OFTEN, when you decide to take that first step deciding what you want out of life, having a little help from your friends makes taking that important first step a little bit easier.
Laura McCarthy and Charlene Mullen became firm friends when they joined Slimming World in the Glen Resource Centre, losing more than eight and a half stone between them.
“My first week, I held back the tears when my consultant, Fiona, told me that I had lost almost half a stone,” says Laura. “The joy and pride I felt will never leave me.”
In losing the weight on her Slimming World journey, Laura gained a precious friend in Charlene.
“Looking back now, it is hard to believe that we didn’t know each other before Slimming World,” says Charlene, who is a mother of three.
The women bonded through the good times, the rough moments, and everything in between.
They haven’t looked back since discovering Slimming World, where everyone in the same boat helps each other achieve their goals.
When Laura entered the doors of Slimming World in August, 2019, at first she was afraid.
“And sceptical and ashamed,” says Laura.
“Food addiction had controlled my adult life.”
At times she battled it and won. Other times she buried her head in the sand and hid herself in the bedroom — 2017 and 2018 saw Laura’s weight soar to the highest it had ever been.
She was stuck in a cycle of hating who she had become and eating more to comfort herself. And she was lonely.
“I was living in Spain, away from family and friends. Days were very hot in Seville but I was covered up in full-length leggings and over-sized tops. Fashion wasn’t a consideration either.”
In August, 2018, Laura moved back to Cork after 12 years abroad.
“I broke down in my mother’s arms,” she recalls. Laura had hit rock bottom and could see no way out. But there was a way out and a way back to a healthy, fit body.
“My mom suggested that I try Slimming World,” says Laura.
“I was very sceptical. I thought, ‘I am too big to join. I need something more drastic’.”
She needed the support of a trained consultant and the warm welcome of the Slimming World members all embarking on the same weight-loss journey together.
“Mom reminded me of the extreme and dangerous temporary fixes that I had tried in the past. They negatively affected my weight and my mental health.”
Two days later, Laura, deciding what she wanted out of life, took that first brave step and went to her first Slimming World Group at The Glen Resource Centre.
She was not alone.
“The entire time I looked around the room, comparing myself to everyone,” says Laura. “I was the biggest.”
She was embraced into the circle of friends.
“I was welcomed with open arms by my consultant and by my partners in crime!”
As Laura listened to everyone, she was overcome by the sense of camaraderie.
“There was no competition, no comparisons,” says Laura. “Everyone was supportive and encouraging. When I first started, I couldn’t believe all the foods I could choose from. I was never hungry.”
Laura’s positive mindset was encouraging.
“I thought, maybe I could do this.” And she could.
Meanwhile, Charlene Mullen living in Cork’s northside, a busy mum, was feeling very down and miserable about her weight, and needed to take that first step to tackle her weight problem.
“At that time, no matter what I wore, I just didn’t feel good about myself,” says Charlene.
“I just felt so horrible all the time. I never allowed full-length pictures to be taken of me because I hated how I looked and I felt so self-conscious about my appearance.”
Charlene had lost her self-esteem and in order to regain it she decided to focus on her weight to help her feel good about herself again. She needed some help from her friends.
“After thinking about it for some time, I decided to give Slimming World a go,” says Charlene.
“I had seen a poster advertising a group in The Glen Resource Centre, so I decided to go along.
“I thought, I’ll give it a go and see will it help me. I had tried everything else and failed each time, so I thought, I’ve nothing to lose.”
July 28 was D-day and it was the day Charlene’s new journey of a new positive mindset and new friendships began.
“When I walked through those doors that first day, I was so full of emotions. I was scared, I was anxious about walking into the unknown and just taking that first step,” recalls Laura.
Her qualms were quashed when she went through those doors.
“I opened the doors and walked through and that’s when I met my amazing consultant, Fiona. She made me feel so welcome and made me feel at ease so quickly.”
She got into the groove of the manageable food plan quickly.
“I was a plain eater, but I quickly realised I had nothing to fear following the plan.
“I stayed to group and I listened to the other members picking up valuable tips. The pounds started coming off and things were looking good,” says Charlene.
“Slimming World isn’t a diet. It is a lifestyle change and you can eat as much as you need to feel full. There is huge choice and there is really no need to be worried.”
When the body magic happened, the magic of friendship happened too.
“Charlene and I started a walking group to incorporate some more body magic!” says Laura.
“Whoever can make it comes along and we support each other in all kinds of weather.
“We have taster parties in group on occasions too and we share our favourite dishes and I have made some great friends in the group. I always stay in group, partly for the inspiration, but also for the social aspect.”
Laura has lost six stone but she’s continuing her journey.
“No. I’m not finished yet! I hate to say I have good weeks and bad weeks. Some weeks have just given me bigger weight losses than others. But now, every week is a good week for me.”
Charlene has lost two stone and is looking and feeling fantastic.
“Today, I am feeling a lot more confident about myself. I have regained a lot of my self-esteem.
“I have no problem standing in for full-length pictures any more because I am so proud of the new me and how I look. Joining Slimming World group in The Glen Resource Centre is the best decision I ever made.”
Charlene and Laura became firm friends.
“You are never on your own in group and the members will be your biggest supporters.”
Glen Resource Centre group meets Saturday s. 7.30am, 9.30am, 11.30am. Contact Fiona: 086-8606355 See: slimmingworld.ie