My weight loss journey started on the day I thought I’d hung up my football boots for good. I’d just finished coaching a youth training session, and was pleased with how it had gone… until I overheard one of the lads I’d been coaching say: ‘Yeah, he’s fat and he can’t run.’
I knew there was only one person they could have been referring to – me. I’d been steadily putting on weight for some time. The bigger I got, the more tired I became – and the harder it was to keep up with the kids as I puffed my way across the pitch.
An own goal
The real kicker was that it was my earnings as a football coach that had led to me gaining weight in the first place. Having money in my pocket meant I could eat takeaways whenever I wanted and go out with my mates more often. I hadn’t been slim at school, but it hadn’t really bothered me – until my weight crept up so much it got in the way of my football.
Quitting the beautiful game
By the time my weight had crept up past 28st, I no longer recognised myself as the confident midfielder I used to be. I couldn’t help but compare myself to the other coaches I’d spent the previous four years with on Brentford FC’s community programme. In my eyes, they made better role models than me. So, at 20 years old, I quit the game I loved forever.
Aaron’s slimming scoreline
30st 2½lbs vs 13st 13½lbs
6XL vs large
62ins vs 32ins
24ins vs 16½ins
11 vs 9
Warming up with Body Magic
It was six years before I even thought about setting foot on a pitch again. By then, I’d lost just over 10st with Slimming World after joining my local group in January 2017, and I felt ready to get more active.
My Consultant, Georgina, explained how I could gradually build up my activity levels with Body Magic and earn awards to show my progress. I loved getting weight loss awards during my journey, and the thought of having more certificates to put on my wall made me feel excited about getting moving again. Georgina knew that having goals to aim for helped me stay motivated and, that week, she challenged me to walk for 20 minutes every day.
The hardest part was getting out of the house. It was the first time I’d done anything active regularly since quitting coaching and the insults I’d experienced on the pitch were still stuck in my head. I thought people would laugh if they saw me walking down the street, so I found the quietest part of my local park to walk around instead.
Although I was shattered after 20 minutes, I was proud of myself for getting moving, and no one noticed me as I was walking. I gradually built up from there, my walks eventually turning into jogs – sometimes I’d even stop off to use the park’s outdoor gym along the way.
Walking around and seeing people having a kick-about on the grass got me thinking that I might be ready to get back into the game myself. So, in September 2017, I rejoined my local team, Petersham Pumas FC, in the Kingston and District Saturday League, as their new keeper.
Aaron’s football fuel-up
Before I joined Slimming World, I always told myself that I didn’t have time to cook – now I love being in the kitchen. Georgina and the other members in group have given me loads of ideas for simple meals – including some fantastic fakeaway recipes. I’m always surprised by how easy they are to make – and they taste much better than a takeaway!
Back in the game
After playing my first match, I couldn’t believe how good it felt to be on the pitch again. And I really enjoyed being a goalkeeper, even more than being an outfield player. By then, I’d lost over 13st, which definitely made it easier for me to dive into saves and jump high to clear corners, and I felt my judgement and agility coming along with every training session.
To cap off my return to football, we won our final game of the season and became league champions! Playing my part in an amazing season with the lads made me so grateful for my weight loss – I loved being on a team again, and I wouldn’t even have tried out with them if I’d been at my biggest.
During my long break from football, something had felt off, and I wasn’t sure what. Now, I realised it was that I’d been missing the game that had been in my blood since my childhood days of watching Dagenham and Redbridge.
Unfortunately, my playing career is on hold due to the pandemic, but I’m keeping in shape by playing five-a-side with my mates and hopefully I’ll be able to join a new team next season. I feel like I can handle anything life throws at me now – bring it on!
How to start playing football
Play in the garden
If you’ve never exercised before – or it’s been a while – kicking a ball around your garden can be a great way to build up your confidence and fitness. Five to 10 minutes of doing keep-me-ups should get you feeling warmer and breathing faster.
Organise your own friendly
Studies show exercising with others boosts our motivation to exercise – as well as making it more fun! – and inviting your mates to the park for an informal match could help to kick-start your fitness.
Try walking football
This slowed-down version of the game is played at walking pace, making it low impact and kinder to your joints.
Join a team
Being part of a sports team is a fantastic way to make a commitment to getting active. And you don’t have to take it too seriously – there are plenty of amateur teams who have a ‘just for fun’ approach to playing.
MORE FOR MEMBERS: You’ll find lots of Body Magic information and inspiration on the exclusive member website, including…
- Support to help you work towards your Body Magic awards
- Strategies to help you overcome psychological barriers to exercise
- An online planner that allows you to track your activity
- Motivation and ideas in your Slimming World group or our online Community
- How-to activity guides and videos
*If you’re planning to start a new exercise programme, we recommend you check with your GP first – especially if you have an existing health condition, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or asthma. If you’re pregnant, check the suitability of the exercise with your midwife.