Southampton Teacher Is Slimmer Of The Year

A newly-crowned slimmer of the year from Southampton who lost 15st in 18 months says she's proud that she did it all herself without having a gastric band or bypass.

25-year-old Harriet Jenkins, who dropped 10 dress sizes through healthy eating and exercise to be named Slimming World's Woman of the Year 2010.

Weightloss - After

She says

"I want people to know that even if you've got a huge amount of weight to lose, having gastric surgery isn't the only answer. Eighteen months ago I weighed more than 26st.

"I was unemployed, people yelled abuse at me in the street and my family were worried I was heading for an early grave.

"Now, I've lost more than half my body weight and I believe nothing's impossible. I want to share this feeling with as many people as I can.

"My life's completely different now and I've achieved things I thought I never would, like getting my dream job as a teacher. But it's not just because I look different and weigh less, it's also because I'm more confident and finally happy with who I am.

"I'm so proud of myself for taking control of my life and I don't think I'd feel the same way if I'd had an operation that forced me to change."

Harriet, from Southampton, had been overweight from childhood, but put on more weight after her dad John was diagnosed with a fatal liver disease in July 2002. She says:

"I would sit by his hospital bed with a big bar of chocolate and then go home and eat some more. I was in the middle of my A-Levels and I didn't cope well, I turned to food rather than dealing with my emotions."

When Harriet's father passed away in spring 2003, her comfort eating continued and by the age of 18 she weighed more than 18st.

That summer Harriet went to Nottingham University to study French.

"It wasn't your typical 18-year-old's experience of university. I'd watch TV in my room with a takeaway and a bottle of wine."

By the time she'd finished her studies in 2008, Harriet was a size 30 and struggled to find smart clothes to fit for job interviews.

She dreamed of becoming a teacher but settled for a job in a Southampton call centre, where boredom and depression saw her turn to food again, eating endless sweets and chocolate at her desk.

When a friend invited Harriet to join her at their local Slimming World group she decided she had nothing (except weight!) to lose. After years of avoiding the scales Harriet was horrified to discover she weighed in at 26st 7lb; a massive 6st more than she'd expected. She says:

"I think I'd been in denial about my size for a long time. I was disgusted but the Consultant wasn't, she didn't judge me and I didn't have to tell anyone else what I weighed which was a huge relief."

Since then Harriet's lost 15st, dropping from a dress size 30 to a 10, completed her teacher training and started a teaching job with her own class of nine and ten-year-olds. Once she started to lose weight she also began to exercise, taking short walks at first, before joining a gym and now she runs regularly. Last month she ran the Great South Run in her dad's memory for child bereavement charity Simon Says.

Harriet says:

"My weight loss has been a journey and I feel like I've arrived. This is me."

Vital statistics

Name: Harriet Jenkins

Age: 25

Slimming World group: Harriet started at Bev Scott's Southampton group in May 2009 but now attends the Freemantle group run by Joanna Mortimore

Height: 5ft 8½in

Starting weight: 26st 7lb

Current weight: 11st 7lb

Weight loss: 15st

Starting dress size: 30

Current dress size: 10

Before menu:

Breakfast: Two sausage rolls and two doughnuts

Mid morning: A chocolate bar or a packet of crisps

Lunch: Bacon and egg sandwiches, crisps and biscuits. Diet Coke

Mid afternoon: Jelly sweets

After work: Vodka and Coke. A bag of nuts

Dinner: Ready meal spaghetti Bolognese or lasagne

Snacks: Sweets or chocolate

After menu:

Breakfast: Weetabix with a banana and fat free flavoured yogurt and a cup of coffee

Mid morning: A cereal bar and fruit

Lunch: Baked potato and beans, couscous or omelette with a big salad

Mid afternoon: Fruit or pieces of ham or chicken

Dinner: Big bowl of homemade carrot and coriander soup with a big salad of mixed vegetables and high fibre crispbread, or homemade breaded chicken and potato wedges baked in the oven and salad.

Snacks: Raspberries, frozen Mullerlight yogurt

Treats: Milky Way.