South Shields mum shares emotional weight-loss story after losing husband to cancer - and now she is on a mission to help others
A mum who went on an amazing weight-loss journey after the losing her husband to cancer has shared her story as she goes on a mission to help others.
Jan Carr, 58, from Cleadon Park in South Shields, spent 15 years of her life overweight and struggling with health problems despite ‘trying diets and weight crazes’.
Then, in 2018, her world was turned upside when she suffered the bitter blow of losing her husband Dave to cancer after 28 years together.
After first turning to eating to help cope with the emotional trauma, she decided it was now time to shed weight for good – and has now lost almost five stone.
"My physical and mental health has changed dramatically over the year, which is why becoming healthy has taken the weight of my shoulders,” said Jan, who worked as a financial manager and coach
“I started 2021 lighter, healthier, having a reduction in my high blood pressure medication.
"I walk regularly now, seeing more of the town in which I live and have more energy than I have had in years.
"The pain I used to have in my knees has gone and I feel so much more confident, and I am excited about the new opportunities and experiences that are coming my way in life.”
But Jan said life had not always been this way, and opened up on how her weight first got out of control.
“I have spent 15 years overweight, trying all the diets, weight crazes along the way. In the short term they may have worked but then I would lose motivation and become even heavier than I was when I started,” she said.
"Balancing long working long hours and looking after my family led to finding a quick fix with food, binging on chocolates and fast foods.
"I even tried fasting during the daytime but then ended up raiding the cupboards when I got home.
“With a busy lifestyle, I felt there was not time to exercise and the spare time I had was spent with my husband and family.
"We’d often be grabbing a takeaway, or going out for a meal, which then would get washed down with a few glasses of wine, and so the cycle continued.”
Jan said both she and her husband Dave battled through cancer at different stages of their 28 years together.
Then, in December 2018, Dave lost what Jan called “his hard-fought battle”.
"The pain myself and family went through really brought it to the fore that I needed to do something about my weight and get healthy, otherwise they would experience the pain should I then pass away too early,” she said.
"As I attempted to cope with life without Dave, my weight increased as I ate more through the emotional trauma, trying to cope with my loss did not feel the right time to then start working on me.
"As time went on, I started to reflect on life and how I felt about myself and the damage I had done.
"I remembered when my son and I went to the football matches getting up the stairs to our seat was a struggle, I had to stop midway to get my breath back.
"The clothes I bought were for comfort not style as I tried to hide, still attempting to look professional as my work needed."
It was in late 2019 that Jan got to the point where she could take it no more, and decided to try a Slimming World group, where she had lost weight in the past, in particular one run by a supportive consultant named Sharon.
Jan got a shock when she weighed in and discovered she was 15 stone, three pounds.
"I was heavier than any of my sons, and they were much bigger and taller than me,” she said.
"It went through my mind that I was too old to lose weight now and should I just accept myself as I was, the answer I gave myself was ‘give it a go this one last time’.
“A week went by and I got on the scales, I lost 6lb in my first week, and was surprised as I’d been able to eat so much great food.”
It was only a few months later that the pandemic hit, and Jan worried how it may impact on her weight loss.
But she said Slimming World adapted, with Zoom classes replacing physical sessions, and she found she could keep shedding the pounds easily from home.
“My motivation then went to a new level as I continued to lose weight,” she said.
"I started to walk, getting out the house for my daily exercise which led to really looking around and enjoying the walks, the more I did, the more weight I lost along with food optimizing.”
She added: "I am not where I want to be just yet, however I am so close. I have chosen the target I am aiming for, at Slimming World, it is about your own decisions not a pre-prescribed target, as we are all individual and losing weight for different reasons.
"In group we celebrate losses, no matter how small, as we all understand how hard the journey can be.”
Jan has now lost five stone in total, and says she is continuing while helping others – having decided to become a Slimming World consultant herself.
She attended a consultant opportunity event in 2020, and has now completed her training, becoming the organisation’s first consultant in South Tyneside launch her new business virtually.
“I can’t quite believe in a year where everything has changed in the world I have grown in confidence and self esteem. My fitness levels have improved and I now have a very unexpected career path ahead of me - running my own group as a Slimming World consultant and having the opportunity to help others to achieve their dreams too,” she said.
"When this is all over people are going to need support more than ever, and I am honoured to be there to offer my support and care.
"I reflect and wish I had done this a long time ago, life would have been different, however also know I must deal with the present and future and cannot change the past.
"What I can say though is, if Dave were able to see me now he would be so proud of what I have achieved.”
She added: "This makes me even more determined that my target will be reached and the opportunities we had planned to take together I will continue to do.”
:: Jan’s Slimming World group launched in March meeting virtually every Wednesday from 10am to 11am, and will run in person post-lockdown at The Sutton Hall, Prince Edward Road, South Shields