'Feeling great' | 

Dublin woman shed an incredible 7st after her plane seatbelt would not fasten

“I was absolutely miserable. If I was going to anything I would go in and literally stand by the wall — I wanted to be invisible and I hated anyone looking at me”

Donna Dowdall

Donna Dowdall and Avril Sheridan

Donna shows off her amazing figure

Donna Dowdall and Avril Sheridan

Denise SmithSunday World

I joined in February 2013 because I knew I wanted to lose weight, but it wasn’t until I went away for a wedding that I was forced to take action. I was a size 26 at the time, so when I was coming back, the seatbelt on the plane wouldn’t close.

I put my jacket across my belt so the air hostess wouldn’t see. I knew then that I had let it get totally out of control.

I was absolutely miserable. If I was going to anything I would go in and literally stand by the wall — I wanted to be invisible and I hated anyone looking at me. I was even self-conscious about eating because I always thought people were looking at what I was eating and judging me.

I was so unhappy. But if you had asked me back then, I would have told you that I was perfectly fine and I would have put a brave face on.

I came home from that holiday knowing I had to make a change but I still needed a push. I was dreading having to get up on the weighing scales where someone would see what I weighed. I was mortified. My friend, Colette Francis, had joined Slimming World and asked me to come along, and it was the best thing I have ever done.

Donna Dowdall and Avril Sheridan

It was nothing like what I thought it was going to be. I was welcomed instantly. I soon realised that it wasn’t the volume of food I was eating, it was simply that I was eating all the wrong food.

I was so busy at work that I would reach for chicken steaks or pizza — anything that was convenient and processed. Now I eat lean meat and fish two to three days a week. I make my own curries, and everything is fresh.

Slimming World encourages members to fill up three-quarters of your plate with fresh vegetables — but you can also tailor the plan to however you like to eat.

My family would say "I don’t know how you lose weight with everything you eat.”

Donna Dowdall and Avril Sheridan

When I stood on the scale and saw 18st 5lb it was a shock to me. I hated going shopping. I was a younger age having to go to Evans, and nothing was trendy.

I started putting weight on when I was 18. When I was in my 30s I was going into a size 20 and then I let it spiral completely out of control. People would say “you are after piling that weight on” or “the weight doesn’t suit you” and that would just make me eat more.

Even when I joined Slimming World initially, I just thought “I am going to put this back on” but that obviously wasn’t the case.

I lost 8lb in my first week, and it just came off from there — I got my 7st award exactly 12 months after.

In 2019, my brother died from cancer and just after that we were plunged into the lockdown. I am an emotional eater, and I ate and drank too much.

Donna shows off her amazing figure

I put nearly 3st on, but then I got back on track and now I only have 4lb to get back to target.

I would never have done this photo shoot before joining Slimming World. And I would never have gone back to ballroom dancing, which I did as a child.

I love shopping now. My life has completely changed and I feel like a completely different woman. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

It’s the best thing you could ever do. It’s not like going into a diet, and your consultant will never give out to you for putting on weight.

I’ve made such amazing friends and it’s a lovely social group too.

If you go to the group each week you will get tips and recipes, and you will also see where you are going wrong.

I have one day where I have my treat — I love my glass of wine, and I am not going to give that up because I don’t see the point in losing weight and being miserable. You have to be able to enjoy your life, and that is exactly what I am doing.

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