Ipswich woman becomes leader of Slimming World group after shedding more than 4st as member
PUBLISHED: 14:06 06 March 2018
They’re on track to be the most overweight generation since records began.
But Leanne Bennett’s story is proof that nothing is set in stone for UK millennials - despite dire warnings last week from health experts that based on population trends, more than seven in every 10 people born between the early 1980s and mid-90s will be too fat by the time they reach middle age.
Just a couple of years ago, Leanne, 36, was one of those overweight millennials, facing the very real prospect of a future blighted by chronic illness and the increased risk of serious disease.
Weighing almost 16st, life was becoming increasingly limiting for the insurance worker.
“I was out of breath just going upstairs,” she says. “I was the biggest I had ever been and it was making me so sad.”
So Leanne, who says she had always been “bigger”, even as a child, decided to leave all the failed yo-yo diets behind her and opted for a lifestyle overhaul, replacing the junk food and takeaways she had previously relied on with nutritious, home-cooked meals under the guidance of her local Slimming World group in Ipswich.
Her goal was to get back to her 11st 7lb “wedding weight” of eight years ago.
“I’d been a member of Slimming World previously but didn’t stick with it, thinking I could do it on my own, which I couldn’t,” she says. “This time I just thought: ‘It’s now or never. I’ve got to see it through’. I decided to invest the time in myself to fully engage with the group this time.”
In fact, Leanne engaged so well with the Ravenswood Slimming World group that after losing 4st 2.5lb, dropping from a size 20 to 12 and reaching her target weight within 18 months, she decided to step up and become the permanent consultant the group was previously lacking.
“It’s made such a difference to my life that I felt inspired to take that next step,” says Leanne, whose husband, Marcus, also joined the group last year and has reached his target weight too. “The first year was tough, doing it on my own, but with the support of the group, this time I didn’t give up and but when Marcus joined too an element of competition crept in that spurred us both on.
“There’s been a 180 degree turnaround in my life. Before, I really didn’t eat fruit or veg very much at all. I was a massive comfort eater - and I didn’t want to comfort eat fruit. I preferred takeaways and junk food.
“Through Slimming World I’ve learned so much about cooking food from scratch and its importance as fuel for your body. I really believe junk food is addictive and the more you exercise your willpower muscle the stronger it becomes. However, with the Slimming World plan, if I had a bad day and wanted to comfort eat there was a huge range of ‘free foods’ I could have and still stay on-course. It’s the first plan where I didn’t have to feel hungry or deprived. Now, a main meal might be spaghetti bolognese with broccoli, served on a bed or spinach. Veg and fruit is huge part of my diet these days.”
Leanne has a theory as to why her generation could end up being the most overweight adults since records began.
“We’ve become a society of convenience and many people don’t have basic cooking skills or they think cooking is a chore, as I used to think,” she says. “So many convenience foods have pretty packages and are marketed in a way to make them attractive. What is needed is education.”
Another huge benefit and change to Leanne’s life is the activity she is now able to do. She started with small changes - leaving the car at home and walking to work to now being a regular gym-goer and even climbing Mount Snowdon and paragliding on recent holidays, both activities she would never have dreamed of taking part in. She says: “It was an absolutely amazing experience and something that I never would have done when I was bigger, through fear of being too heavy or too large to fit the harness.”
Leanne’s newly-launched Slimming World group has hit the ground running, with 90 people turning up on the first night.
“It’s been overwhelming but amazing too,” she says. “The support I’ve had from members has been fantastic. They’ve followed my journey and I am living proof of what can be achieved.”
■ Leanne can be found every Wednesday evening at Ravenswood Primary School at 5.30 & 7.30pm. Just turn up on the night or call Leanne on 07738 114933.