WHEN talking to Caroline Buckley, I am reminded of an advert from the early 1980s. Remember Victor Kiam, extolling the virtues of the Remington shaver on our black and white televisions? Remember his catch phrase? “I was so impressed, I bought the company”?
Caroline Buckley’s story is not one of investment in an electronics company, but rather a story of successful weight loss through Slimming World, so much so that she has now bought into the franchise to become a Slimming World Consultant.
It’s also a story of investment in herself.
Caroline begins the story at the age of 12.
“I was sick and I started to put on weight. It just escalated. I had very bad food habits from a very young age. Then, in my 20s I was going out drinking and eating and like a lot of girls I had convenience foods, takeaways — and a lack of knowledge.
“All those couple of pounds creep up and next thing you know you are overweight.”
Fast forward to June, 2017, and Caroline finally found the motivation to do something about it.
As proprietor of Caroline’s Beauty Haven in Crosshaven, she was seeing women come in to her salon with great weight loss results and she felt inspired to follow their path.
In addition, she was in a new relationship with her partner John, who was to turn 50 that August, which provided an impetus for Caroline to set herself a modest target: “If I could be down half a stone by then… I was. And more. And I’ve two kids, so another reason was to be doing it for them. I’ve a girl of 16 and I want to show example; and I’ve a son who’s 11. I want to show them healthy eating and move away from convenience food.”
Slimming World was the method she chose, although it wasn’t the first time she had gone down that route.
“I went before to Slimming World and Weight Watchers but I could never get past the first stone,” she explains.
On reflection, she feels this was because she never gave group sessions adequate time back then, something she now describes as “essential”. She also suggests that it’s important to find the right consultant to lead you.
In 2017, things were different.
“I bent over backwards to give myself an hour and a half every Saturday morning for group.”
There she found support amongst others on their own weight loss journeys, as they shared ideas, recipes and secrets of success, as well as forming great friendships.
“You learn from the person across the room. Things like being prepared for your week, getting tips such as making your curry sauce first, freezing it and adding your meat afterwards; asking questions like, ‘where can I buy certain ingredients?’”
A simple pen and notebook also proved to be valuable tools for Caroline at the beginning.
“We have food diaries where you document what you eat in the first few weeks. We say, ‘If you nibble it, you scribble it. If you drink it, you ink it. If you bite it, write it’.
“Documenting your food over the first few weeks is very important. People can look at it and think, ‘I did well today’. You feel that you are the one in control.”
At the weekly weigh-ins, Caroline was impressed by the fact that everyone’s weight remained confidential, with no humiliation or judgement. “There’s no shame in a maintain or a gain. We all have good or bad weeks,” she says.
She also feels that the system protects clients against any extreme or unhealthy weight loss expectations right at the beginning of the journey. She says on average people lose three to five stone, although there was one lady in her group who lost eight to nine stone in weight.
As a party lover, with a great social life, Caroline was delighted to find that the Slimming World method did not curb her lifestyle.
“I can still eat what I want, just in controlled amounts. I’ve had holidays, weekends away and parties. I didn’t give up drink or my social life. I’m always out and about. When you’re out you can make the wiser choices by following the plan, like asking for sauces on the side. And the support in restaurants among staff is great. In places like Ramen and SOBA, you can ask if they’ll cook it in water instead of oil.
“Every Saturday morning I have chocolate cake. You can have treats — you just work them into your plan. Nothing is out of bounds.”
As a result, Caroline has come to love coking more than she did in the past.
“It’s more interesting. It was getting very same-y. And I’m looking down and my tummy isn’t in the way, it’s not touching off the hob — or the steering wheel,” she says, recalling the everyday difficulties of driving a car.
Any advice in particular?
“Soup is your best friend. Tomato soup with chilli, butternut squash soup with curry powder; throwing in celery is brilliant, it sweetens it up, the kids love it.”
Today, Caroline is 3 stone, 3lbs down, having gone from a size 24 at her heaviest to a size 12.
“I have a few things in size 10, even if they do cling to me”, she adds.
Caroline had a breast reduction 11 years ago which took her down ten sizes, at which point she took up running but she still didn’t lose weight, even though she was toned and fit and ran two marathons. For her, it seems Slimming World was the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle.
Could she have ever dreamt of this transformation when she first plucked up the courage to tackle her weight? “No, never. I never knew what it was like to feel slim. I can’t believe I still am.”
No matter her size, Caroline has always been someone who had an interest in fashion and beauty, but now that is a far easier pursuit.
“The biggest difference is being able to buy clothes. When I started I was a size 22/24. At the age of 18 I was a size 16, so I’m smaller now than I was as a teenager. With bigger size clothes your underwear is more expensive and I sometimes had to wear maternity-wear instead of regular clothes.”
There were other difficulties too.
“Being in a bar, trying to squeeze through people — or on a train. I had welts under my breasts and tummy because the flesh wouldn’t have any air. I don’t get hot and sweaty out in places now. Even going in toilet doors was difficult. Now it’s just, ‘In you go!’”
Previously married, she found shopping for wedding dresses a distressing experience 20 years ago.
“There were none in my size. I remember a woman in a boutique saying, “We’d never stock those sizes’. I cried straight away and gave out to the woman.”
Now happily engaged to John, she is looking forward to dress shopping this time around, ahead of Christmas 2021 nuptials.
“I cannot wait! On Pinterest I have it all pinned. All styles are open to me now. I don’t have to worry about a large chest or a large tummy. I can actually choose what I want.
“Or I can walk out the door, saying, ‘I didn’t like anything there’. I can go into shops now and not have to buy the only thing that fits.”
One automatically thinks of clothes when talking about weight but perhaps the impact on footwear gets forgotten. Caroline enlightens me: “I’m well known for loving my shoes and now I’m three stone lighter on my feet I can wear my heels all day and night. I never have any pain in my feet.”
Sounds like Caroline will be dancing all night long at her wedding!
Caroline runs her Slimming World groups at Douglas Hall AFC in Moneygourney, Rochestown every Wednesday at 6.30pm, Thursday at 9.30am and Saturday at 9am. See www.facebook.com/SlimmingWorldRochestown