Epiphany about body image leads to a whole new life
Even at her heaviest, Mary Riddle knew that her friends and family loved her no matter what size she was. But one nagging thought just wouldn’t go away.
“I didn’t love me for the size and shape I was,” she admits. “If you’re not happy with yourself, it’s time to do something about it. I had an epiphany: ‘It’s my time, and I’m going to do this for me.’”
That epiphany led her to join Slimming World, a U.K.-based weight-loss program, in the spring of 2011.
“It’s really popular in the U.K.,” she says of Slimming World, which is now available online across America. “My cousins had started a couple of weeks before me, and they were having success. I couldn’t believe all of the good things they were allowed to eat; I thought it could be something that would work for me, too.”
The decision had nothing to do with relationships or wanting to find someone special; she’d already accomplished that. Five years before, fate had stepped in. While living in her native Ireland and playing online poker, she started chatting with an American named Craig. That led to emails, phone calls, visits, and eventually, true love.
“Craig is a little older than I am; I’m 31 and he’s 44,” she says. “I’ve always like how confident he is in himself, how funny and caring he is. He says his days are better if he’s made me laugh or smile. He always goes out of his way to make my life better.”
In March of 2011, after one of her trips to see him in Mishawaka, Ind., Craig proposed. Mary flew home to Ireland and began the long process of not only starting wedding plans, but moving to another country – and physically transforming herself.
A year passed before Mary and Craig were reunited in person again. In that time, Mary had lost 85 pounds. When she arrived back in Indiana, she says she experienced one of her all-time favorite moments: “Having him wrap me up in his arms and feeling tiny in them. Hearing him say, ‘I can hold you in a hug and touch my elbows – you’re that tiny!’”
The freedom of Slimming World’s plan, called Food Optimising, appealed to Mary, she says: “It allowed me to have a life while losing weight. I never felt I had to give everything up. Everything was doable; it was just done a little differently. I can still have lasagne, just made the Slimming World way.”
She soon began swapping high-fat, deep-fried meals and sugary desserts for oatmeal or scrambled eggs in the morning; stir-fried vegetables with noodles or a variety of soups for lunch; and pasta, lean meat, vegetables and a Slimming World-friendly sauce for dinner.
As for snacks, “celery sticks and Slimming World hummus are delicious and good for when I miss the crunch of chips!”
A year passed before Mary and Craig were reunited in person again. During that time, Mary had lost 85 pounds. When she arrived back in Indiana, she says she experienced one of her all-time favorite moments: “Having him wrap me up in his arms and feeling tiny in them. Hearing him say, ‘I can hold you in a hug and touch my elbows – you’re that tiny!’”
The two were married on June 2, 2012, in an intimate ceremony before close friends and family. If she hadn’t lost the weight before that day, Mary says, her wedding day would have still been special, but she knows she would have walked down the aisle feeling uncomfortable and fidgety with all eyes on her.
Instead, “I felt super-confident,” she recalls. “I’ve never felt that confident in my whole life. I put on my dress and looked in the mirror, and I couldn’t believe how different I looked from a year before. It’s amazing: I have a waist!”
These days, the newlyweds spend their free time hiking at local parks, sometimes going for five or six miles at a time.
“When I was heavy,” she says, “I could do it, but I was always embarrassed about being out of breath. Now, I can concentrate on what I’m seeing and enjoy myself more. It’s an awesome feeling to know you’re capable of doing so much more than you could have even thought of.”
Despite her success, Mary doesn’t have the attitude that she’s “home free;” she knows maintenance is key to any weight loss.
“You can convince yourself that when you reach that ideal target, the job is done, nothing else to do,” she says. “In fact, you have to give the same amount of effort to maintaining as you did when losing it. But that’s what I love about Slimming World — it is truly a way of life and not a dreaded fad diet.”
Back in Ireland, Mary attended Slimming World groups; in the U.S., she’s an online member.
“I sign in about three times a week to read articles or get motivation,” she says, adding that the support she receives online from Slimming World staffers and other members keep her on track. However you’re feeling, there always seems to be a message that’s just meant for you.”
“The weekly weigh-in also gives me some discipline – and having it on a Monday makes me want to be good on the weekend!”
With all of the positive changes she’s made in her life, Mary says she’s determined not to fall back into old habits.
“When life gets a little hectic – and believe me, moving to a new country and getting married is hectic – things can slip and a few pounds find their way back on,” she says. “But I now know that I can always do something about it. Something that works, and is healthy. I love the new me – the skinnier, healthier, more confident me.”