West Sussex mum Natasha Bunby has been named Slimming World’s Top Target Consultant 2020, after maintaining her 11st weight loss for more than seven years.
The 38-year-old from Lancing started her weight-loss programme after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
She lost more than 11st over 18 months and has maintained her weight loss ever since, despite being unable to walk.
Natasha said: “I feel so proud to be named Slimming World’s Top Target Consultant for 2020. I hope that by winning this competition I can show that Slimming World works for everyone and that there’s help out there for people who want to lose weight, no matter what their situation is.”
Natasha, who attends a Worthing Slimming World group, joined in March 2011, a size 28 and weighing 21st 7lbs. Within 18 months, she had slimmed down to 10st 6lbs.
She said: “When I began my journey, I was still fairly mobile yet over the years my condition has worsened and I can no longer walk.
“My house and car are fully adapted, which maintains my independence, and of course, I’ve managed to keep the weight off because Slimming World truly does work for everyone, whether you are able-bodied or not.”
Natasha turned to food for comfort following the death of her best friend at the age of 16 and began gaining weight. She says she was a classic emotional eater for much of her life and it was not until she spent time in hospital, after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, that she realised she needed to take action.
She has had the full support of her husband Marc, 51, and sons Deon, 18, and London, 12.
Natasha said: “I’d had problems with my legs since my teens but doctors put it down to the trauma of losing my friend. Some years later, I woke up one night and lost all function and feeling from the waist down. I was taken to hospital and diagnosed with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and hospitalised for six weeks.
“During that time, my mum took me, in my wheelchair, to a park at the side of the hospital with my two children. There was a slope that led down to the park and my mum lost control of the wheelchair. I ended up stuck in a bush and because I was too heavy for my mum to manoeuvre the chair, she had to ask a passer-by for help.
“The experience itself was embarrassing enough. Then, when my oldest son Deon asked me how we’d ever go out as a family if I was too heavy to be pushed in a wheelchair, it broke my heart. I knew I had to do something about my weight as I wanted to do all I could to help myself with my health.”
When a Slimming World leaflet came through the door, she decided to join her local group and was overwhelmed by the kindness from everyone in the room.
Natasha explained: “At the time, I was a size 28 and spent most of the time just wanting to hide. However, I knew deep down that I also wanted to do something for myself and take back some control.”
She said Slimming World’s Food Optimising programme was adaptable for family life, it just meant preparing and cooking everything from scratch.
As time went on, Natasha realised she would really love to become a Slimming World consultant and inspire other people who perhaps thought they would never be able to lose weight.
She said: “I have lots of support from my family, who help me set up my groups, and have two wonderful venues which are fully wheelchair accessible.
“I absolutely love being a consultant and seeing members change before my eyes. It’s a wonderful feeling, in fact it’s the best job in the world.”
Natasha runs her own groups in Littlehampton and Lancing.
She said: “I don’t let anything hold me back. I attend a gym which is fully wheelchair accessible and use the upper body machines to keep myself feeling fit.
“Members of my groups aren’t afraid to talk about activity just because I’m in a wheelchair. We know that getting active means something different for everyone.
“Slimming World’s activity programme Body Magic is totally personalised to each person. There’s no goal too big or too small. For me, Body Magic can be activities like getting dressed or having a shower.”
Natasha also models for Zebedee Management, an agency working for people with disabilities and visual differences.
She said: “My multiple sclerosis will never be the most interesting thing about me but it’s also not going away, so I’m going to embrace it and use my experiences in the most positive way I can.
“One day my illness will win the battle and when that day comes, I want my friends and family to say ‘she loved the life she lived and she did her best’. Giving up isn’t an option for me and I’ll always help others along the way as best I can.”
Starting weight: 21st 7lbs
Current weight: 10st 6lbs
Weight loss: 11st 1lb
Starting dress size: 28
Current dress size: 12
Date joined Slimming World: March 2011
Time at target: Seven years and four months
Lunch: Lunch from a bakery along with a cake and a packet of crisps
Dinner: Microwave meal or something made with a jarred sauce
Breakfast: Overnight oats made with fat-free natural yogurt and fresh fruit
Lunch: Jacket potato with salad
Dinner: Homemade roast dinner, homemade Slimming World-style burger and chips or a curry made from scratch
Evening snack: Fruit