A woman shed half her body weight after receiving a dramatic wake-up call.
Sophie Higginbottom, 30, from Ellesmere Port, was 17st 11.5lbs at her heaviest and said her weight was "holding her back".
However, the 30-year-old lost a whopping 8st 11.5lbs and slimmed down to 9st thanks to Slimming World after struggling with her weight since she was a teenager.
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The dramatic weight loss has led her to being named Slimming World's Woman of the Year 2021.
She said: "I did well in my studies at university and knew that I wanted a career in psychology. Traineeships were so competitive though, and I just didn’t have the confidence to even apply for them.
"I had struggled with my weight since I was a teenager and couldn’t seem to get it under control. I would always avoid cameras and just hated having my photo taken – it was getting to the point where I barely recognised myself.
"When my niece, Lily, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in August 2019 I turned to food for comfort even more.
"Thankfully Lily recovered well, so as a family we decided to do a charity 5K to raise money for Alder Hey Hospital, where she had been treated."
Sophie described the moment she had a wake-up call that made her realise she had to change her lifestyle: "I soon realised how unfit I had become – I could barely finish the course and lagged about half an hour behind everyone else. It was then that I decided I had to do something about my weight.”
At first, Sophie didn’t tell anyone except her partner that she had joined the Ellesmere Port Slimming World group which is run by Consultant Lynsey Blackshaw.
She said: “I was really scared to walk into the group on my own that night. I
"I thought that I would be the biggest person there and that I would probably fail – which is why I didn’t tell my family and friends where I was going.
"That was the hardest step of the whole experience because from that moment on I was surrounded by love, support and kindness from my Slimming World group.
"For me, group is the number one feature of Slimming World. Without a group to look forward to every week I don’t think I would have done so well.
"Group taught me that it’s ok to love myself. "
Sophie soon got to grips with Slimming World’s Food Optimising eating plan and lost 5lbs in her first week.
She says: “I’d tried lots of diets in the past, but nothing ever stuck because I felt so restricted.
"With Slimming World, I could still enjoy lots of hearty and delicious food. At first, I think my fiancé was dreading the food he would have to eat with me – but I soon changed his mind!
“Slimming World has changed my relationship with food for the better. I was scared of food before, now it’s my best friend. I forward plan exciting and filling meals for the week ahead and I take it as a bit of a challenge to make Slimming World-friendly versions of all our favourite foods."
Since halving her bodyweight, Sophie has become much more active – and is now a keen runner.
Her partner, Alex, recently proposed to and now she's excited about something she would have dreaded before losing weight.
Sophie says: “My partner Alex and I recently got engaged! Planning a wedding is actually something I’m excited about, I definitely think it would have been something I dreaded before I lost weight.
"I’ve been to try on some wedding dresses, and it was such a lovely experience. I felt beautiful and really comfortable having my photograph taken, which is a world away from the way I felt when I was almost 9st heavier.
“I feel like this is the version of me that I was always supposed to be. I’m so much more confident and full of life.
"I recently applied to become a trainee psychologist and was overjoyed when I got the position – it’s just something I wouldn’t have felt able to do before. Nothing feels out of reach anymore, and that’s an amazing feeling.”
Sophie's 'before' diet
Lunch: Shop-bought sandwich
Dinner: Filled pasta with a creamy sauce and garlic bread
Evening: Crisps, chocolate, sweets, biscuits
Sophie's 'after' diet
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast with mushrooms
Mid-morning: Fruit and yoghurt
Lunch: Leftovers from a home-cooked meal the night before e.g. chicken casserole
Dinner: Hunter’s chicken lasagne with salad
Evening: A sundae made with fruit, low-calorie ice cream and crumbled meringue or a Slimming World Hi-Fi bar
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