'I'd been dressing to cover myself up'
Nancy Pilgrim used to dress in dark clothes because she was so unhappy about her size. Now she is able to wear the clothes she wants after losing weight – and has started her own slimming group
The boots were colourful, quirky and flowery. Nancy Pilgrim looked at them and thought they were perfect for her.
"I was on a shopping trip with my friends, and I asked if they thought the boots would suit me," she recalls.
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"They didn't look too sure, and pointed out that I always just wore grey and black, with not one single bit of colour.
"That really brought it home to me how much I'd changed. I never used to be like that.
"I always loved fashion before I put on weight, and I realised I'd been dressing to cover myself up, rather than wearing clothes I enjoyed.
"When I thought about it, I realised I was dressing to try and cover my size.
"I'd lost all pleasure in clothes and in my appearance in general.
"I decided that from then on my goal was to reach a weight where I felt confident in my body and could choose clothes because I liked them, not because they disguised my size."
Nowadays, Nancy, 28, is able to wear what she wants to again, after losing two and a half stone in weight.
And she is now trying to help other women do the same after starting her own Slimming World group, which is the first to cover the Montpelier and St Paul's areas of Bristol.
"Being part of a slimming group was the key to my weight loss," explains Nancy, who weighed 12st 12lb when she was at her heaviest, and is 5ft 3ins tall.
"If you're trying to lose weight on your own and you start eating the wrong things no-one else will really know.
"But if you're in a group it's official – somebody is going to read your weight when you stand on the scales. You can't dodge it."
Nancy lost weight with a Slimming World group in Bedminster and later at one in Cotham.
She had wanted to join a group near where she lived in Montpelier, but couldn't find one.
"I got so much support there and was named Slimmer of the Year in Cotham, and I kept thinking there must be lots of other women like me living in my area who would benefit from having a local group."
Nancy's instinct proved to be correct, and her recently formed group, which meets at the Malcom X Centre in St Paul's on Tuesday night, is already attracting members from the local community and beyond.
"Members have joined who live in St Paul's and Montpelier, and also in Easton and St Werburgh's," she says.
"Some of them have had incredible results.
"One lady lost nine and a half pounds in her first week, and another lost seven pounds.
"It has been great for them, and also really empowering for the other members of the group as they can see Slimming World definitely works."
What sort of advice has she been giving her members that has helped to make such a difference?
Nancy replies: "A lot of them are great cooks, and I've shown them how to adapt Slimming World tips to use for recipes that are popular in the West Indian community.
"For example, using low-fat coconut milk instead of full-fat coconut milk, and carefully measuring out the amount of oil they are using, and using lots of herbs and spices to create flavour instead of using a lot of butter or oil.
"They have used recipes from the book, and have also made up a lot of their own.
"One lady was saying that her kids had been asking for recipes she had made them from the book, which made me really pleased because it means as well as helping my members I'm also helping families to eat more healthily and to eat more meals together.
"Quite a few members have said to me that they're amazed at how much they can eat – you never need to be hungry with Slimming World!
"In fact, you're actually encouraged to eat because it helps to boost your metabolism.
"The hungrier you are the more you crave fatty foods, but when you're getting the nutrients you need your appetite goes down and your energy levels go up.
"I now do far more exercise than I could have imagined, cycling everywhere and also regularly going swimming."
Nancy herself is proof of the difference that effective dieting and exercise can make. She is now studying for an MA in Media Practice and Culture, and has a busy social life – none of which she could have imagined when she came to Bristol in 2005 to study Fine Art at the University of the West of England.
"I put on weight shortly before coming to university, so I was about 11 stone when I arrived at UWE, and then the student lifestyle meant I was doing a lot of late-night eating, usually takeaways, and I put on even more weight," she says.
"When I was overweight I didn't feel able to show my true personality, and I didn't want to draw attention to myself.
"I'm a very sociable person, but this all changed. I felt ashamed and embarrassed of my size. This left me feeling very miserable and meant that I often stayed at home when my uni friends were out enjoying themselves.
"I didn't want to meet new people as I didn't want them to think that this was really what I looked like, so I hid myself away.
"I know that this was my own doing and that I'd let my weight get out of control.
"My self esteem was at rock bottom. I felt that I didn't deserve to be happy.
"Now I've lost the weight I am back to my real self. I'm confident and enthusiastic about life. I love socialising with my friends and I have so much energy.
"I've also had the confidence to do an MA, something I'd never have felt able to do when I was overweight."
Nancy Pilgrim holds Slimming World classes on Tuesdays at The Malcolm X Centre, 141 City Road, St Pauls, Bristol at 7.30pm. For further information contact the centre on 0117 955 4497 or email email@example.com