Couple flying high after 15st weight loss

A couple who feared they’d be too overweight to fly on a dream holiday have lost nearly 15st and been named as Slimming World’s Couple of the Year 2016.

Andrew and Paula Butler, from Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, worried they’d have to abandon a trip to Dubai when they both struggled to fasten their seat belts on the plane. While on board they pledged not to take to the air again until they’d lost weight – and today, true to their word, they’re 14st 9½lbs lighter and planning an active watersports holiday for their next break.

Andrew says: “We worked really hard to save the money for the trip, but Paula told me that she’d get off the flight rather than have to ask for an extension for her seat belt – she said she just couldn’t have faced the embarrassment. We both only just managed to make our belts close but we promised ourselves we wouldn’t set foot on another plane until we’d lost weight. When we saw the photos from that holiday it made us even more determined to make a change.”

Andrew, who is a machine feeder for an engineering firm, gained 6st in three years after giving up smoking in 2012 and found walking even short distances a struggle. Meanwhile, Paula had battled with her weight since school – she weighs less now than she did when she was 15 – and suffered with chronic asthma and painful knees. The couple, who met in 2003 and have been married since 2005, tried diet after diet to slim down without success, including making themselves ill by following a no-carb plan.


Andrew Butler
Food Optimising’s really educated us about food, so we think much more about the choices we’re making.
Andrew Butler

The pair heard about Slimming World from Paula’s sister Diane, who was a member and regularly served up meals that they couldn’t believe were healthy. So, inspired by Diane and following the holiday in November 2014, they decided to join Slimming World themselves in January 2015.

Andrew says: “Walking into the group was quite a daunting prospect, especially for me because I thought I’d be the only man. Our biggest fear was that we’d be judged by the other people in the group. Diane assured us that everyone there would be in the same boat though and she was so right. Within a few weeks we felt completely relaxed and we’ve made so many friends including our Consultant Sue – in fact, our group’s more like a family. Even now we’ve reached our target weights we’re still there every week, we wouldn’t want to miss it!”

The couple began following Slimming World’s Food Optimising healthy eating plan and swapped their regular takeaways for healthy home-cooked meals, which they enjoy preparing and cooking together now. The plan encourages members to base meals around foods that satisfy their appetite and are low in energy density (low in calories yet filling) like fruit and veg, pasta, rice, potatoes, lean meat, fish, eggs, fat-free dairy and more.

Andrew, who is originally from Doncaster in South Yorkshire, says: “We love that we never have to feel hungry – unlike other weight loss plans we’ve followed. Food Optimising’s really educated us about food too, so we think much more about the choices we’re making. We still have a lot of the same meals, like spaghetti bolognese, but now we always buy lean minced beef and we make the sauce from scratch using passata and veg rather than a ready-made sauce in a jar.”

Andrew and Paula, who has twin 22-year-old sons from a previous relationship, have also become much more active. Andrew now completes the walk to work that used to take him 45 minutes in just 20 minutes, and Paula’s asthma and knees are so much improved that she now enjoys walking their dogs twice a day. The couple have recently taken up rollerskating, too.

Andrew, who is 6ft 4in, achieved his target weight in just seven months after losing 7st 9lbs. Meanwhile, 6ft Paula has lost 7st ½lb, going from 20st 11½lbs to 13st 11lbs and a dress size 26 to a 16.

Paula’s weight isn’t the only thing about her appearance that’s changed as she also had her waist-length hair cropped for charity. Sadly her sister Diane, who had lost 4st weight Slimming World, passed away from leukemia in April 2015 after a short illness. Paula, who is training to work in holistic therapy, says: “After losing Diane I decided to donate my hair to the Little Princess Trust and it made three wigs for leukemia patients. Losing Diane could have thrown us off track with our weight loss, yet it made us want to finish our journey more than ever – we know she’d be so proud of what we’ve achieved.

“Doing this journey together and having each other’s support as well as that of our Slimming World group has been so important for us, and it’s been amazing to see the changes in each other as well as ourselves. Now we’re looking forward to doing so much more together. We’ve always avoided theme parks because we worried we’d be too big for the rides and we’ve always wanted to try watersports on holiday, too. Now we can do all of those things without fear – and we can’t wait to get started. Thanks to Slimming World the world is our oyster.”


Andrew Butler

Age: 37
Height: 6ft 4in/1.93m
Starting weight: 22st 13lbs/321lbs/146kg
Current weight: 15st 4lbs/214lbs/97kg
Weight loss: 7st 9lbs/107lbs/49kg
Starting waist measurement: 46”
Starting clothes size: XXXL
Current waist measurement: 36”
Current clothes size: L
Date joined Slimming World: January 2015

Paula Butler

Age: 43
Height: 6ft/1.83m
Starting weight: 20st 11½lbs/291½lbs/132kg
Current weight: 13st 11lbs/193lbs/87kg
Weight loss: 7st ½lb/98½lbs/45kg
Starting dress size: 26
Current dress size: 16
Date joined Slimming World: January 2015

Group: Andrew and Paula attend the Huddersfield Town Centre group, which is run by Sue Chiappori 


Breakfast: P – a cup of coffee with sugar, A – large bowl of cereal or four slices of white toast
Lunch: P – bacon and egg sandwich, crisps, chocolate bar and sugary fizzy drink, A – large meat salad, crisps and chocolate bar
Dinner: Both – pasta dish made with jarred sauces or takeaway pizza or kebab
Snacks: Both – crisps, biscuits, chocolate bars.


Breakfast: grilled lean bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes and an egg fried in a pan sprayed with low calorie cooking spray
Mid-morning: a couple of pieces of fruit or high-fibre cereal bar and fat-free yogurt
Lunch: baked potato topped with tuna with salad on the side
Mid-afternoon: banana
Dinner: homemade spaghetti bolognese
Evening snacks: homemade Slimming World-style potato wedges (cooked in the oven with low calorie cooking spray), glass of wine or lager.


Notes to Editors

Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell (OBE, FRSA) in 1969. There are now more than 18,000 groups held weekly across the UK and Republic of Ireland via a network of 4,000 community-based Slimming World Consultants, who receive specific training in the role of diet and physical activity in weight management, as well as sophisticated behaviour-change techniques.

Slimming World’s healthy eating plan, Food Optimising, is based on the science of satiety and energy density. Our phased activity programme, Body Magic, eases members into activity until it becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine. The principles behind Slimming World’s philosophy are based on a deep understanding of the challenges faced by overweight people and a recognition that those who struggle with weight carry a double burden, the weight itself and a burden of guilt and shame about their weight. Slimming World’s programme integrates practical, up-to-date advice with a highly developed support system based on care and compassion, and Consultant training focuses on facilitating behaviour change in a warm and friendly group environment. Consultant training is delivered through the Slimming World Academy. Slimming World also invests in a comprehensive research programme to develop its support for long-term weight management. The group support provided by Slimming World is recognised as effective by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the NHS.

For more information about Slimming World’s approach visit www.slimmingworld.co.uk or call 0344 897 8000.

For the Press Office please email public.relations@slimmingworld.co.uk