By Georgina Downes
For anyone concerned about their weight, Lockdown may have proved a bit of a nightmare ―gyms closed, endless hours to fill with nowhere to go but the supermarkets, And yes, the biscuit tin definitely called your name every time you boiled the kettle. Now, with Christmas on the horizon, some of us might be re-living those familiar pangs of guilt and panic as our homes fill with tins of sweets, mince pies and selection boxes. But don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re not alone and if you need it, help is at hand. Nora Butler, a Nutrition Coach with Slimming World, is celebrating five successful years in her new profession and understands better than most how support is key to maintaining a healthy weight.
Congratulations Nora, on five years’ in business and on qualifying as a Nutritional Coach. Did you ever think you would take this direction?
No, I never imagined I’d be doing this work. I was in a very rewarding job for 15 years as a Youth Worker. I adored it and had no intentions of leaving. The opportunity came from being a member of Slimming World. I discovered my skill sets were very transferable and my new-found passion for food optimising and working with people found a home.
You found yourself gaining weight throughout the years. Were you aware that it was becoming a problem but you put it on the long finger or did you suddenly think, hey, I really need to address this.
A combination of both I think. I knew the clothes I was buying were getting bigger in size, my physical health was in decline. There were signs all the way up the road that I kept ignoring. So it was there all the time; the universe was telling me, my body was telling me, but I ignored the signs.
What was your motivation to losing weight? Was there a moment that something just clicked and you decided to do it?
The moment came when I looked at a photo on my phone that my brother took of me holding my niece. She was in my arms and I saw my side profile. I could see my proper size and I was absolutely shocked by the picture. I could also see how miserable I truly looked in the picture also. I was smiling, of course, but deep down I could see I wasn’t happy at all. This picture was actually the photo that changed my life. I used that as a huge motivator towards losing weight.
Do you feel changed emotionally as well as physically now you have lost weight?
100 per cent. I’m very different in both my physical and mental health now from the weight loss. I had become a little reclusive and anyone that knows me knows how much I love meeting friends and get-togethers. I had literally no clothes that fitted and I hadn’t the confidence to go into shops and ask for help even though I knew there were clothing shops that provide this kind of service. Getting outfits for special occasions put me under awful duress and I’d end up getting something that was ok, it fitted. I just wanted to blend in and not stand out in any way. My physical health was compromised by my weight. I was very unfit and this had a huge effect on my mental wellbeing too. As a young person, I was extremely fit, played sports daily and was very active. I let it all get away from me and I regretted it deeply. I downloaded the Couch to 5k app on my phone and tried to run but I found it was too much pressure on my joints with my weight so I lost 2 stones and then I tried again…I got up to half marathon. I don’t think there’s a full marathon in me but hey, I’ve done adventure races, climbed mountains, cycled, and jogged. I’m like a completely different person now.
Exercise and positive mental health are complimentary so they work so well together.
Eating healthily is often a matter of common sense but was there anything you learned in your studies that bowled you over, that you thought, OMG, I never knew that?
As I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), I found the information that dealt with specific populations of people very informative. This is an area of huge interest and concern for me. So all learning in this area was very enlightening. The prevalence of PCOS is very common and it’s not known. For instance, lots of women are suffering with it but don’t even know that they have it.
What do you think about the sugar tax as a means of tacking obesity?
I think if you want to eat foods high in sugar you will just pay the price. Tackling obesity is a multifaceted approach. The sugar tax might act as a deterrent but where there’s a will there’s a way.
Do you think the support of a group like Slimming World makes things easier when trying to lose weight?
100 per cent. When I first joined, I did so online as there weren’t any groups open in Kerry at the time and it was ok, but being an extrovert. I longed to join a Slimming World group. Life happened and I joined the Tralee group after the birth of my second son. I knew the first night I was in the right place: the fun, the banter, the support people were giving each other, the camaraderie ― it was something else! If we could all stay at home and read a book to lose weight wouldn’t it be mighty!
We have people coming to the group who start off being wallflowers and in a few weeks, you see them changing in front of you, physically and emotionally. The weight goes down, the confidence goes up, people start to trust you more, themselves more, and the group more. It’s fabulous as we are all in it together.
When you are with people who get the struggle, they understand, they empathise, they know your story. The number of friendships I’ve made, my God, I’ve been blessed with the most amazing friendships from my work in Slimming World and the satisfaction you get from helping people actually change their lives and their families lives ―it’s so rewarding. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Biggest Challenge in the last 5 years?
In life, business and health, there are good times and there are bad. Empowering people and supporting them to become their own champion is a privilege to share. I can’t believe I’m still here. I feel very lucky to have been able to keep my business open during COVID-19, to support members, so now we are running both venue and virtual-based groups. It’s a blended approach to compliment and respond to as many needs as possible. Members can weigh at home, members can weigh at group. Everybody is safe and supported in many ways. This has been the biggest challenge in my 5 years as a consultant; supporting members to adapt to an online group environment. Lockdown 2.0 was so different from the first because people were willing to give it a try and were open to online group. It worked very well.
Many thanks to Nora for such a candid and inspiring interview. You can contact her at 087 248 9838 for more information about Slimming World or for advice on beginning your healthy-weight journey.