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weight gain anxiety 'The idea is to still have fun while losing weight and in lockdown I counted on the online support'

After gaining 10 stone, Orla (37) plucked up the courage to join Slimming World. She lost an astonishing seven stone and found her way back to health and happiness

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Orla Coffey is delighted with her new look

Orla Coffey is delighted with her new look

Orla Coffey is delighted with her new look

Orla Coffey is delighted with her new look

Orla Coffey before her weightloss

Orla Coffey before her weightloss

Orla Coffey is delighted with her new look

Orla Coffey is delighted with her new look

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Orla Coffey is delighted with her new look

In 2012, seven weeks before my wedding, (aged 29), I suffered a catastrophic accident that left me with such severe eye and facial pain, I was unable to go outside. I went from being an active person, who walked a minimum of 40 minutes a day, to someone who was completely immobilised. I became trapped indoors.

I suffered with severe nerve pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, and I was on medication. I nearly doubled in weight, going from just over 10 stone to just under 20 stone.

I have had multiple sclerosis (MS) since I was 15, and although I was pretty bad for few years, thankfully my MS went into a deep remission in my twenties and I lived a full and energetic life until the accident.

In 2014, two years after my wedding, I looked like a completely different person, but not once did my husband judge me or stop loving me. He was, and always will be, my rock.

I was disillusioned and thought there was no way back for me. My energy levels were depleted and I felt like a stranger in my own body. I tried quick fixes, but nothing worked. By January 2017, I finally plucked up the courage to walk through the doors of my local Slimming World.

The programme is so simple - but it was my consultant, Noeleen Herbage, and the support of my lovely group that truly helped me in my weight loss journey.

Noeleen is just an incredible person and she was so encouraging from day one and great craic as well. She's all about living your life and fitting the plan around it - have fun and lose weight.

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Orla Coffey is delighted with her new look

Orla Coffey is delighted with her new look

Orla Coffey is delighted with her new look

So week by week, I became familiar with 'Free Foods' and learned the importance of filling a third of my plate with fresh vegetables and snacking on fruit. There was so much to love about the plan, even down to realising I could eat as many potatoes or as much rice as I wanted to. I was never hungry.

I gradually began to drop weight and had lost four stone by the time lockdown happened. However, during lockdown, I was unable to visit my fabulous family, who are my main support, and I became anxious that I would gain weight again.

Noeleen almost instantaneously started a weekly Zoom session. Because of this, Slimming World and Noeleen gave me consistency and comfort - I got all the relevant food and slimming information and more importantly - I got the support I needed.

The online group support had emotional benefits too and I'm very happy to report that my weight loss accelerated during lockdown. I had the support, I had something positive to focus on, and consequently, I lost weight. At the moment, I have lost seven stone and I'm feeling very confident and excited that my 10 stone award will be mine in the near future.

Because I have been overweight for so long, I'm used to not making an effort, so the photoshoot was a bit of an eye-opener for me. Socially, I'm super confident, but when it came to my appearance, I wanted to hide away. I hated how I looked. Now, that is slowly changing. I'm finally embracing my new body and feeling more like the old Orla that was robbed from me because of my accident.

I hope that anyone who is reading this - whether they have a chronic illness or trauma from an injury, or are at a point in their life where they're feeling lost, that my story will help inspire them to make themselves a priority. I laugh when I think of how I'll look back at the awful year of 2020 that we've all been through. It has been a never-ending horror show, but I will hopefully look back with gratitude for the progress I managed to make in one vital and esteem-building area.

Thank you Noeleen and Slimming World.

Orla Coffey

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Orla Coffey before her weightloss

Orla Coffey before her weightloss

Orla Coffey before her weightloss


Before: 19 Stone 12lb

Starting Weight: 19st 12lb

Current Weight: 12st 12lb

Total weight loss: 7st

Consultant: Noeleen Herbage