TWIRLING in front of the mirror, Heather Jackson admired the latest addition to her collection of fancy footwear – a pair of beautiful golden sandals covered in glitter.
Chosen specially for a friend’s wedding, she planned to wear them with a beautiful chiffon maxi dress, metallic pearl accessories and a floral vintage headband.
When the big day finally arrived, she couldn’t wait to step into her glitzy new shoes – not letting the fact she wore a dress size 24 knock her confidence.
But when she leant forward to do up the buckle, she struggled to reach her ankles – horrified to realise she had put on so much weight she could no longer fasten her shoes.
The former baker, from Alsager, Cheshire, recalls: “I felt utterly humiliated. I tried with all my might, but it was no use.
“It made me so breathless that my friend had to help, and in that moment, I knew I needed to make a change.
“It was deeply upsetting, but it was the reality check I needed. I knew my weight was out of control, but I just kept ignoring it.
“I’d always told myself weight didn’t matter, but when I realised I could no longer perform basic tasks, I knew I was on a downward slope.
“I couldn’t help but wonder what would be next, if I was already struggling to fasten my shoes. I felt terrified at the thought of being dependent on other people for everyday tasks. It was a real light-bulb moment for me.”
Heather, 33, had always struggled with her weight.
She’d been brought up eating stodgy homemade dinners like lasagne, shepherd’s pie and Sunday roasts – before polishing off up to three rounds of toast before she went to bed.
By the time she started high school, Heather was much bigger than her friends.
She tried to cut back on snacking and even attempted to diet using a meal replacement plan – but whenever she reintroduced foods back into her diet, she piled the pounds back on.
When she left school, she managed to get a job at Topshop – but wearing a size 18, she rarely fit into the trendy clothes they stocked, instead having to visit plus-size retailers.
She explains: “I often found I couldn’t fit into the clothes I wanted to wear, so I made my feet my best feature and began collecting new shoes, and the more outrageous they were the better.
“One of my favourite pairs of shoes was a pair of black leather sandals with a Godzilla figurine for a heel.
“They were so over the top that I just knew I had to have them, and I didn’t even bat an eyelid when the sales assistant told me they cost well over £100.
“To realise I couldn’t even enjoy shoes anymore was like a slap in the face and although I felt pretty rubbish for the rest of my friend’s wedding, it shocked me into action and I never looked back.”
When Heather heard one of her friends had lost five stone after joining Slimming World, she decided to give it a try – joining her local group the following week.
She was welcomed with open arms by the group’s consultant Julie, and although she weighed in at a whopping 20 stone, she was excited to get started.
“Julie was amazing from the start and explained that by making small changes to my diet, such as opting for low fat minced beef and swapping cream for quark, I would lose weight without really feeling like I was trying,” Heather explains.
In her first week, Heather lost eight pounds.
She swapped her once-stodgy breakfast of sugary cereal and toast for lean bacon, tomato, eggs and beans.
She swapped the chicken kievs and chips she’d once gorged on at lunchtime for a ham salad sandwich.
And her greasy takeaway dinners of fish, chips, mushy peas and curry sauce were replaced by lean steaks, vegetables and jacket potatoes.
She even stopped snacking on toast, cakes, chocolate, crisps and ice cream – instead opting for the much healthier option of homemade Weetabix cupcakes.
She says: “I was amazed by how easy it had been. Food had always been a big love for me, and I’d always worried I’d feel I was cutting my favourite things out completely when I eventually started dieting.
“But in fact, in that first week I’d eaten so much food that I worried I had put on weight. I was amazed when I realised how much I’d lost, and it made me all the more determined to keep going.”
Heather's diet transformation
Breakfast: Sugary cereal and toast
Lunch: Chicken kievs and chips
Dinner: Greasy takeaways, fish, chips, mushy peas and curry sauce
Snack: Toast, cakes, chocolate, crisps and ice cream
Breakfast: Lean bacon, tomato, eggs and beans
Lunch: Ham salad sandwich
Dinner: Lean steaks, vegetables and jacket potatoes
Snack: Homemade Weetabix cupcakes
Heather was so determined to lose weight that she bought herself a beautiful designer dress covered in unicorns – in a size 14 as a goal.
Heather says: “My mum was so proud of me, and confided that she’d been worried about my weight for a while but hadn’t wanted to hurt my feelings.”
But just weeks after Heather started dieting, her mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer and, after a brave battle, she lost her fight six months later.
“I’d promised her I’d keep going, and I reached the halfway mark later that week. I was devastated she hadn’t been there to see it for herself, but I knew she’d be proud of me, wherever she was,” Heather says.
In memory of her mum, Heather bought a miniature dachshund and named her Plum – which had been her mum’s pet name for her.
Walks with her new canine companion kept Heather on the right track to reaching her goal weight.
When she realised she was losing half a stone every six weeks she was delighted.
Finally, on December 23, 2015, she felt all her Christmases had come at once when she hit her 10 stone goal.
Heather says: “I was just so overwhelmed at the realisation I’d shed half of my body weight. And when I tried on my beautiful unicorn dress, it was actually too big for me – I’d managed to drop to a dress size 10. It was such a surreal moment.
“I’d lost so much weight that I’d even dropped two shoe sizes, so I sold my entire collection of shoes on eBay. I treated myself to some gorgeous new pairs with the money I made from them.
“Being able to shop on the high street for the first time in my life was amazing, and when I was asked to model some vintage clothing in a fashion show it felt like a dream come true.”
Heather’s Slimming World consultant was so impressed with her transformation she asked Heather to become a consultant too.
“I’d fallen in love with the plan and felt so passionate about inspiring others to be the best version of themselves,” Heather says.
In May 2017, Heather launched her very own Slimming World group.
Now she’s a full-time consultant, holding four weekly classes in Sandbach and Rode Heath in Cheshire.
Heather says: “I have over 200 members and it makes me so happy to know I can help other people turn their lives around. I’ve adopted another dog, Mouse, and have so much energy I even climbed Mount Snowdon.
“I spent so many years overweight, but now I am over the moon with the new me.”
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We previously told how a Muller Light yoghurt addict who lost three stone eating up to 24 pots a day was gutted after Slimming World stopped them being Syn-free.
We also reported how a bride to-be lost seven stone with Slimming World after buying her dream wedding dress five sizes too small.