Arriving at one of Glasgow’s tall tenement buildings, at a call-out to a patient in a top-floor flat, my heart sank. As a paramedic, being able to get medical equipment up the stairs quickly could literally be a matter of life or death, but my weight made it difficult. I’d often be struggling for breath by the time I arrived, which wasn’t helpful to anyone.
Being on the road a lot made matters even worse. With no set meal times, I was constantly snacking on chocolate, pasties or crisps that I’d pick up from petrol stations. And I’d often stop off at a roadside cafe for an all-day fried breakfast, then have a takeaway for dinner because I was too tired to cook (usually followed by a big bowl of ice cream).
My medical wake-up call
Then, in 2018, I needed an operation and was told that I had to lose weight before it could go ahead. I knew that I was on the large side – I was a keen golfer and it had become a job to get around the course – but I hadn’t realised just how big I’d become. Looking back on photos now, I can’t believe that was me as I just don’t recognise myself!
I knew a couple of people who’d had great results with Slimming World, including a colleague who’d lost over 9st since joining. I was amazed by his transformation – he didn’t look like the same bloke – and I decided to give it a go myself.
A shock on the scales
It took me a few attempts to build up the courage to go to my local group, as I felt embarrassed and ashamed that I’d ended up this way. Once I was in, though, everyone welcomed me and I was happy to see more guys in the group than I’d expected.
Standing on the scales for the first time was a real eye-opener. I’d stopped drinking a month before, and I felt like I’d lost a bit of weight already, so it was a shock to see that I weighed 22st 12lbs. I honestly thought I was a lot lighter than that. There was no judgement from the group though, only encouragement, and I left feeling determined to do something about it.
Keeping things simple
I’m not a fancy eater (I like my mince and potatoes!) and I definitely wasn’t a cook before joining Slimming World. I used to constantly snack (bread and cheese were a weakness, or I’d smother chocolate spread on white toast), and dinner was usually a Chinese or Indian takeaway, or a deep-fried burger and chips. Now, I can cook bits and bobs. I tend to stick to the basics, like chicken and veg with Slimming World chips. And if I fancy a full English, I make scrambled or boiled eggs with grilled lean bacon and low-fat sausages. When I’m really too tired to cook, I grab one of the Slimming World meals that I get from Iceland out of the freezer.
In group, I learnt to make simple swaps so that I never feel like I’m missing out. I mostly snack on fruit – I’m eating so much more fruit and veg! – though I still enjoy cheese, I just go for the lighter 50%-less-fat option now. I still love my ice cream, too – now I choose a lower-calorie variety and have it as a treat. Incredibly, I haven’t touched a drink since I gave up, and I don’t miss it at all.
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Getting my breath back
During lockdown, I joined in with the virtual group when my shift work allowed, but it’s fantastic that we can all see each other in person again now. My Consultant in Baillieston, Annemarie, is a godsend – she makes the sessions really interesting and fun. With her encouragement, I started doing Slimming World’s activity programme, building up slowly to being more active each day. I started by just going for a wee walk, and although I was out of puff at first, within a fortnight I was feeling a difference and could go further.
A medical miracle
While I don’t think what I’ve done is anything spectacular, I feel so much better. And, as it turns out, I don’t actually need to have my operation now that I’ve lost weight! I’ve gone down from a 4XL to a large in T-shirts, and from a 48in to a 34in waist – and that’s while enjoying tasty meals and never feeling hungry once. As a first-time slimmer, I’m so glad I chose Slimming World instead of going for a quick-fix option. The plan was so easy to follow – even for a novice cook like me – and going to group has really helped me to change my habits around food (I don’t feel the need to grab those petrol station pasties any more). The support along the way, from people who really understand, has been brilliant. I’m used to helping others as a paramedic and now I feel like I’m the one who’s been given a second chance at life!
Thomas’s tips for eating well on the road 🚑
- Be prepared. I eat just before work so that I’m not starting a shift hungry.
- Plan if you can. I’ve learnt how to plan my work meals in advance, so that I know what I’m going to be eating and when.
- Take healthy snacks. I always have a big bag of varied fruit with me now, in case I feel peckish.
- Get support. I make sure that my crew mate knows that I’m on the Slimming World plan, and ask them not to offer me anything unhealthy.
- Boost motivation. I carry an old photo of me before I lost weight. Remembering how I felt then is usually enough to put me back on track when I’m wavering.
- Keep it simple. I stick to quick and easy dishes after a busy shift – and I have some ready meals from the Slimming World Free Food range in the freezer for when I’m just too tired to cook.
- Be realistic. There are times when nothing can keep me from chocolate, crisps or a roadside cafe stop – I’m only human! Food Optimising gives you the freedom to include treats in moderation, so I indulge just enough to stop the craving, before getting straight back onto my new healthier way of eating.