FACING her landmark 40th birthday three years ago, mum-of-one, Emma Vieira, found herself tipping the scales at a heavyweight 21 stones 13 pounds.
Having struggled with her weight for most of her adult life, Emma knew she had to do something before it was too late.
Emma, who lives in Pevensey Bay, recalled: “My mum had undergone a double knee replacement and both my parents had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It was only a matter of time before I would be going the same way.”
Three years on, Emma, who is now 42, is well on the on the way to achieving her target weight, having lost an amazing 6st 6lbs. She is now looking forward to supporting and motivating others when she opens her own Slimming World group in Eastbourne at the beginning of next month.
Emma believes the rollercoaster ride she faced and the path she found in losing so much weight will provide an inspiration to others.
It was only a few years ago when Emma’s knees were struggling to cope with the strain of carrying excess weight. A simple climb up the stairs became a painful experience.
“My oversize frame was stopping me from doing fun things with my 10-year-old son,” reflected Emma. “There were no trips to amusement parks or days out for us. In fact, the thought of getting wedged in a ride would bring me out in a cold sweat.
“I was so embarrassed for my son having a mum so big; not that he ever said anything.”
To most people, Emma came across as a bubbly, confident person - in reality this was simply a front because of her weight. Shopping for clothes became a chore which she didn’t enjoy. Simple daily tasks became a nightmare, in particular reaching into tight, enclosed spaces to clean. And as for reaching down to cut or paint her toenaills, well forget it!
“My weaknesses weren’t chocolate, or alcohol,” added Emma. “Bread, pate and cheese, were among the things I enjoyed to eat. A weekly trip to a takeaway was usually on the menu too!”
All this changed when Emma joined her local Slimming World group in March 2010. In the first place it was a tough decision to make to start losing weight - yet it was even tougher to walk through the doors for her first Slimming World meeting in Pevensey Bay where she was warmly welcome by consultant, Michelle.
“You always feel that people are going to stare and judge you for the way you look,” explained Emma. “There really was nothing to be nervous about at all since I was warmly welcomed by Michelle.”
The healthy eating began and the weight just dropped. By the first week Emma had lost a staggering 7lbs or half a stone. She was amazed by the quick wins and determined to sustain the momentum.
Come her 40th birthday, Emma had lost nearly three stone, dropping three dress sizes. Family and friends clubbed together to buy her a gym membership and she became a regular visitor three days a week.
But this is not a success story without set backs. Emma sticked with Slimming World for 18 months but then made a fatal mistake of not staying with the group. She thought she knew the plan well enough to do it alone, but within six months had put on a disappointing 2st 9lbs from the 3st 8lbs she had lost, and her knees started to hurt again.
December 21st, 2011 became a landmark day. It was time for a complete health overhaul. Emma smoked her last cigarette and two week’s later, on January 3rd, 2012, she rejoined the Pevensey Bay group tipping the scales at an eye-watering 21 stone.
After week one Emma had lost 4lbs, by week 2 another 6 ½lb. “I soon became part of the group once again and quickly made some firm friends,” said Emma.
“Everyone was so supportive and encouraging, especially when there were gains to be had. Each week I weighed and every week I stayed. It became a social evening I looked forward to going to and catching up with everyone, discussing how our week had been.”
The secret of slimming success is having the right tools in the toolbox. For Emma image therapy was a huge help, along with sharing tips and recipes with other slimmers.
Suddenly homemade burgers with bacon and cheese, Slimming World chips and homemade coleslaw became a family favourite, along with jerk chicken, salad and wedges, Singapore noodles and beef bourguignon - all recipes borrowed from the Slimming World magazine.
She experimented with food far more than the first time she started the diet. What became a revelation was that Emma was never hungry, instead she filled up with some great ‘free’ foods. There was no counting points or weighing on this plan.
Social media was a big help too in Emma’s toolbox. The introduction of the Facebook page provided regular support. “The Banter Bus” was quickly established between fellow slimmers who offered support, offer tips, share recipes and notify members of supermarket special offers.
Some weeks, members would board “The Confession Coach” to divulge their weekly treats. “The Wobble Wagon” was there for those who were having a difficult time – needing that extra helping hand until the weekly weigh-in.
In September last year Emma completed the 10km Jim Jam Walk in Eastbourne in aid of St Wilfrid’s Hospice, in a time of 1 hour 50 minutes. It is something she would never have done before joining Slimming World. This year she has registered for the Race for Life 5km in June in aid of Cancer Research UK.
The proof of the pudding is in the slimming; some gains yet plenty of major losses. Since joining Slimming World over a year ago, Emma is now 5 ½ st lighter and 6st 6lb since March 2010.
“I have dropped from a size 28 to a size 16/18,” added Emma. “I feel fantastic! My confidence has rocketed and I have so much more energy. I’m the lightest I have been for about 24 years. I continue to go to the gym and have even started running!
“I love to hear people complimenting me on my new shape and how great I look. Shopping for clothes is now a joy, not having to walk into those stores for the larger lady or paying higher prices.”
What’s more, Emma said she can’t wait until the school holidays to take her son to an amusement park on rides she hasn’t experienced for nearly a quarter of a century.
And now with this new-found confidence, as well as a belief and passion for the Slimming World plan, Emma will be passing on the secrets of her success as a consultant herself.
She will be organising an Eastbourne-based group at the beginning of May at St Saviours & St Peter’s Church Hall every Wednesday evening.
Emma said: “Everyone who joins the group is in the same boat who struggles with their weight. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be there. Having an understanding of how people feel plays a huge part in motivating members to achieve their ultimate goal, so I want others to feel as I do now.
“I still have my own journey to finish and I will with the continued support and motivation of members and fellow slimmers.”
For further details about Emma’s group you can contact her on 07784 200142 or to find a group near you www.slimmingworld.com