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Our weight loss journeys are made up of moments that show us how far we’ve come and remind us of the reasons we wanted to slim down in the first place. Here, our Greatest Loser 2020, Phil Kayes, shares the milestones that inspired him to lose an incredible 21st ½lb and reveals how he battled against suspected COVID-19.

The moment I… reached my breaking point

While everyone else stood at the bar chatting away to each other, I sat and watched from the corner of the pub. I’d gone to the birthday party to have a good time with my mates – but instead it just reminded me how my life was slipping away. It was the first time in weeks that I’d left the house for a reason other than to go to work but, feeling too self-conscious about my size to talk to anyone, I already wished I was back at home.

My weight problems started when I was a university student. I lived off takeaways and sugary snacks, and that habit continued after I left education. Now, I was a size 8XL and I had no idea what I weighed.

A few months after my miserable party experience, my mum was diagnosed with cancer for the fourth time. As she became increasingly ill, I started to reflect on my own health. As well as being diagnosed with sleep apnoea and experiencing regular spells of heartburn, I was taking anti-inflammatory pills to manage the crippling pain in my left knee. It dawned on me that if I didn’t lose weight, I could end up in a similar position to Mum.

Phil Kayes before photo-The moments that helped me lost over 21st-Slimming World blog

The moment I… took control

I’d heard about Slimming World from a friend who had been losing weight, but there was no way I was going to a group on my own. I knew I’d likely be the biggest person there and I hated the idea of having a roomful of strangers staring at me. When I told my friend, Laura, about my worries, she had a bright idea. “I’d like to lose some weight, too,” she said. “Let’s join together.” It was just what I needed to hear.

After nervously walking into group, Laura and I listened to the new-member talk as the Consultant, Lyndsey, explained how Food Optimising worked. Afterwards, when group began, I listened to the members talking about what meals they’d tried or what changes they were going to make next week, I was surprised by how supportive the rest of the group was towards them – there was no judgement. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would, and I went away from that first session determined to give it my best shot.

As I couldn’t cook for the life of me, Laura helped me get started by sharing extra portions of her own meals. That week, I ate Slimming World versions of lentil and bacon soup and chilli con carne – and I loved them all. I asked Laura for the recipes and gradually started building up my confidence in the kitchen, and week after week the weight came off.

Of course, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have setbacks. When I did maintain or put on a few pounds, I always shared my disappointment with the group. They helped me to understand that it was the journey that was important and not each individual week. That gave me confidence that I could lose those few pounds by getting straight back on plan.

Phil Kayes before photo-The moments that helped me lost over 21st-Slimming World blog

The moment I… found my stride

After a few months, I’d lost 5st and my energy levels were through the roof. I wanted to start some Body Magic, so each night after work, I tried to walk the block around my house. At first, I could only manage one lap, then two… but gradually, I found myself walking faster and further.

By the following winter, I felt brave enough to attempt a bike ride. I hadn’t cycled since I was a student! It was only a five-minute ride from the train station to my work, but I was shattered in no time. I didn’t give up, though, and before I knew it I was cycling up and down the path on my lunch breaks, and even taking longer trips into the city centre.

Soon afterwards, I joined an outdoor yoga class to improve my flexibility and I really enjoyed it. After years of feeling restricted by my body, it felt great to be saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity without worrying about the worst-case scenario.

Phil Kayes cycling-The moments that helped me lose over 21st-Slimming World blog

The moment I… got my confidence back

By November 2018, I was ready to broaden my horizons. I’d always wanted to travel to Las Vegas and take a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, but at my biggest I knew I was well over the maximum weight limit. Now I weighed 22st, there was nothing stopping me and I booked the holiday with a few friends from my poker club. It was an incredible trip. I walked for miles every day, visiting every attraction, and capped it all off by flying over the Grand Canyon with my mates. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before.

The trip gave me the confidence to really put myself out there. I’d been chatting to a woman I’d matched with online for a few weeks, and as soon as I got home I took the plunge and arranged to meet her for a drink. Nicole and I met at a bar near the train station (I joked that she had an easy escape route if she didn’t like the look of me!) and we hit it off immediately. When I told her I’d lost 16st, she didn’t bat an eye; in fact, she was incredibly supportive.

Phil Kayes Grand Canyon-The moments that helped me lose over 21st-Slimming World blog

The moment I… realised how far I’d come

I reached my target of 15st 7lbs in March this year. Sadly, Mum didn’t live to see me get there – she passed away in October 2017 after I’d lost 5st – but I knew she’d have been so proud of me. Not only was I full of confidence, I’d come off all the medication for my knee pain, reversed the symptoms of sleep apnoea and I hadn’t suffered from heartburn in months. Just a few weeks later, I had all the more reason to appreciate turning my health around…

With the world in the grip of the Coronavirus pandemic, I began to suffer symptoms – I lost my sense of smell, felt so lethargic and had aching limbs – so I decided to self-isolate. It flattened me and I spent the next couple of weeks in bed as my body battled to fight it off. Thankfully, I made a full recovery and, as the links between obesity and the severity of Covid-19 became more clear, I realised that I could have been in a much worse position if I hadn’t lost the weight. Instead, I’m looking forward to a happy, healthy future with Nicole. There are lots of adventures we’d like to start crossing off the list and I can’t wait to get started!

Phil Kayes and Nicole-The moments that helped me lose over 21st-Slimming World blog

Phil has experienced some serious highs and lows during his life and it’s really inspiring to hear how he has totally turned things around. Many of our male slimmers felt like Phil and weren’t sure about joining Slimming World – then quickly realised they had absolutely nothing to worry about. Male or female, we’re determined to help our members transform their health and lifestyles with unbeatable support in groups or at Slimming World Online.

Phil attends Roberta Crawford’s Slimming World group in Bangor, Belfast, previously run by Lyndsey Hanna. You can find your local Consultant here.

Whether you’re at target or currently on your weight loss journey, we’d love to share your milestone moments on the blog or on social using #theSlimmingWorldblog.

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