Hollie Barrett had always relied on food to be a comfort when she was going through a hard time, and when she lost her mother to cancer in 2013, she once again resorted to her usual habit.
However, the experience also acted as a wakeup call that she needed to get control of her health — Barrett had reached a high weight of 249 lbs.
“After that, I started to really think about my health and my future,” the superstore employee from Suffolk, England, 30, tells PEOPLE. “I wanted to be around for my kids, and to be able to do all the normal things that moms do while they were still young.”
Because of her size, Barrett couldn’t swim with her kids or do other physical activities with them.
“I felt like my weight was holding me back in every aspect of my life, especially when it came to doing things with my children,” she says. “I once chased my daughter Imogen up the stairs to bed and was so breathless I couldn’t speak properly to read her a bedtime story — it broke my heart.”
That experience jumpstarted her determination to lose weight. Barrett had recently seen a friend’s post on Facebook about their success with the weight loss program Slimming World, and decided to give it a try.
“I would jump from fad diet to fad diet, and they were all so strict and hard to follow. When I found Slimming World, I couldn’t believe that I didn’t have to starve myself to lose weight,” she says.
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Barrett uses the program’s food optimizing plan to get healthy meal and snack recipes that she can make at home.
“This helps me to lose weight without ever feeling hungry,” she says. “My partner Thomas is a great cook, and we all enjoy the same healthy meals as a family now. Salmon with wild rice and BBQ pulled pork are a couple of our favorites, and we still eat out regularly as well.”
Once the weight started coming off, Barrett was able to be active with her partner and kids like she had always wanted.
“We love going on long walks and enjoy more active holidays,” she says. “I walked 40 miles in four days and climbed a mountain when we went away recently. I’ve started jogging, and even had the confidence to put on a swimsuit and take my children swimming for the first time since losing weight, which was an amazing experience. Thomas loves my new figure and new-found confidence too!”
Since joining Slimming World, Barrett has lost 124 lbs.
“I recently completed a 5k charity run in memory of my mom, and I think she’d be pretty proud of me too,” she says. “Now I finally feel like the person — and the mom — I was meant to be all along.”