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“At last I’m the real me—confident and happy”*
At a size 18, Anita Yandell-Jones buried herself in work and put the rest of her life on hold—until she lost more than 100lbs. Now she's brimming with confidence and enjoys socializing, roller skating and good health...as well as a successful career.
“My life today is so different from the way it was in my thirties. Back then, it was all about work. I started my current job with an insurance company, which involved long hours and traveling both at home and abroad. I enjoyed it, but my work-life balance was completely off. My confidence was also quite low.
“I had been a busy single mom throughout most of my twenties, and my own health and wellbeing were very low on my list of priorities. At 30, I met my husband Baz, who works in IT, and we settled into a routine I can only describe as comfortable. I was so tied up with work I rarely ate regular meals and would grab snacks from vending machines during the day. My daughter Charlotte was eight years old and, although I’d make her healthy meals, Baz and I often ordered takeout before settling down on the sofa to eat a bag of candy each. No wonder we both gained weight.
“Over three years, I put on more than 100lbs while Baz put on almost 60lbs. I became bitterly unhappy with my size-18 body and my hectic work life, but I told myself there was nothing I could do about either of them. I went from being outgoing with a good social life to shy and retiring. When friends invited me out, I always had a ‘reason’ I couldn’t go—or I’d accept their invitation then back out at the last minute pretending I had to work. I was the Queen of Excuses.
“On occasions when I did go out, I convinced myself people were looking at me and thinking I’d ‘let myself go’. I wanted to be invisible. Looking back, I realize now that I even distanced myself from my own family, which makes me so sad.
“I hated shopping for clothes and would take tags off hangers so no one could see which size I was buying. I lost count of the number of times I left a changing room close to tears. Eventually I avoided clothing stores altogether and lived in shapeless dresses, baggy pants, leggings and T-shirts. I stopped making an effort with my nails, hair and makeup, too—I felt like I wasn’t worth it.
“There were many embarrassing moments. One Christmas as we all sat down at the table, my chair gave way. Mortified, I went to the bathroom and wept. Another time, I went to an event at a race course: I couldn’t find a single thing to wear, so I borrowed a summer dress from my aunt, who is 25 years older than me. I posed for a photo and when I saw the snapshot, I wanted the ground to swallow me. I looked so huge and unhappy.
“At work my boss told me I was becoming too aggressive. It was a defense mechanism because I felt so bad about myself: I’d go on the attack and make enemies of people before they had the chance to say anything negative about me. I always felt like the odd one out and as if I was being judged because of my size. I didn’t like the person I was turning into.
“My weight was affecting my health, too. I had five miscarriages after Baz and I got married, and, while we’ll never know the direct cause, I think my size and how I felt about myself didn’t help. I was getting bigger and bigger, and I wasn’t in a good place.
“We were overjoyed when, at 33, my pregnancy with Oliver progressed normally. I avoided going to the postnatal appointment, though, because I knew I’d have to be weighed and I was worried my doctor would judge me. What upsets me most is that I have only one photograph of myself with my baby son because I avoided the camera. When my children look back at their childhood photos, there’ll be hardly any pictures of them with their mom.
“The turning point came in the spring of 2013, when Baz, Oliver and I went on a vacation. I kept covered up the whole time, I never went in the pool with my son and I avoided other vacationers when they tried to talk to me. I remember feeling as though I was lost. We flew back on a Saturday and on the following Monday I told Baz we were both joining Slimming World right away. Something had switched on in my head, and I knew I had to tackle my weight.
“The day I joined I went to the supermarket and stocked up on tons of Free Foods—these are healthy, filling foods you can eat freely. I wasn’t totally convinced it would work because I seemed to be able to eat so much. So I was delighted when the next week I found I’d lost 7lbs! Even better, I hadn’t been hungry at all. That was it for me—I was hooked. I didn’t miss a single group in the first six months.
“It was during this time I got a phone call that changed everything. For a long time I’d had abnormal cells around my cervix and I had undergone nine operations to help. Now, I was told the cells had progressed and were cancerous. I was offered chemotherapy or radiation, but I opted for a hysterectomy instead—I already had my children and surgery offered the best chance of survival.
“I had lost around 40lbs when I had the operation and I’m sure I recovered more easily as a result. The weight continued coming off—I kept winning the Slimmer of the Week award in group—and I was so happy when, in January 2014, I achieved my goal of losing 70lbs.
“By May that year, when I got the all-clear from the hospital, I was down to 162lbs. I was relieved and elated and felt so positive about life that I decided to reset my target weight at 142lbs—and I got there in January 2016. My family is so proud of what I’ve achieved. They’ve been incredibly supportive and have reaped the benefits of Food Optimizing themselves, too. Baz has lost 40lbs, my parents have lost the same amount between them, and my daughter Charlotte has even lost a little weight during her first year at college—no ‘freshman 15’ gain for her!
“Now, my slim life is really taking off! The day I got to target I thought “That’s it, I’m where I want to be. I’m at target, I’m well again—and I’m going to start living my life!” And that’s exactly what I’ve done. I go to the gym five days a week, do yoga classes and love rollerskating. I’ve even taken up surfing again after years of staying out of the water!
“My social life has skyrocketed, too. I meet up with friends every Saturday to catch up over coffee, and never turn down an invitation—I’m the life and soul of the party! At last I’m the real me: the confident, happy Anita. And the spinoff effect it’s had is just amazing. My boss says I’m a different person, and I can’t help but agree. Losing more than 100lbs has changed my life so much words, can’t explain it!”
How I slimmed down my working day
Before, I’d leave the house as early as 4:30 a.m., with an empty stomach. At around 8 a.m., I’d stop at the vending machine and buy chocolate and chips for breakfast—then someone would do a takeout run and I’d join in. For lunch I’d fill up on a huge mayonnaise-heavy sandwich, then after work I’d grab fried fish and French fries and take them home to eat with four slices of bread.
My stay-lean routine
I’m still up and out at 4:30 a.m.! Only now I take hard-boiled eggs, fruit or oatmeal to the office. I’ll make a big salad for lunch, and if we eat out, I’ll order steak with salad. I always have fruit on my desk at work; I had forgotten how much I like bananas and strawberries. On weekends I’ll batch cook five or six Slimming World recipes such as spaghetti, pulled pork or chicken, so I’ve got healthy dinners on hand no matter how crazy my Monday-to-Friday schedule turns out to be.
*Your weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much you have to lose.