When they get together for a cuppa, sisters Lorraine Ellis and Barbara Battams have loads to chat about, not least the amazing journey they have both been on over the past two years.
Between them, the two women have lost more than eight stone in weight, after they decided to make major changes to their lives because of separate personal and health issues. Now when they look at each other, they can’t believe they are still the same people.
Keen to give something back and give other people hope, Lorraine, 50, and Barbara, 57, have just started their own Slimming World groups.
Lorraine’s story started many years ago when she went through the trauma of the stillbirth of a baby girl, followed by an ectopic pregnancy which nearly took her life.
Later on she was told she would need a major operation to remove a large part of her bowel and in the lead-up to it, Lorraine decided to quit smoking, after being a heavy smoker from an early age. But smoking gave way to another problem: using food as a substitute for cigarettes, which caused her weight to increase considerably. After the operation, Lorraine felt even worse about her body.
“I thought, I’ve given up smoking, I should be healthy, but I wasn’t,” says Lorraine, from Birdham. In October 2010 the mother-of-five attended a Slimming World group and after a warm welcome felt immediately at ease. She had five stone to lose, and in the first week lost more than six pounds alone, and has gone on to lose more than four stone.
It was only when she was given a size 12 pair of jeans by a friend she realised the extent of her achievement.
“I said ‘are you taking the mickey?’ – I took them home and just left them on the back of a chair. I put them on not expecting them to fit and they fitted – I had tears streaming down my face, I couldn’t believe it. Every time I look in the mirror I can’t believe this is me. I was always a cleaner and now I’m a consultant. It’s such a change in my life. I’ve never been able to stand up in front of people and talk to them and now I can.”
During all this, Lorraine was also chatting to her sister and encouraged her to go to the same group. Barbara’s problems had started two years ago when she was held at knifepoint during an armed robbery at a club in Worthing, where she was manager. The terrifying experience left her suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and she withdrew from the world around her, turning to food for comfort. In the end she weighed 16 stone, the heaviest she had ever been. Something had got to change.
Thanks to Lorraine, and the support of her daughter, Barbara plucked up the courage to attend a meeting of Slimming World.
“I’ve always been quite outgoing but with PTSD I didn’t even open the front door, didn’t answer the phone, I didn’t do anything,” she explains.
“This was the first thing I’d done since two years ago and it brought me back. It didn’t bring me back to the same person I was before – I don’t think I will ever be the same again – but it brought me back up and got me back out. It was so friendly and supportive.”
Barbara, from West Ashling, has since turned her life around.
“I’ve done all the diets, Jenny Craig, the cabbage soup diet and this made such a difference. I was putting up posters in the surgery last week and the nurse couldn’t believe how much I’ve changed, how healthy I look and how much weight I’ve lost.”
As a result both sisters cook more, eat better and the changes have even had a positive effect on others around them, including Barbara’s husband Keith, who has lost three stone.
And after regaining her bubbly personality, Barbara now loves looking at clothes.
“I’ve got skinny jeans. I used to buy those tents which cover everything down to your hips. Now I wear fitted clothes. I didn’t have many photos taken of me because I hated it, now I feel so good.”
Both about to start Slimming World groups, they are keen to help others and tell people how easy it can be.
“I can still eat everything I‘ve always eaten, I have just been re-educated in how to cook and prepare things, I can even have a drink if I want one or some chocolate and not feel guilty,” says Barbara.
And for those not sure, the proof is there to see.
“I walk with a bounce now,” says Lorraine. “I don’t just walk with my head down any more. You walk with your head held high and feel so proud.”
n Lorraine’s group will start on Tuesday, March 6 at The Youth Centre, East Wittering at 7.30pm and Barbara’s group will launch on Thursday, March 8 at St Paul’s Church Hall, Tozer Way, Chichester starting at 7.30pm.