Members of a slimming group have opened up about their weight-loss journey after covering 500 miles in a fitness challenge.

The Golden Body Magic Challenge - a campaign celebrating Slimming World's 50th birthday - involves each person covering 50 miles over the month of August.

It raises awareness of the links between obesity and cancer and raises money for Cancer Research UK.

Slimming World members at Highams Park have raised £650 by covering 500 miles in a month.

Mark Darlow, from Leytonstone, needed a walking stick due to his weight last year. Now, he has managed to walk 100 miles over a month and has lost 38kg since joining Slimming World in January.

Mr Darlow said: “Before I lost weight anything remotely active was my idea of a nightmare. I drove everywhere I could and I made excuses if anyone planned anything I would end up in pain and getting out of breath for – even walking a few hundred yards felt like a struggle and if I could avoid it, I would have done.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Mark Darlow lost 38kg since joining Slimming World in January. Photo: Slimming World

“I always joked I couldn’t run for a bus! I wouldn’t have had the confidence to try the distance! I’m a new person now. I’m happier, healthier, more confident and so excited about the future. I’ve not lost all I want to yet and can already my life is different.”

Teacher Helen Dunne dropped from size 20 to 14, going from 91kg to 75kg, eight months after joining the slimming group.

After starting a new job as head of prep at Avon House School, and with her 50th birthday approaching, Mrs Dunne decided it was time to do something about her weight and health.

She said: "I’d always been a bit bigger than all my friends, even when I was at school. In my youth I detested exercise and loved the high life - eating and drinking with no thought to the consequences. I always felt bigger than everyone else and a bit awkward and clumsy.

“It actually took me a whole year after first contacting Natalie to join her Slimming World group as I knew I needed to be in the right frame of mind to commit to something. Starting a new job that I loved made me feel better about myself in that aspect of my life and that confidence made me feel I could probably tackle the weight too!"

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Helen Dunne went from a size 20 to 14. Photo: Slimming World

She continued: "I never bought new clothes because I hated trying them on and I hated the thought that there was no point even stepping inside some shops as nothing would fit. I knew I wasn’t terribly unfit as I had started exercising a few years back but I felt guilty all the time for overeating and then didn’t see much point in dieting. I felt like a failure.

"Since joining Slimming World, I can now buy clothes in any shop and try them on knowing they’ll fit. I’ve had to change my whole wardrobe and the style of things I wear is different too!

"Two minor ailments I had before have completely disappeared and I feel much fitter generally. I can run on and on without stopping at the gym! My confidence has soared dramatically. I feel ‘normal’ now and feel like I don’t stick out from everyone else.”

She added: "I do still eat things I enjoyed before like chocolate and crisps but I don’t feel guilty about them afterwards. I build them in to the bigger picture.

"I’ve had a large number of celebrations and parties to go to recently as my friends and I have all turned 50 this year.

"I had to resisting throwing it all away when times were tough or I was restricted in food choices. This was for life. I made sure I went straight back to plan. Chocolate will always taste good but it will also always be there. There’s no desperate need to eat it all today!"