Real Life: Meet the women who are living their best lives




Between them, they’ve dropped the best part of 16st and a dozen dress sizes. To celebrate their Slimming World success, Velvet teamed up with John Lewis & Partners Cambridge to give Stowmarket’s Catherine Heavey and Lynn Parker a sparkling Christmas makeover

Fed up of being ‘the fat friend’, Catherine Heavey has lost six stone - and found her self-confidence. The 25-year-old, who lives and works in Stowmarket, says changing shape has changed her life

Eating had always been a comfort thing growing up - we’re a really foodie family, so every occasion revolved around a meal. Then I went to uni and the weight really piled on; eating too much, drinking too much. . .

It got to my third year and I was fed up of always being ‘the fat friend’. Whenever I went out with a group of girls, I’d wear a baggy top and leggings and just try not to be noticed, really.

These days I absolutely love clothes and shopping and I’ll happily go on a night out in a bodycon dress and not worry what other people might think - that shows how far I’ve come.

VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20885914)
VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20885914)
VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20885992)
VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20885992)
VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20885988)
VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20885988)
Catherine Heavey, who's lost 6st with Slimming World Stowmarket, BEFORE (21102034)
Catherine Heavey, who's lost 6st with Slimming World Stowmarket, BEFORE (21102034)

When I joined Slimming World, in November 2015, I was 17st 7.5lbs. I’m 5ft 5in, so that made me a dress size 20/22. I’ve lost 6st so far, 11lbs to go to target, and I’m a size 12/14. I tried this dress in the 14 to begin with, but it just wasn’t fitting right; to be in the 12 feels amazing.

I started Slimming World up in Lincoln, where I was at university, then joined Zia’s group when I moved back home to Stowmarket. She’s the person that’s really made the difference. She’s so supportive; she’s a special person.

Before Slimming World, I’d skip breakfast, then pick up a meal deal for lunch - a bad sandwich, crips, a chocolate bar or millionaire’s shortbread because they come with the deal. . . Dinner would be a ping meal, something instant.

I love the fact that with Slimming World you never have to go hungry: it’s more about what you can eat, not what you can’t. I usually start the day with overnight oats made with yoghurt, as that really fills me up, then I’ll have a Slimming World soup or a salad for lunch, and something like a bolognese for dinner - cooked the Slimming World way, switching oil for Fry Light. It’s not a diet, more a way of life.

If you’re wanting to lose weight, I’d say be brave and walk through those Slimming World doors. Everyone in the group is in the same position - wanting to lose weight - so there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Catherine wears:

VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20885906)
VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20885906)

Fenn Wright Manson Amanda Holden Collection sequin dress, exclusive to John Lewis & Partners, £329

Rainbow Club Kiki shimmer satin court shoes, £89

John Lewis & Partners semi-precious bar pendant necklace in gold and labradorite, £58

John Lewis & Partners embellished faux fur wrap in navy, £59

Dune Boxiee metal trim clutch bag in gold, £52

Ivory & Co. Honeyblossom crystal and freshwater pearl hair slide, exclusive to John Lewis & Partners, £45

This time three years ago, Stowmarket’s Lynn Parker weighed in excess of 20st and wanted to fade into the background. Today, the 50-year-old is more than nine stone lighter and taking her moment in the spotlight

VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20885904)
VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20885904)

When I walked through the doors of my first Slimming World meeting - or rather shuffled through, my head hanging down - I couldn’t even look at anyone. I had no self-confidence at all. I thought everyone would be looking at me, thinking ‘What’s she doing here? She’ll never last’.

I’m 5ft 3in and at the time I weighed 20st 6lbs. I’d just been diagnosed as pre-diabetic by the doctor and advised to lose some weight.

I’d struggled with my weight since the age of about 9. I went into hospital, where I was diagnosed with duplex kidneys and they thought I had septicemia, so I ended up having a blood transfusion. I was very poorly. When I came out, I think my mum thought ‘She’s been through so much, if she wants it, we’ll give it to her’.

VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20886006)
VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20886006)
VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20886009)
VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20886009)
VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20886007)
VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20886007)

I started to gain weight then and it just gradually continued to creep on over the years. By the time I joined Slimming World, in September 2016, I was very, very unfit, full of aches and pains from carrying around the weight. But the biggest effect was on my confidence: I wore baggy clothes, if I could find them at that size, always in dark colours, and tried to fade into the background as much as possible. I was always the person taking the photos, never appearing in them.

To date, I’ve lost 9st 7lbs: a whole person! I was sitting next to a lady the other day and realised that I’d effectively been carrying her around all my life. My target is in reach now; it’s 10st, because I pledged to become half the woman I was.

Before Slimming World I’d have cereal, toast and milky coffee for breakfast, crisps and chocolate bars for snacks, a sandwich, sausage roll and more crisps for lunch and usually something pre-made for dinner, with a biscuit in between if I got hungry. Now I still have cereal for breakfast, but my coffee’s black, I have a Slimming World soup for lunch and cook a Slimming World recipe, like bolognese, for dinner. Snacks are fruit - apples and nectarines.

Lynn Parker, who's lost more than 9st with Slimming World Stowmarket, BEFORE (21101554)
Lynn Parker, who's lost more than 9st with Slimming World Stowmarket, BEFORE (21101554)

It’s honestly not been as hard as I thought it would be. The great thing about Slimming World is that nothing’s banned: thanks to the syn system, you can have everything in moderation, as long as you count it. Zia, our group leader, is amazing, and the other members are like family - it’s such a welcoming place.

I work at a military and civil tailor’s in Stowmarket and live with my husband Mark and two of our grandchildren, Harley, 8, and Ruby, 7. I have no option but to be proud of what I’ve achieved, as Mark and the kids are so proud of me, they’re always telling me how well I’ve done!

Slimming World has changed my life. Truly. Without it, I wouldn’t be where I am now and I’m certain I’d be diabetic; the doctor has literally just signed me off, saying there’s no longer a diabetes risk.

Before Slimming World, I would never have entertained doing a photoshoot like this - and look at me now. If anyone’s reading this and thinking about losing weight themselves, I’d say join Slimming World: there’s no judgement, only understanding.

Lynn wears:

VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20886011)
VELVET: Christmas Makeovers John Lewis & Partners. Picture: Keith Heppell. (20886011)

Fenn Wright Manson Petite Heloise dress in silver, £199

John Lewis & Partners Abbie scalloped stiletto heels, now £59 (originally £85)

Dune Benria envelope clutch, £44

Jools by Jenny Brown Snowflake pendant necklace in silver and cubic zirconia, £69

John Lewis & Partners crystal bracelet, £18

Join the Club

Catherine and Lynn are members of Slimming World groups run by Zia Hull, who, having lost more than 4st on the plan herself, wanted to help other people achieve their weight-loss goals. Zia runs sessions at Stowmarket Rugby Club on Wednesdays at 9.30am and 11.30am; Hillside Community Centre, Stowmarket, on Wednesdays at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm; and The Rookery Bowls Club, Stowmarket, on Thursdays at 9.30am and 11.30am. For more information, call Zia on 07776 136438.

The Style Studio

Our super-slimmers’ outfits were put together by the team at The Style Studio in Cambridge’s John Lewis & Partners store. You can drop in to speak to the stylists for instant advice on how to find the perfect piece quickly and easily, or pre-book a complimentary appointment at a time that suits. Pre-booked appointments last up to two hours and there are five options to choose from: Wardrobe Refresh, Holiday, Workwear, Special Occasion, and the Perfect Pair of Jeans. Appointments can be booked by calling (01223) 224641, going to johnlewis.com or by visiting The Style Studio.

The Beauty Society

The ladies’ hair and make-up looks were created by the team at The Beauty Society: a newly launched service at John Lewis & Partners Cambridge, it offers five levels of appointment, from a quick Q&A session to a full-scale make-up and skincare revamp.

Hair & Make-up: Phoebe Brooks and Natalie Wright, Beauty Guides at John Lewis & Partners Cambridge

Clothes: Dolly Bamrah and Helen Fletcher, Personal Stylists at John Lewis & Partners Cambridge

Words: Alice Ryan

Pictures: Keith Heppell



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