Sunday Interview A positive attitude and a warm welcome

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Georgina McCarter is beaming from ear to ear. She admits she feel ‘like a child on Christmas Eve’ as she excitedly plans for the next step in her career.

For four years Georgina has been on the city’s most popular and successful Slimming World class leaders - and earlier this year she was promoted to the position of development leader - and put in charge of 15 local consultants.

Just yesterday she opened her latest group - in the salubrious settings of Derry’s Guildhall and she admits that she has ‘never felt more excited’ about her life.

This is all the more inspirational because earlier this year, two years after first experiencing health issues, Georgina was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

Indeed as we talk she admits she is in the middle of a relapse of the disease which, on this occasion, has caused throbbing pains in her legs and a numbness down one side of her face.

“I’m not going to give into it though,” Georgina said. In fact she believes there was a certain synchronicity to her being promoted within Slimming World and her diagnosis which has helped her cope with the challenges she has faced.

“If I had been offered this job two years ago, I wouldn’t be here now. If I had been offered it a year ago, I wouldn’t be here now. But as it happened the opportunity came up just as I was waiting for my diagnosis.

“When it was first suggested I go for the role I was waiting on test results, and then once I was diagnosed I just called my regional manager and said I wouldn’t be going forward with the application.

“But that was where Slimming World came into their own with me, offering me the support I needed through their care team to be able to take the role and run with it.”

Although Georgina has a naturally optimistic personality. she admits things had been tough at times over the previous two years as she tried to find answers for her health concerns.

Married and a mother to two daughters, as well as a very doting daughter she was worried what impact any illness might have on her family.

“The first time I knew something was wrong was two years ago, in March. I had been sharing a bed with my very pregnant sister and when I woke up in the morning I noticed that under my lip had gone numb.

“I had a cold-sore so put it down to that, and while I was more tired than usual, I also put that down to having had a poor night’s sleep due to being really aware of my sister and her baby bump in the bed with me.

“My sister went out to get something for my coldsore and the chemist told her as I was experiencing numbness I should really see a doctor.”

As Georgina’s leg had also started to drag a little, doctor’s first of all feared she had suffered a stroke.

“Because I had no facial drooping they were able to rule that out, but my leg became worse and it was discovered I had right side weakness so I was admitted for tests.”

Thus followed two years of tests and visits to a neurologist before, exactly two years after her first symptoms she had her diagnosis.

“What it made me realise I suppose is just how important it is to look after yourself. When I joined Slimming World myself I lost six stone and four lbs and it made an incredible difference to me.

“I was able to go and enjoying clothes shopping with my sisters instead of standing, sweating and flustered in a changing room hoping something would fit.

“And when we went on holiday I was able to wear a swimming suit instead of hiding, sweltered, under a towel because I didn’t want anyone to see me.

“But dealing with an illness such as MS has also really emphasized to me how important is to eat well to feel well.

“I know it sounds like a bit of a cliche, but if you fill your body with rubbish, you will feel rubbish.”

Georgina believes that being able to relate to many of the struggles women face helps her to be a better consultant.

“I know what it is like to have a lot of weight to lose. I know what it is like to have joined Slimming World, lost a stone then figure I knew it all and leave again. So I also know what it is like to come back through the door.

“I know what it is like to be a busy mammy, to always be on the run to somewhere or other and I know that life can get in the way.

“None of us is perfect and we will all have our bad days, and our nights out and whatever gets in the way. We all get sick and have days when we don’t want to eat, or want to eat too much,” Georgina said.

Indeed Georgina is the perfect advertisement for her own business - and her enthusiasm for it is infectious.

“I get so much out of the groups. Each one is like a little family of its own - and I genuinely love my work. I’m not sure how many people can say that.”

Georgina runs classes three days a week. On Mondays and Tuesdays her classes are the Waterfoot Hotel and on Saturday mornings, from 10.30, she now runs a class in the Guildhall.

“When I was asked where I wanted to set up a class, I said I wanted to have one right in the heart of the city. Sure where better is there than our own Guildhall?”