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At nearly 35st, our Man of the Year 2018 Dave Lancaster knew that something had to give. He swapped boozy nights in with a takeaway (or two) for long walks out fueled by a much healthier menu. Here’s how Dave completely turned his life around:

Firing up my games console and opening a bottle of wine, I felt myself relax. As I’d got heavier, the outside world had become a scary place, and I was much happier at home. The problem was that one bottle of wine often led to another… and another… and, more often than not, these led to a family-size ready meal and half a bag of oven chips. These ‘cosy nights in’ were causing my weight to spiral even further, which made me want to stay home even more. 

Alcohol played a big part in this vicious cycle. It encouraged me to eat unhealthy things – and I always fancied a big takeaway at the end of a boozy night! 

Being unable to easily walk to my local chip shop meant that I had to get my meals delivered – which also meant that I had to spend more. I’d started to order two large portions of fish and chips because of this – and both of them would get eaten. Eventually I even added a cheeseburger to my regular order, too.

To have any chance of taking control of my eating, I knew deep down that I needed to tackle the booze first.

The Dave in the first photo had probably drunk about 15 pints or more. I remember being both horrendously drunk and hardly able to stand due to back pain that night. My hangover lasted four days and the back pain much longer. I don’t miss that man one little bit.

Giving up alcohol for good

My health had been going downhill for years, with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol all on my list of problems. I was also quickly getting to the point of not being able to walk to the end of my road – but even this realisation failed to prompt change.

It took something very significant to get me to confront my own mortality and reach the point where I felt ready to ditch the drink, and this turned out to be getting back in touch with my mum following a long period of estrangement. Shortly after, she died as a result of years of heavy smoking. 

Two days before she passed away, I decided that giving up alcohol was a step I had to take. However, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

After joining an alcohol support group and getting three months of sobriety under my belt, I decided that I needed to turn my focus to food. I had naively assumed that cutting out booze alone would result in weight loss – but my eating habits hadn’t changed, and I soon realised that I needed more help.

The support I’d received from a group dynamic had helped me to tackle alcohol, so I thought maybe a similar approach could do the same for my eating habits. As I searched for alternatives online, fate seemed to step in. There was a Slimming World meeting just around the corner from me that was due to start in 20 minutes. 

I had actually been a member several years before, but back then I’d lacked the commitment to change and didn’t follow the plan. Now I felt different – so before I had chance to talk myself out of it, I stepped out of the door and towards a better future. This was April 2016 and I’ve never looked back!

Tackling my challenges head-on

While cutting out drinking was a massive positive, it wasn’t without its challenges. Taking away something that I’d relied on so heavily for a long time left a big hole. This needed to be filled – and not with unhealthy food! I reasoned that exercise would be the best way to keep myself occupied, but my weight made it impossible to begin with.

Another unexpected challenge was that giving up booze had uncovered a sweet tooth that wasn’t there before. I’d always been far more likely to fantasise about a kebab than dessert, but I began to crave foods with a higher sugar content – which wasn’t good for my type 2 diabetes.

It wasn’t until someone pointed out that alcohol contains a lot of sugar that I realised why I’d developed this craving! Slimming World’s plan allowed me to easily identify fruits with a lower GI so that I could keep my diabetes under control at the same time as keeping my sweet tooth satisfied.

As I started to cook more and more meals from scratch, my old ready meals were ditched for healthy pork stir-fries and chillis. I’d then box up the leftovers to have for lunch (to replace my usual three rounds of ham sandwiches with crisps). And instead of stopping for a fast-food breakfast on the way to work, I’d start my day with Weetabix, skimmed milk and fruit. If I became hungry between meals at my desk I’d munch apples or pickles, which quickly became my snacks of choice. 

No time for temptation

Once the scales started moving in the right direction, I wanted to try to add activity to my routine. Again, this wasn’t a walk in the park – quite literally! The first time I tried to walk around my local park, I got to the fifth bench and was in so much pain that I had to turn back. But I was determined to keep at it. I returned every few days, getting one or two benches further each time until eventually I made it around the entire one-mile circuit. 

Within a month I was walking seven miles a week, and within six months I was up to 30 miles a week and had lost 7st – the weight of a fridge! As well as working alongside Food Optimising to help boost my weight loss, these long walks left me very little time for temptation. Without them, and the positive physical and mental benefits of exercise, I’m convinced that remaining alcohol-free would have been much harder.

Almost unbelievably, by February 2018 I’d lost over 20st and hit my target weight of 14st. I’d done it! But my journey didn’t stop there.

In June 2018, I came third in Slimming World’s Greatest Loser competition – and then the following month, to my surprise, I became the Slimming World Man of the Year! This was a slightly scary responsibility, but also an amazing opportunity to be a positive ambassador for something that had helped to change my life in so many ways.

By this time my health had improved no end and, with the thumbs-up from my GP, I came off my diabetes and cholesterol medications. My blood pressure is now that of a man around 20 years younger, and my resting heart rate has dropped to 40 beats per minute (more typical of an athlete, if I do say so myself!).

Health benefits aside, there are so many other ways in which my life changed for the better. My non-scale victories include:

I can buy clothes from pretty much any supermarket or high street store. They cost much less than they used to at specialist retailers!

I can fit into cars and taxis, and get the seatbelts on.

I can fit into my bath.

I don’t get out of breath walking up hills (unless they’re really steep).

I can mow my lawn without being in agony.

I can go to the cinema and not have to pay extra for premium seating because the standard seat isn’t big enough.

One of my biggest victories is giving up alcohol. The old Dave could easily drink three bottles of wine a night, while the new Dave would rather have a cup of tea or coffee on a cosy night. Or, even better, I’d rather be out and about instead!

If there’s a weight loss challenge that you’re struggling with, there’s no need to ever struggle alone. Like Dave, you’ll find yourself surrounded by support at your local Slimming World group or in our friendly online Community. Whatever obstacle you feel stands in your way, we’re here to help you overcome it.

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