In February 2019, I weighed over 22st and felt physically and mentally broken. Just climbing a flight of stairs would leave me gasping for breath. I was at rock bottom. With my 40th birthday approaching, I wanted to be the very best version of me. We’d booked a family holiday to Disneyland Paris, and I was worried about not being able to go on the rides with my son. It was time to make a change.
I started gaining weight from the age of 20 – all I cared about was work, going out drinking, and eating junk food. I was in constant pain, and even tying my shoelaces was a struggle and would leave me short of breath. I wasn’t sleeping and when I did, my breathing would stop and start and wake me up through the night. Even though I was worried about my health, I was scared to admit it, so I carried on with my lifestyle of takeaways, sugary drinks and too much alcohol.
At the time, I wouldn’t have said I drank in excess, but I also didn’t consider the calories in the pints of lager and cider I was downing. Although I’d never touch a full-fat cola, thinking it was packed with sugar, I’d happily down a pint of lager without even thinking about it. I’d go on to eat more than I intended, too, grabbing a takeaway pizza on my way home from the pub.
Tipping towards weight gain
I’d tried all sorts to lose weight, including shakes and fad diets. I’d smash it for two weeks, then give up when I got bored. My job as an insulation sales person meant a lot of driving and I relied on takeaways and shop-bought meals to keep me going.
Both my mum and sister could see how unhappy I was. They kept asking me to join them at their slimming club, but I was scared and embarrassed, convinced I’d be the only man there. With my weight continuing to creep up and my health getting worse, though, I knew I needed help. The next time they asked me to go along to Slimming World with them, I surprised them by saying yes.
I remember feeling nervous when I walked into my local Slimming World group, but when I saw there were quite a few men there it made me feel better. It wouldn’t have mattered if I was the only man, though, as everyone was really friendly. I was surprised at how easy it was to adapt to Food Optimising; I never once felt hungry. Over the next 12 months, I lost 10st.
I’d never attempted to cook anything myself before – I was the kind of person who’d set the toaster on fire! Now I’m gradually becoming more confident in the kitchen. I always make sure that I have breakfast, and my favourite meal is a big breakfast with bacon (with the fat cut off), eggs, beans and mushrooms.
Finding my beverage balance
Initially I gave up drinking for three months, then I went on holiday and introduced it again, but with more thought. I now often choose lighter beers or have a vodka and diet cola. I also make sure I have healthier snacks available for those post-drinking munchies. Watermelon is my favourite, and pickled onions are my go-to savoury snack.
Going to group has given me all the tools and support I need to live a healthier life. My group’s Consultant is so good at motivating people – she can have the group going from tears to howling with laughter. Because she understood the challenges I faced and empathised, she was able to give me great advice about how to curb my drinking in those early days.
A healthy measure
I see a lot more of my family now, which is fantastic. My sister says she feels as if she’s got her brother back. When we finally got to Disneyland Paris, I had a great time getting on all the rides with my son, without feeling self-conscious and fearing I’d get stuck.
I’ve also noticed that by keeping drinking to something I do on holiday or for special occasions, I’m generally much more positive and have more energy. I used to feel so lethargic and groggy after drinking the night before. I’m also a lot less anxious.
This year, more than any other, I feel as if I’ve dodged a major bullet by turning my health around – especially as the risk of being severely ill from COVID-19 increases if you’re overweight. I know now if you look after yourself, everything else falls into place.
As Ian’s story shows, dialling down the drink can have big benefits for your overall health and your weight loss.
Our local groups are here to help you achieve your weight loss goals with expert guidance, proven slimming strategies and unbeatable support.
If you can’t make it to one of our groups, you can join our digital service, Slimming World Online, where you’ll find a friendly community ready to support you all the way to your dream weight.