A woman from Bwlch is set to achieve her dream of running the 2023 London Marathon after her 3st4lbs weight loss.

On top of achieving her dream weight, Shelly Willetts, 52, is now representing Slimming World in their 14-strong official marathon team this April.

The Slimming World members, consultants, Head Office staff and managers come from across the UK and Ireland and between them have lost more than 79st.

The runners are raising money for Cancer Research UK, the Irish Cancer Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK, Slimming World’s

official charity partners.

Shelly is running for Cancer Research UK, as well as aiming to increase awareness of how keeping a healthy weight and moving more can improve people’s health and help reduce the risk of developing some types of cancer. In Wales, around 19,800 people are diagnosed with cancer every year.

Despite eating healthily as a child, as Shelly got older she had a lot more freedom when it came to choosing the food she ate - and on top of that she was going out every weekend with her friends.

Shelly said: “I was diagnosed with high cholesterol in my early 20s after being checked out due to family history, which was a bit worrying

given that I was so young. My dad suffered a heart attack in his early 30s and my nan died of a heart attack in her late 50s, so the potential impact on my own health was definitely on my mind. I was given a choice to either take statins or to lose weight. I knew I wanted to go down the natural route, but it was a number of years before I found the courage to tackle my weight problem.

“Soon after having my second child, my husband Paul, who was a Warrant Officer in the Royal Navy, was drafted to Portugal. The first thing I thought was ‘I’m going to spend the next three years in a bikini’ and instead of being excited, I was horrified.

I didn’t even like what I saw in the mirror when I was fully clothed, so I knew I had to do something about my weight once and for all.

“Walking into my Slimming World group in March 2001 was a little daunting, but I went along with my sister-in-law, so we had each other.

Looking back though I would have been fine on my own, I soon realised there was no need for me to worry. I’d found a group of people who all wanted to achieve the same thing, and everyone was so friendly and supportive – there was always someone to turn to if you needed help or advice.”

Shelly followed Slimming World’s Food Optimising healthy eating plan and loved that the flexible plan gave her the knowledge and skills to

make changes to the way she ate and improved her understanding of her relationship with food.

“There’s so much choice on Slimming World’s Food Optimising plan, which meant I could tailor it to the way I like to eat,” she said.

“I loved that I could still enjoy the foods I loved, like Sunday roast dinners and pasta bakes just by changing the way I prepared and cooked them. And I could still eat carbs!

“As the plan is based on normal, everyday foods Paul could enjoy the same healthy meals – there are no separate ‘slimming’ dinners! I also learned the best choices to make when eating out, so I was still able to socialise with family and friends, too. I loved that losing weight didn’t mean saying ‘no’ to living my life, quite the opposite in fact.”

As Shelly lost weight and grew in confidence, she decided to explore Slimming World’s Body Magic physical activity support programme, which helps members to embrace active habits.

The programme recognises a wide range of activities, to suit all ability levels and budgets, and supports members to increase activity from their own individual starting point and at their own pace.

Shelly said: “I introduced running gradually and actually found I loved running when I lived in Portugal, so I decided to take it up again. Of course, the Brecon Beacons are very hilly which makes running an additional challenge! I absolutely love getting out there though and find it great for both my physical and mental health.

“Both my grandmother and aunt died from cancer and so it means a great deal to me to be raising money for Cancer Research UK when I run the 2023 London Marathon.”

Money raised for Cancer Research UK, Irish Cancer Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK helps fund life-saving research. Anyone who would like to sponsor the Slimming World Marathon team can do so by visiting: https://justgiving.com/campaign/SW-LondonMarathon2023

Shelly has been at her target weight for 21 years and after returning from Portugal decided to become a Slimming World Consultant. She now runs her own Slimming World groups in Brecon and Abergavenny on a Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

She was named Slimming World’s Top Target Consultant 2022, a competition which celebrates Consultants who have been successful in

maintaining their target weight.