You might remember that, earlier this year, we shared the news that Slimming World’s Mr Sleek 2020 and his girlfriend, Lucy, were expecting their first child. We’re delighted to announce that the happy couple welcomed their beautiful daughter, Aayla, into the world earlier this month! To celebrate the news, we caught up with Aaron to find out how he’s finding balancing fatherhood and slimming…
Congratulations on the arrival of your beautiful daughter! You and Lucy must be over the moon?
Yes, we are! I can’t believe Aayla is finally here, and Lucy and I are already besotted with her – there’s no feeling like it. Although it’s been tiring to look after a newborn at all hours of the day, I’m slowly getting used to our new routine. I’ve started setting time aside during the week to batch cook and prep our meals, because we quickly realised we had a lot less time to cook now there’s a baby in the house!
My mum has already been round to meet Aayla, and she keeps telling me how much she looks like my nan, and I can definitely see a resemblance, too. I just wish Nan was still around to meet her. I began my Slimming World journey to make her proud of me, and I know she’d be thrilled to see me starting a family of my own.
Of course, you’re our Mr Sleek 2020, having lost 16st 4lbs – and Lucy also lost 9st 9½lbs as a Slimming World member. Was it difficult to continue Food Optimising as a couple during the pregnancy?
Not at all. Lucy carried on going to group throughout her pregnancy, following Slimming World’s guidelines for mums-to-be developed with the Royal College of Midwives, and we continued to support each other’s journeys. The biggest challenge was that I had to start making separate meals for Lucy, as, due to the pregnancy, her sense of taste and smell changed. Suddenly, she couldn’t stand the smell of my katsu curry or diet cola chicken, so I made her a roast chicken dinner with mashed potatoes instead… until she went off chicken as well and I had to swap that for pork!
You also had to cope with the UK going into lockdown while Lucy was pregnant. That must have been challenging?
It was a worrying time for both of us, as it was for everyone, especially as Lucy was still working in a busy doctors’ surgery. Although we had concerns about her being in close contact with patients while she was pregnant, the surgery did everything they could to keep her safe. Within a couple of months she was able to work from home, which put both of our minds at rest.
I was gutted when we learned I couldn’t go with Lucy to her next baby scan because of lockdown restrictions. I desperately wanted to be there to support her and share the moment, but instead I had to sit in the car waiting for a text message from Lucy to let me know everything was OK. Thankfully, Lucy and the baby were both fine and there were no health complications during the pregnancy, but I was incredibly disappointed to miss out on such a special moment.
It sounds like it was a stressful time for you both…
In a lot of ways it was. We had to move house twice this year and, about a month into lockdown, I was placed on furlough from my job as a facilities coordinator. I’ve always found it hard to adapt to routine change and being at home by myself all day meant I struggled to focus on Food Optimising. I slipped back into unhealthy habits, like snacking on bags of crisps or bars of chocolate because I was bored or to comfort myself when I felt stressed about organising another house move. Lucy was my rock during this period. Whenever I felt like I wanted to throw in the towel and indulge my cravings, she’d remind me of how far I’ve come with my weight loss and then make me a healthy snack, like carrot sticks and Syn Free houmous, to encourage me to get back on track.
Did you get support from your Slimming World group, too?
Definitely! Even when our group was temporarily suspended, we all rallied around each other. I got loads of messages from members asking if I was OK, and I did the same for them, checking to see if there was anything I could do to help. Once Slimming World launched its virtual service, I confided in my Consultant Georgina about how much I’d been struggling, and she was very understanding. “Think about what you’d like to be able to do with your daughter after she’s born,” Georgina said. “That could be the motivation you need to focus on losing weight again.”
That night I sat at home with Georgina’s words ringing in my ears. I realised that one thing I really wanted was to be able to make skin-on-skin contact with Aayla the first time I held her – and that would mean taking my shirt off at the hospital. Although I knew I wasn’t confident enough to be shirtless in front of a roomful of nurses and doctors, I was determined that I would be by the time Aayla arrived.
The next day I got back into my slimming routine. I made a bowl of berries and fat-free natural yogurt for breakfast, followed by a jacket potato topped with prawns and salad for lunch, and then I made a filling beef casserole for dinner.
How did it go through the rest of lockdown?
There were more difficult moments to come. I struggled with every day being the same – and at times I felt like I’d lost momentum with my weight loss and lost sight of my goals. Although the virtual group was a lifeline when there was no other option, I really missed the motivation and accountability that comes with going to group to weigh in – and that special feeling you get being surrounded by support in real life.
After feeling frustrated by a gain, I decided to be kinder to myself and stop punishing myself for mistakes along the way. With support from Georgina and Lucy, I slowly regained my confidence. By the time Aayla was born in August, I had no worries about taking off my T-shirt and lifting her out of the cot. As I held her in my arms for the first time, feeling her head resting against my chest, I had to pinch myself that she was really mine. I’d never felt anything like it.
Are you excited that real-life Slimming World groups are starting to reopen?
Yes! My real-life group has started up again and it’s great to be back. At first it felt a bit strange to wear a face covering and keep my distance from the other members, but I quickly got used to the new safety measures. I instantly felt at home and it’s fantastic to see the other members again – and, of course, Georgina was there to congratulate me on Aayla’s arrival.
Although I’m still not where I’d like to be with my weight loss, now that I’m back in my real-life group I know I’m in the best place to get the support I need to start losing weight again. And it’s already working as I had a 4.5lbs loss this week, which is my biggest in some time! For me, this just proves that I need group – and sticking to group weekly keeps me in the right headspace to stay on my slimming journey.
I want to be a happy, healthy dad to Aayla so that I can take her to the park and chase her around the garden when she’s old enough. There’s a lifetime of memories for us to make, and I want to enjoy every moment.
We’re so happy to see Aaron and Lucy starting their family – and it’s amazing to think that it might never have happened if they hadn’t joined Slimming World and bonded over their amazing weight losses!
Best-ever Slimming World offer for new and existing members:
If Aaron’s story has inspired you to start or restart your weight loss journey, we’re running our best-ever offer. When you commit to a six-week Countdown before 10th October 2020, you’ll receive a FREE copy of our new recipe book, Take 5, Second Helpings, and get six weeks for the price of five. Contact your local Consultant to book your place in group.
We’re also offering £20-off membership packages for our digital-only service, Slimming World Online. Find out more here.
And if you’re currently on your weight loss journey or have already achieved your slimming dreams with Slimming World, we’d love to hear your story.