After a series of demoralizing experiences, Fay Marshall felt motivated enough to make a drastic change with her health and her lifestyle. It was time to lose some weight.
And while we hear a lot of stories about losing weight in pairs — mother and daughter, husband and wife, or best friends — it's not often you see a woman losing weight with her grandmother! Fay's grandma introduced her to a weight-loss program called Slimming World, and the two set out on what would become a very successful journey. In fact, Fay had so much success that she became Slimming World's "Woman of the Year" in 2017. Check it out.
POPSUGAR: What made you decide to start your weight-loss journey?
Fay Marshall: I'd been overweight since I could remember but really started to gain weight rapidly from around the age of 10. It got into a bit of a vicious cycle where I wouldn't want to go out because I was embarrassed of my weight, so I'd stay in and eat more.
In the month before joining Slimming World, I was twice offered a seat on the London Underground by people who mistakenly thought I was pregnant. It was the most humiliating experience of my life and I felt like I had hit rock bottom. My grandmother, who I was living with at the time, saw how upset I was and how my weight was affecting my day-to-day life, so she suggested we join together.
PS: What drew you to Slimming World specifically?
FM: I had tried pretty much every weight loss program before joining Slimming World but I never stuck to them for any longer than a month or so. I struggled with finding recipes and things to eat on these weight loss plans that would help me have a variety of foods and meals. I got bored with having the same things all the time, so I found myself cheating on these other weight loss methods.
"I was twice offered a seat on the London Underground by people who mistakenly thought I was pregnant. It was the most humiliating experience of my life."
My grandmother had heard [on Slimming World] that you were still able to eat things like pasta, rice, potatoes, and bread. I learned that I could still eat the same things I did before, I just had to cook and prepare them in a different way to make them healthier. I never feel like I'm missing out as I can still eat things like pizza, burgers, and cakes, but I know now how to make them in a healthy way. I also love the community and family aspect of Slimming World — every week I get new recipe ideas from others and if I've had a bad week, I get all the support and encouragement I need for the week ahead.
PS: What's your favorite way to work out?
FM: I love variety and I can get bored easily so I like to work out in different ways. I enjoy swimming, Pilates, Spinning classes, and exercise DVDs. I especially like working out when I don't even realize I am doing it ——like walking to places or even adventure circuits!
PS: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
FM: I aim to do at least 30 minutes, three to five times a week. What I've come to learn, and what Slimming World has taught me, is that being active doesn't have to be a chore and it can be integrated into life without you even realizing. Leaving the car at home and walking to the mall is just one of the things I do that fits into my lifestyle.
PS: How do you keep workouts exciting?
FM: I am all about variety and fun — if I didn't enjoy an activity, I wouldn't do it! I like to try new things and I'm always looking for new ideas and exercises to try. I always enjoy the gym more when someone comes with me as I get a little competitive, and we have fun that way, too!
PS: How much weight have you lost?
FM: 120 pounds.
PS: What was the first big difference, other than the number on the scale, that really made you feel proud and excited?
"Being active doesn't have to be a chore; it can be integrated into life without you even realizing."
FM: I could buy clothes in "normal" stores again rather than online. I was a size 22/24 (US 20/22) before losing weight and struggled to find clothes in the stores I liked. Being able to buy clothes I liked off the rack was so exciting. I'm now a US 10.
PS: How do you track your weight loss?
FM: As well as attending my weekly Slimming World group and recording my weight, I also used the online tool Slimming World provides where I could input my weight loss each week and see a graph with my progress.
PS: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
FM: I'll usually have something like oatmeal or overnight oats for breakfast, followed by a pizza omelet and salad for lunch. For dinner, I'll cook using a Slimming World recipe, so something like BBQ pulled pork or spaghetti bolognese. I like to snack on things like low-calorie popcorn, fruit, yogurt, and smaller-size candy bars.
PS: Do you count calories? What's the range of calories you eat per day?
FM: With Slimming World, there is no need to count calories. I simply follow its "Food Optimizing" eating plan, which enables me to eat a long list of healthy foods — which they call "Free Foods" — without weighing, counting, or measuring. Free Foods are foods like fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice, potatoes, lean meat, fish, eggs, and more. It's much easier than calorie counting in day-to-day life!
The main thing I track on Slimming World are the "healthy extras" we're encouraged to eat every day; these include milk and cheese for calcium and oats and bread for fiber. We also have a daily "Syn" [Slimming World's term for a treat food] allowance for any extra treats so I never feel deprived.
Fay: Before and After
PS: What are the healthy staples that are always in your fridge?
FM: I boil eggs and keep them in the fridge for snacking on. Similarly, I do the same with chicken drumsticks. I always make sure I have low-fat cheese, fruit, yogurts, and vegetables available.
PS: How do you strategize for meals out?
FM: I always look up the menu for the place I am going to beforehand. This way I know what I can eat, that will keep me on track, and what I could ask to be substituted if needed.
"Take it one day at a time and celebrate the smaller victories — they all count!"
PS: Do you use a fitness tracker?
FM: I started off using a Fitbit and once I had joined the gym, I purchased an Apple watch. Having these really helped me to increase my activity levels as I could compete with friends and family who also had the fitness tracker.
PS: What role did Slimming World play in your journey? Would you recommend it?
FM: Slimming World played a massive role in my journey — I couldn't even boil an egg before joining, so they taught me how to cook from scratch. The recipes are so easy to follow and they teach you how to make traditionally "naughty food" (such as curry or Chinese takeout) Slimming World-friendly so you never feel like you are missing out.
PS: What role did community support play in your journey?
FM: The support from others at group played a massive part in my journey. If I am having a bad week they will help and support me, and I can help to support others when they are having a bad week, too. You can bounce ideas off each other and learn new recipes and tips which helped a lot throughout my journey.
PS: What advice do you have for anyone starting out on a weight-loss journey?
FM: No matter how many times you have tried, treat this time as your first time. I found that helped as I wasn't focused on all the negatives and the times it didn't work — I believed I could do it. Take it one day at a time and celebrate the smaller victories — they all count! Find ways to incorporate the things you love into your new weight-loss journey so that you never feel deprived.