Grandad loses 13½st after being asked to move seats on plane

  • Tony Westaway had to move from emergency exit aisle seats with extra leg room on an aeroplane after requesting a seat belt extension

  • He lost 13st 7lbs after joining Slimming World with his wife Gail

  • The 58-year-old has gone from suffering numerous health problems to being a fit and healthy grandad

A Devonshire grandad who was so overweight he was asked to move seats on an aeroplane has lost 13½st and added 20 years to his life, according to his doctor.

At his heaviest Tony Westaway, from Woodbury Salterton in Exeter, tipped the scales at nearly 28st and says he was ‘knocking on death’s door’ – he had heart problems, was borderline Type 2 diabetic and struggled to walk without being in pain and out of breath.

After being told he was too big to sit in seats with extra leg room in the emergency exit aisle of a plane to Ireland, Tony joined Slimming World with his wife Gail and has since transformed his life. He has now been named Slimming World’s Man of the Year 2017, and says: “Losing the weight didn’t just change my life, it saved my life. I really was knocking on death’s door, I wouldn’t be here today without Slimming World; my only regret is that I didn’t do this 20 years ago.”

Tony’s health problems began when he caught pneumonia in January 2012. It took him seven months to beat the illness and he was left with an irregular heartbeat and on daily medication. The self-employed gardener says: “I couldn’t exercise, I couldn’t walk and I could only work part-time because I’d be exhausted by lunchtime – I was a total mess really.”

The 58-year-old visited a dietitian for help but was uninspired by the dismissive way he addressed Tony’s weight problem: “He treated me very un-humanlike. I was given a diet plan through the local surgery as well and that didn’t last too long either – one week I couldn’t make the appointment, then the next week they couldn’t, so it wasn’t really a recipe for success and I only lost a few pounds in total.”

It was after a holiday to Ireland in April 2015 that Tony’s wife Gail decided enough was enough. Tony says: “On the plane I had to ask for a seatbelt extender to go around my middle. We’d paid extra to sit in the emergency exit aisle so that I’d have more leg room, but the cabin crew explained that you couldn’t sit there if you needed an extension belt, so they had to find me another seat. Everyone was looking to see what the fuss was about and it was quite embarrassing.”

So, on their return home, Gail suggested they join Slimming World together. Tony says: “I was very worried, especially as a man walking into a slimming group. The welcome was wonderful though and now we’re like a happy little family. There’s so much support in that room and we all help each other, whether it’s swapping recipes or talking about our week – you’re never too old to learn something new.”

Tony began following Slimming World’s Food Optimising eating plan and lost an incredible 14½lbs in his first week. He said: “We thought the scales were broken at first! It was bit of a shock because I was able to eat so much that I wasn’t hungry and I could still have treats so I didn’t feel left out. The biggest change is that I eat vegetables now because I didn’t before, and the grandchildren are healthier after watching what we’re eating too – they’ll try more things nowadays and love helping us to make healthy meals like homemade vegetable soup.

“Losing so much so quickly made me believe I could do it, and I did – I lost 12st in 13 months and now I’ve lost 13st 7lbs in total. I’ve gone from a 5XL shirt to a medium – it’s eye-opening. I couldn’t have done it without my Consultant Ali though. She’s been amazing and I tell people she’s the woman that saved my life. Even outside of the group she’s always there with a text or a little card through the door to give you a boost.”

Tony Westaway, Slimming World Man of the Year 2017
My only regret is that I didn’t do this 20 years ago.
Tony Westaway, Slimming World Man of the Year 2017

As Tony lost weight his fitness levels improved too. He’s now a member of a local gym, has taken up swimming and cycling, and can work full-time hours again. He says: “It’s a real transformation. I never had the confidence to go swimming before because I felt as though everyone would be looking at me, now I feel fine taking my shirt off, and I even wear shorts to work so I’m finally getting tanned legs! Best of all, my grandsons have a grandad who can play football and chase them around the garden – and a granddad who’ll be around to see them grow up.

“Recently I saw a heart specialist who said I’d probably extended my life by 20 years – now I just have to convince my wife having me around for another two decades is a good thing!”


Name: Tony Westaway

Age: 58

Height: 5’11”/180cm

Starting weight: 27st 13lbs/391lbs/177kg

Current weight: 14st 6lbs/202lbs/91kg

Weight loss: 13st 7lbs/189lbs/86kg

Starting clothes size: 5XL

Current clothes size: M

Date joined Slimming World: 18th May 2015

Group: Tony lost weight at the Exmouth Slimming World group, run by Consultant Ali Burford at Brixington Church Hall every Monday at 3pm, 5pm and 7pm.

Before menu

Breakfast: a big bowl of cereal and milk, 2-3 slices of toast with butter and marmalade or jam

Lunch: a pasty or ½ a packet of biscuits

Dinner: pie, roast potatoes cooked in butter or oil, and peas

Snacks: crisps, more biscuits, cheese and crackers, pints of beer or lager

After menu

Breakfast: bran cereal with milk, 2 boiled eggs and a bowl of fresh fruit like melon and strawberries

Lunch: pasta salad, followed by a few pieces of fruit

Dinner: chicken, roast potatoes cooked in low calorie cooking spray and vegetables

Snacks: fresh fruit, fat-free yogurts, high-fibre cereal bar, sugar-free jelly and Snack-a-Jacks. – ends

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