The pictures above are my ‘before’ and ‘after’ weight loss pictures. 2009 and 2016.
This is a personal story about how my life has changed. Before I begin, I would like my readers to be aware that there are some sensitive issues here.
I have written this partly to remind myself how far I have come but also to, hopefully, let others see the struggles behind success. As I said to a group of friends, it’s important for others who see you as successful to see ‘behind the scenes’. Letting those who feel as I have done know that I have been in their position and have come out of it (sometimes still falling back in).
I would like to begin in 2009. I would have been 28-29 years old. I am starting here because everything previous to this was either forgotten or irrelevant (except for having my first child in 2000 and my second in 2005) but also because it was 2009 when my life really started to change.
As I began writing this, I realised I was waffling a lot and it came across as dwelling on past events. So, I have saved the really long version as a private document (which I am happy to share on request) and this is the edited version.
Looking back: 2009
This story begins in 2009 and to which I refer as my ‘annus horribilus’.
So, 2009. My eldest son (Rhys) was at school. A couple of niggles there with the head teacher but nothing too worrying. My youngest son (Frankie) went to nursery. He liked the nursery, and I worked there. Frankie did have a few problems, though. He was referred to Integrated Disability Service (IDS) and tested for Autism. In April 2009, two months before he turned four years old, Frankie was diagnosed with high functioning Autism. Tests, appointments, meeting, health teams were the norm for us for a while after that. I got quite confused with it all and, at times, was not sure of who we were seeing and why. It also transpired that Frankie has hypermobility as well as sound sensitivity and, to put it politely, ‘toilet issues’. I’ve written an article on Autism here which I hope will offer some help and advice which I (and others) found was not forthcoming.
2009 was also the year I passed my driving test. This was good, of course. What was not good was when, after only having been driving for a few weeks, I was taken to court after being accused of crashing into a parked car. This is a long story in itself but, in summary, I was punished for something I proved I did not do.
Later that year, my partner at the time (Matt – who is Frankie’s dad) had lost his job. Another long story in itself but, suffice to say, he was not forthcoming with the truth of that matter.
At the end of 2009, Christmas Eve in fact, we had a house fire. It gutted the kitchen, caused smoke damage in every room, and covered Christmas gifts in black soot. The boys and I moved in with my Mum and Dad for a while, Matt moved in with his Mum.
In all honesty, I don’t remember a great deal about 2010. I do remember that I spent a lot of time trying to clean up and repair the fire damage at our home. I was working, studying (I was a nursery nurse working on my NVQ), and looking after the boys. At my Mum and Dad’s, the boys and I were sharing a bedroom. Matt was not working so we decided that, once the worst of the smoke damaged was cleared, he would move back in so that he could get on with things. This did not go to plan as he refused to do anything if nobody else was there to help. So, of course, sorting that out took longer than it really should.
By the summer, I was determined that we would be home before my 30th birthday (which was October 2010) so I did everything I could to make the house fit for my boys to live in. We did move back in, although some damage still remained, about two weeks before my birthday.
2011 as not particularly interesting but Matt was still out of work so I took advantage of that as I could access funding to study with The Open University. I think this was the year that I really started making the effort to make changes. We had had a couple of pretty horrible years and I felt like giving up. So starting a degree, although it didn’t feel like it at the time, was my turning point. It was not when things started to change but it was when I decided that I needed to do something to make life better. In 2012, Matt and I were both offered full-time jobs, although I took mine on a part-time basis (and did not stay for long because it was horrible) to fit around the boys and my existing job.
Fast Forward to August 2013
I had just finished the modules for my second year of university. After trying to take on too much (as I often do), I decided that this degree was my priority. Forget everything else. If things came up which needed to be dealt with, they were dealt with. Luckily, at the time, there wasn’t, as there had been before, 101 things coming up at once which couldn’t wait.
One of the things I had put on the back burner was my attempt to lose weight and get fit. I had been to gyms, I’d tried all sorts of things. I’d walk for miles every day during the summer, and I just could not do it.
One day in August 2013, a friend asked me to give her a lift to a Slimming World group. I had no intention of staying but I thought I may as well find out about it seeing as I was there anyway. I assumed, quite erroneously, that this would be just another person telling me a bunch of things I already know, which I already do, and which hadn’t worked. Three years later, I’ve been at my weight loss target for a year and a half since losing around 6 stone.
This was another pivotal point. As I said, I had already made some decisions. I’d already started bettering myself in other areas. So joining Slimming world and realising that yes, weight loss was something I could do, spurred me on with other things.
I’m going to go have to retrace my steps a little now. For several years (I’m not sure how many), I was not happy in a lot of things. My relationship was one of them. I often say that I was a single Mum before this because it’s easier than explaining the truth. So, by 2014, I had already decided to find a way out. It was now just a case of getting the help I needed to do it. Things began to change some more as I was offered a council flat, where I moved with my two children.
We moved in March 2014, and I found that actually being a single Mum, my boys and I were all so much happier. I made more of an effort to spend time with my friends and I even made some new ones (which is something I’ve always found difficult). Unfortunately, I had been made redundant from my job but I was still studying and I was trying to work from home, doing anything I could find from direct selling to writing for websites and suchlike. I had been working in childcare and education for more years than I care to admit, and I had been trying almost as long to get out of it.
When we moved, I had planned on spending time with friends and making life good for myself and my boys. I had never really been single for any period of time and I needed to learn how to be me. It was entirely by co-incidence that two months after I moved, I met D. I won’t go into detail of the night I met him but it began with me, perfectly innocently, saying to a mutual friend that D seems nice. She ran over to him like a 12 year old in a school playground and said ‘my mate fancies you’. D and I chatted over Facebook but it was another two months before we actually saw each other again and got together.
He has various health issues and, before he asked me out, he basically sat down with me and said ‘look, here are all the things that are wrong with me and I’ve had some girlfriends who can’t cope with that’. As I left, he walked me outside, kissed me, and locked himself out of the building! It was almost a week later that we managed to arrange our first date and he officially asked me out.
2015 was also a year when not a lot happened, except that Frankie joined Cubs (where he has done really well), I ended up working with a childcare agency again (only for 10 months because I had, again, taken on too much), and D became a grandad. But that’s a separate, long and difficult story. I also reached my first Slimming World target, with around a 5 stone loss. Then I changed my target later on in the year when I’d lost more than I expected.
Finally to this year. Well, this year has been full of changes. I changed my Slimming World target again as I continued to lose weight. I have decided that I am happy with my weight now. I need to work on exercise and toning. I did go to the gym for a while but had to give up the membership as it became too expensive. I still try to do other things, though.
I must admit now that, while Slimming World has been amazing for me, there are times when I struggle with it. Even though I’ve been at my target now for a year and a half, I still have bad days, even bad weeks. I put on a little weight recently. Mainly, that was due to various celebrations but I did get a little carried away and found it quite difficult to get back on track again.
While this year has been interesting and positive in a lot of ways, it has had its downs. Not to go into too much detail, I had some health issues for which I had to undergo various tests (turns out it was a ‘hormone imbalance’ – I think that’s a polite way of saying ‘early menopause’), Frankie’s dad stopped contact (he’d not had much anyway), and I had a fight on my hands when Frankie’s disability benefits were stopped and I had to jump through hoops at the Job Centre. Something good did come if this when they sent me on an Employability course and then an IT course. Something I started to do a while ago was to turn every negative into positive. This particular situation gave me a qualification in IT, which was a subject in which I was never very confident. I was also offered some work experience with the Job Centre and then found an internship. After a letter of appeal, which I wrote, the benefits were reinstated. Having written the appeal letter. utilising the things I had learned from studying, this also gave me confidence in my own writing.
This year has been more about change than anything else. Rhys has just completed his GCSEs and is awaiting results before going on to college. I have just finished my English degree as well as taken on the internship. I am training as a journalist, which is my dream job, so I am quite happy to scrimp and save (because it’s an unpaid position) for a few months to get my foot in the door.
7th July 2016, Frankie went for induction day at secondary school. He was absolutely fine. He came home with a certificate for working hard in maths and, at the open evening later on, a drama teacher said that Frankie had been ‘very vocal’ during the drama lesson. Any other subject, being vocal might be a bad thing!
8th July 2016, I received the result of my degree. I was a little disappointed with a Third Class Honours, not least because most graduate jobs require at least a 2:2, and I had read that some felt a Third Class degree was not worth having, some believing it shows a lack of effort and some comments along the lines of anyone with a basic understanding of the subject could achieve a third.
Had I got this a few years ago, I would have been really unhappy with myself. As it is, of course, I’m thinking that I could have done better but I am much more confident in myself. My time management, which is something with which I struggled, has improved. D has been really supportive over the past two years and I do wonder if, had he been around for the full five years (if I’d met him sooner or if I’d started the course later) whether I would have done better.
Thankfully, I have a lot of friends and family who are proud of me. I am also proud of myself. I did it. One of the reasons I took it on in the first place was to prove to myself that I could. I hadn’t got much of a plan as to what to do when I had finished. I did, however, decide during the last year or two that I wanted to be a journalist.
Considering all of the distractions, I am actually really proud of myself to have passed at all.
I had considered a few things during my studies. I’d thought about getting another degree in a different subject, or going on to take a Masters in English. I decided, in the end, to take a break from studying. However, due to the result, I think that it would be a good idea for me to continue studying. Perhaps a degree in journalism. I had chosen English as it was something which would give me numerous options. A more specific degree would, I thought, not have been so useful. Now I know what I want to do, a degree in journalism makes sense.
I will be taking a break from study first. Well, except for the possibility of learning Welsh. We visited Cardiff last year and all of us (D, the boys, and I) said that we would love to move there. There are also jobs there but many request a Welsh speaker. Even if we don’t move, I love learning languages and it might be useful in the future.
I hope that this story has shown how life has improved and how I have got to where I am. It’s not been an easy journey. There were times when I thought that nothing would ever change, when I felt that it didn’t matter what I did or how hard I tried to make things better. Thinking positively is a really good idea but it can be really difficult when you feel you’re already trying your best.
I also hope that my story is helpful to readers, perhaps inspiring some to do things they’ve been putting off, or realising that they can do things they believed they could not.
Thank you for reading.