When Whalsay community nurse and midwife Janice Irvine joined her local Scottish Slimmers class in May last year, she never could have predicted that just a year later she would have lost seven stone 11 pounds and have been invited to the Scottish Slimmers booty camp as a semi-finalist in the Slimmer of the Year competition.
Approaching 40, weighing more than 20 stone (she thought the scales were wrong) and wearing size 26-28 clothes, Janice knew she had to do something before things got any worse. In any case she was encouraging healthy living in her work. “I was seeing people in their 70s with weight-related health problems and I wanted to avoid that. I was helping folk look at their lifestyles and I’m standing there in a 26-28 uniform. Sooner or later someone would have said something.”
An important factor in Janice’s success was that slimming classes were available in Whalsay – she would not have done it if it meant travelling to the Mainland.
The biggest step was actually going to the first class meeting – she waited two or three months before taking the decision – but once the commitment was made there was no going back. Following the course’s positive eating plan of healthy food and smaller portions became the norm. This was complemented by a routine of swimming five times a week (she has now started a sponsored swim for the Aspire spinal injuries charity, swimming 100 lengths at Whalsay pool at a time) and walking her dogs twice a day. Janice soon found that it worked and the pounds started to fall off. And she is sticking to it. “My whole lifestyle has changed. I no longer eat a whole can of Pringles at a time.”
By the time the class closed for this summer Janice, who is 5ft 8in tall and has a BMI of 28 (previously it was more than 42 and she was “morbidly obese”). weighed 13 stones and had only another seven pounds to go to reach her target. The class, run by manager Marie Manson, kept her motivated: “You’re going every week and someone’s weighing you.”
Encouraged by Marie, Janice completed the entry form for the competition never believing she would hear anything more about it, so when she found out she’d made it through to the booty camp stage she thought it was a wind up. Booty camp took place at Glasgow Nautical College on 21st August.
The 24 semi-finalists had makeovers and their photographs professionally taken. They told their weight loss stories to a panel of judges and were treated to a buffet lunch.
Although Janice did not make it to the final, losing all this weight has been a life-changing experience. Clothes shopping is now a pleasure: “I was fed up looking at nice clothes in size 14”. As she went down in sizes she put her big clothes out, just in case there was any temptation to go back to her old ways.
Travelling on aeroplanes is now much easier. “I was packing myself into my seat and going over into someone else’s space. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go on my own.” Another bonus is that she feels much fitter.
Her engagement ring had to be sized down two and a half sizes and her husband often introduces her as his new wife – especially amusing as many people now don’t recognise her.
The support from Marie, her assistant Anne Marie and the whole class has been invaluable during the whole weight loss journey and Janice cannot wait for the class to re-open a week on Monday so that she can reach her target weight before a family wedding in December.
Marie is very proud of her star pupil: “She has worked so hard to get this far. When I got the email to say that Janice had got into the top 24 it was brilliant, as there was about 100 entries from all over Scotland. Even though she didn’t make the final she has done excellent.
“I hope this can encourage other people to join in and make their futures healthier. It can be very hard for anyone to make that decision to lose weight even if it is just a small amount, it can be easier just to ignore it and say ‘I will start tomorrow’. I know it can be very daunting to walk into a class but we make it all fun.”
Classes will start again on Monday 28th September in the Symbister Hall for anyone inspired to follow Janice’s lead.