Joanne Fenlon from Southport has transformed her life after losing over five and a half stone in weight after joining Slimming World

By Andrew Brown

A former NHS worker who suffered a heart attack at just 32 years old has transformed her life after losing over five and a half stone in weight.

Joanne Fenlon made drastic changes to her lifestyle after considering two options: ‘continue sitting unable to walk, getting bigger and eventually die – or pull myself together’.

Suffering from a number of conditions including Type 1 diabetes – which she was diagnosed with as a 10-year-old – CFS/ME, an underactive thyroid and pains in her legs, her weight loss means she has been able to reduce medications, including prescribed pain relief.

Joanne, from Birkdale in Southport, has now been crowned as a Slimming World Woman of the Year after losing an impressive five stone and 10 pounds in 79 weeks – despite joining her group just before the Covid pandemic struck the UK and a series of lockdowns came in.

The 51-year-old has seen her weight plummet from 16 stone 9 and a half pounds to reach her Slimming World target, a svelte 11 stone.

Joanne Fenlon from Southport has transformed her life after losing over five and a half stone in weight after joining Slimming World

Joanne Fenlon from Southport has transformed her life after losing over five and a half stone in weight after joining Slimming World

She has had to invest in a whole new wardrobe after swapping her old Size 22 clothes for new Size 10 outfits. Her BMI is now in the healthy 23 range.

Her Slimming World consultant, Dee Wright, said she hopes Joanne’s amazing success will inspire others.

Joanne Fenlon said: “I met Dee in Tesco whilst she was promoting her Slimming World group. I plucked up the courage to approach her and ask ‘could I, on all my medications, do Slimming World?’ She told me I could, and I joined the next day.

“For the last 20 years, I have gradually gained weight. This started after suffering a heart attack at the age of 32.

“I was placed on medication, stopping smoking and being scared to do much of anything for the first few months.

“Apart from being diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic at the age of 10, my health up to this point had been ok, but it does come with complications.

“I had difficulty walking due to the pain I was experiencing in my legs.

“I also live with other chronic conditions, including ME and an underactive thyroid, which make me suffer from extreme fatigue at times. I also have numerous other health conditions connected to my diabetes and also osteoarthritis, vitiligo and have suffered from depression. The list goes on!

Joanne Fenlon from Southport has transformed her life after losing over five and a half stone in weight after joining Slimming World

Joanne Fenlon from Southport has transformed her life after losing over five and a half stone in weight after joining Slimming World

“I had never tried Slimming World before. For over two years I cut out all major carbohydrates from my diet. I succeeded in improving my diabetes control, but saw no weight loss.

“I stepped on those scales for the first time at Slimming World and was so shocked at what they read – 16 stone 9.5lbs.

“Having to stop work the year before because of my health and the pain, I hadn’t moved much, and the weight had crept up.

“I came home from the meeting and cried, and told myself I had two options – to continue sitting unable to walk, getting bigger and eventually die, or pull myself together. I did the latter.

“I wrote a shopping list and planned some meals with the help of my Slimming World food optimising book and told myself I could try and do this.

“My journey so far has been somewhat of a struggle as it has for everyone due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions that it has placed on our lives.

“But because of the passion, empathy, kindness and support that Dee gives to each and every one of us, and the support and understanding of everyone in my Slimming World group, I have reached my target weight, losing 5 stone 10lbs in 18 months.

“I do truly believe that Dee goes above and beyond her duties in her role. She is so passionate about the journey that every one of us is undertaking and offers so much support.

“Since losing weight, my Insulin requirement has been reduced, my thyroid medication has been reduced, and my prescribed pain medication has been reduced.

“My mental health has improved. My physical activity has improved. My confidence has greatly improved, and apparently I’m taller now, all due to my weight loss!

“That chance meeting with Dee has given my life meaning and me a reason to LOVE life again. 

“Some days I have pain, and days where I struggle, but knowing I have the support of Dee, Slimming World and the new friends I have made here make things so much easier for me to live.

“I am bursting with joy and I am so proud of what I have achieved – even though I still can’t believe it!

“Dee and Slimming World have definitely touched my heart and changed my life.”

Joanne Fenlon from Southport has transformed her life after losing over five and a half stone in weight after joining Slimming World

Joanne Fenlon from Southport has transformed her life after losing over five and a half stone in weight after joining Slimming World

There are a number of lifestyle changes and choices which Joanne has made over the past few months which have really helped her.

She said: “I gave up drinking wine, and most alcohol at home, although I still have the odd gin or Baileys.

“I always include lots of Slimming World speed food (such as vegetables or fruit) on my plate.

“I always cook meals that focus on Slimming World free food, saving my Slimming World Syns for things I really want to enjoy.

“My Slimming World Healthy B choice is normally Weetabix, which sometimes if I eat them twice in a day and I will Syn them. It is always followed by some fruit.

“I aim to stay within my daily Syn allowance, usually having around 10 each day.

“I have now developed a love of walking again, at least two miles a day.”

The remarkable changes that Joanne has made can now hopefully inspire other people who may want to lose weight but are not sure where to start.

Southport Slimming World consultant Dee Wright said: “What Joanne has achieved is brilliant. She has achieved remarkable things.

“There are lots of people out there with chronic health conditions who think that they can’t lose weight because of them. They can.”

It was pure chance that Joanne and Dee met. Dee was standing in the Tesco superstore in Kew in Southport as Joanne walked past.

Dee said: “I met her on a cold February day in Tesco. I was standing by the window doing a promotion about our Slimming World group.

“Joanne came up to me and asked if I thought she could lose weight with Slimming World? She told me all about her various health conditions. Her body was aching, so we went to sit down and chat as she couldn’t stand up for very long.

“She told me she felt like she was just existing, and had no life. She said she was just waiting to die. She had just turned 50 when we met.

“She had stopped working, as an NHS Hospital Housekeeping Assistant, the year before she met me, due to the pain she was in.

“We talked, and she came and joined my Slimming World group the very next day.”

That was at the end of January, 2020 – just weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic swept the UK and the first lockdown came into force.

Joanne never missed a session, which saw her attend some of her earlier Slimming World group meetings via Zoom. The changes from last year have been remarkable.

Dee said: “From that day when she couldn’t stand up for five minutes because of her weight and the pain she was in, she is now enjoying life and is out walking her dog every day.

“Her fitness, her health, her mental health, her confidence – everything has changed.

“In her first week with us, she lost four pounds. It was her first ever time with Slimming World. Then she lost a stone in six weeks. And then we went into lockdown.

“She stayed with us all the way through lockdown, and Zoomed with us every week. After two months, she was two stone down.

“As a Slimming World consultant, it has been a joy to watch Joanne as she has drastically changed her life.

“The other members in the group have seen her determination and have been so inspired by what she has achieved.

“When we first met, Joanne was there wearing a Size 22 coat, and now she is walking in wearing her Size 10 jeans.

“I really hope Joanne’s story can inspire someone else out there who really wants to lose weight but think they can’t, maybe because of their medical conditions.

“Some people think they have bad health and they can’t reverse it. But by joining Slimming World and losing weight, you can make a huge difference to your life.”

●     Slimming World Southport with Dee meetings take place on: Wednesdays; Thursdays and Fridays. For more details call Dee on: 07711566153 or message the Slimming World Southport with Dee Facebook page.

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