empty corner of our local Tesco car park, I'd guiltily shovel down the food, lonely tears trickling down my cheeks."
Eventually a friend suggested Tracey sign up for This Time Next Year, where people pledge to change their lives in 12 months.
"Nothing could have prepared me for the moment when I sat in the studio, smiling at Davina McCall, as my fiancé Jason Smith and my mum Margaret sat in the front row," she remembers.
"When Davina revealed my weight, I saw tears in mum's eyes. I was a staggering 29st 3lbs, a dress size 32. I told the audience I was going to lose 10st. Making that declaration so publicly really spurred me on."
The show enrolled Tracey on a meal plan and signed her up with a personal trainer.
After hitting her target, Tracey was approached to do some modelling for a body positivity campaign by Yours Clothing last summer.
"Since the show aired on telly, strangers have come up to me in the street to tell me how much I inspire them," reveals a proud Tracey.
"It's very humbling. I'm not usually one for the limelight, I just wanted to make Ruth proud."
- Check out www.slimmingworld.com