This article originally appeared on People.com.
Megan McGee started gaining weight when she got involved in an unhealthy relationship.
“I stopped doing all the things I used to do like seeing friends and going to the gym, so I became quite isolated,” the Middlesex, England-based nurse, 26, tells PEOPLE. Then she decided to break free. “When I started reconnecting with my friends again, I realized that I’d become the ‘fat friend.’ I didn’t like going out because I hated the way I looked and shopping for clothes would always end in tears. I was a deeply unhappy person — I had no self-worth and no self-esteem.”
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What really motivated McGee to get healthy was entering the nursing profession.
“As a nurse, I wanted to be the healthiest version of myself that I could be,” she says. “I didn’t want to be a walking contradiction to my patients, promoting healthy living but not being healthy myself.”
When a friend asked McGee to join the weight loss program Slimming World with her, she decided to give it a try.
“I thought to myself, ‘Just imagine how different life could be if I were to take all of this time and effort that I spend hating myself and put it into creating a life that I love and could be proud of,’ ” she says. “I realized that I needed to become my own best friend instead of my harshest critic, so when a friend of mine asked me to join with her it just felt like the timing was right.”
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Before joining, McGee would regularly skip meals and snack throughout the day on high-calorie foods.
“Now I have regular mealtimes and enjoy wholesome homemade dinners,” she says. “I eat a lot of the same meals as before, but I’ve learned how to make them differently so they’re healthier, like using lean meat and making sauces from scratch. I eat more now than I did before, and I never feel hungry or unsatisfied.”
She also found the confidence to return to the gym.
“As I lost weight, I became much more active,” says McGee. “I enjoy exercise classes at my gym and have regular personal training sessions. And I have lots more energy for my busy shifts as a nurse.”
While she’s lost over 70 lbs. since joining Slimming World, she says the best changes have been those you can’t see.
“I’m mentally stronger than I’ve ever been before,” she says. “The physical changes are great, but the psychological changes I’ve had are the ones that have benefited my life beyond anything I could ever have imagined; my weight loss has been an outward reflection of my healthier state of mind.”
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“Since losing weight I’ve had the confidence to volunteer in Tanzania on a nursing placement, and this summer I traveled to Alaska to work for my family,” McGee continues. “My biggest ambition in life now is to see the world, travel, explore and to use my life and profession to help as many people as I can while experiencing all the world has to offer.”
She hopes to be an inspiration to others, including the patients she works with every day.
“I have so many patients who are on Slimming World and when I tell them that I am too, it has helped to build rapport and they become much more comfortable discussing weight-related aspects of their care, because I can empathize and can speak from the heart,” she says. “I want to be an ambassador of hope to those who feel as hopeless as I did. I want to inspire people to be brave enough to take that first step, and embrace the chance to change. There is nothing to lose and so much life to gain.”