our super SLIMMER; Losing weight always seemed just beyond Barbara Randell's reach. She tells Kirstie McCrum how she finally managed to shed more than 5st - and still enjoy chocolate every night.
LIKE many women, Barbara Randell is always busy, working as a teaching assistant during the day and in crowd management at evening events.
She shares her home in Roath, Cardiff with her husband, two daughters and a grandson, so there's never much room or time for her to worry about herself.
But just over a year ago, the 49-year-old realised that she was worried about her weight.
"I've probably always had a problem with my weight, but when I was pregnant with my youngest, Stephanie, who is 16, I developed a thyroid problem and I ballooned from there.
"When we found out what it was we were able to treat it with medication, but from there it's not been good, and 15 years later it got to the stage where I thought, I'm nearly 50, I don't want to be like this anymore. My medication had gone as high as the doctor could give me and walking any distance was causing me pain in my knees."
At 5ft 6in and wearing a size 24, Barbara was miserable. She knew she had to stop snacking at work and make a lasting difference, no matter how hard it was. Having decided that something drastic needed to change, she took the plunge.
"It was just before New Year's Eve 2010 and I thought, 'I've got to do this'. I knew I couldn't go on the way I was, for health reasons and for myself.
We were having what I now call my last supper and I was on my phone looking for a WeightWatchers class. I found one and thought, 'I'll get my birthday out of the way and I'll start'. And that was it," she recalls.
Going to her first class was difficult, but Barbara says the worst part was walking in. After that, it got a lot better.
"You get in there and you know that's it, you're on the road," she says. "You see the pounds coming off and it's a great boost. I had lacked confidence for so long and having that weight come off was just amazing.
"WeightWatchers worked for me where other methods didn't. A lot of my weight was because of my thyroid. They couldn't regulate it so they'd change my tablets which had an impact on my weight.
"I'd try a diet for a week and because I hadn't lost anything, I would get despondent. Even though I knew I had to keep going, I didn't have the willpower, the motivation. I would just give up."
Working with the ProPoints plan, Barbara found that it was easy to keep an eye on what she was eating. Although she didn't want to know her starting weight, after she had lost 2st she relented and asked her leader Tracey Burley to tell her.
"Because I was so big, I hid. I didn't want to know my weight for ages. After I'd lost 2st Tracey told me I was 14st 6lb, which meant my starting weight was 16st 6lb.
"It's not easy to lose weight, but the support from Tracey, my husband Michael, the children and even my mates from work was overwhelming. Even when I haven't had the result that I wanted, they've talked me through it," she adds.
After spending all her recent Christmases trying to hide, in December Barbara was celebrating the festive season at her target weight - a healthy 11st 4lb, wearing a size 12-14. She says that it's made all the difference to her health, her confidence and her life.
"I was really down before and had yet another Christmas hiding away from photos, but now I don't care about having my picture taken. My bank balance is pretty empty because going out and buying clothes is now one of my favourite things. I didn't think clothes shopping could be such fun.
"I've got bags and shoes coming out of my earholes because before I lost the weight they were the only things that I knew would fit, so to go out and buy clothes now is a joy."
Although the gift of confidence is a real boost for Barbara, she says her favourite thing about WeightWatchers is what she's been able to enjoy on the ProPoints plan.
"It's brilliant, I'm not hungry and I can still have my chocolate every night. I'm thinking about going into business with Curly Wurly, because I have one every single night. I started in January last year, so I think there were probably two days in the year when I didn't eat a Curly Wurly. That's the best thing of all, that I can still have my chocolate.
The WeightWatchers ProPoints plan is the best thing I've done." * Barbara attends Tracey Burley's meeting in Albany Road Baptist Church Hall, Albany Road in Roath, Cardiff, on Mondays at 5.30pm.
MENU Before Breakfast - toast in work Break - biscuits Lunch - sandwiches, crisps, mini roll cake Home from work - biscuits with tea Dinner - Meat, veg, potatoes, bread to mop up gravy, then steamed pudding, custard, custard tart Snacks - anything and everything MENU After Breakfast - porridge and fruit Break - apple Lunch - ham salad, chicken salad - or sandwich with WeightWatchers bread Dinner - chicken and veg, stir-fried chicken, frozen yoghurt Snack - low calorie cereal bar or fruit and my Curly Wurly BEFORE AFTER