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TO be one of 44 women to make it to a Slimming World semi-final you must be a loser, which was the reality for one Newtownards woman who shed almost half her body weight. 

Fifty-two-year-old Cheryl Mercer began her journey to better health at 17st 8.5lbs. Now 9st 9.5lbs, Cheryl was put forward by her local Cairnshill branch of the weight loss organisation for a chance to be crowned Slimming World’s Woman of the Year for 2023. 

The annual event aims to recognise the hard work put in by women in their journey to improve their health with women from across the UK and Ireland are put forward by their locally based groups.

Last month, Slimming World announced that Merseyside primary school teacher, Kelly Barker, was the Woman of the Year for 2023, after she lost an incredible 18 stones.

Cheryl initially attended the Glinahirk Baptist group, before going onto join the Cairnshill branch in July 2021 and by October last year, she had met her weight loss target of eight stones, close to half of her body weight.   

Describing joining Slimming World as ‘the best decision I have ever made’, Cheryl reflected on her weight loss journey, and the support offered to her along the way.  

“Before I joined Slimming World, I was at a loss with what to do about my weight, I was self-conscious and often unhappy,” said Cheryl.  

 “My eyes were opened to a new way of eating that fits easily around my life. I felt in control for the first time ever.  

“Old favourites like spaghetti, carbonara and curries are all still on the menu, I just prepare and cook them differently now. 

“The changes I made were so simple,” she added. “Little things like switching white bread for wholemeal and using low-calorie cooking spray instead of oil. It wasn’t long before people started to notice the difference in me and that gave me a huge boost to keep going. 

“I started walking too, gradually increasing the distance and duration. I now attend the gym four to five times a week, attending classes like Zumba and kettlebells and I can run between 5-6k on the treadmill as well,” said Cheryl.  

Sara-Jane Middleton, who runs the Cairnshill Slimming World group, praised Cheryl’s efforts.

“It’s been wonderful to see the change in Cheryl each week,” she said. “The change on the outside is plain to see, and on the inside, she has grown in confidence and she believes in herself now.  

 “I feel very lucky to have Cheryl in my Slimming World group, she gives so much support to the other members. She is such a great example of what can be achieved,” said Sara-Jane.  

Ashleigh Allen, who runs Cheryl’s first group at Gilnahirk Baptist Church in Belfast, offered her congratulations to the former member. 

“I am so proud of Cheryl for losing an amazing 6.5st while attending my group. Cheryl is an amazing member, always supporting and inspiring others with her ideas and top tips. She is an inspiration and a credit to Slimming World. A true winner, in my eyes,” said Ashliegh. 

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