Phil’s half the man he used to be after losing 21st

  • Phil Kayes, 47 has been named Slimming World’s Greatest Loser after losing more than 21st
  • Medical professionals told him he’d be ‘lucky to see 40’ because his weight was having such an adverse impact on his health
  • He used to worry that he’d die in his sleep and nobody would be able to remove his body because he lived on the third floor
  • Phil has recently recovered from a suspected case of Covid-19
  • Since joining Slimming World Phil is fighting fit and has found love with his partner, Nicole

A Belfast man who was once so overweight he feared he would die in his sleep has lost an incredible 21st to be named Slimming World’s Greatest Loser 2020, a competition which celebrates the person who has achieved the highest weight loss of all Slimming World’s members.

Phil Kayes, 47, from Bangor, County Down, was warned by his doctors that he would be ‘lucky to see 40’ because of the strain his weight was putting on his health. Phil was recently ill with what was thought to be Covid-19, and he believes that while it was unpleasant and he was knocked off his feet, he’s not sure he would have survived if he hadn’t lost weight. “I dread to think how my body would have responded. It was a timely reminder of how important my health is,” he says.

At his heaviest Phil suffered a string of other health issues including pressure on his knees and sleep apnoea. His main worry was that should he die in his sleep, his 37st body couldn’t be removed as he lived on the third floor of his parents’ house.

Phil, who has slimmed from 37st 2½lbs to 15st 6lbs in just three years, says: “I was always bigger than my peers – I remember at school being called out by my PE teacher for being too big to play football. The weight really started to pile on though when I started university. My size meant that my life became increasingly insular and I made up a variety of excuses not to go out.

“I’d avoid gatherings like parties and weddings because I just felt so uncomfortable. I knew I wouldn’t fit into a plane seat so I never travelled, even though I really wanted to. Apart from my job as a civil servant, I didn’t really do anything except hide away and eat. It was a very lonely time.”

Phil realised he had to do something about his weight when his mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He says: “Mum was facing her fourth cancer battle which sadly turned out to be her last. The news sort of spurred me into action and I knew this time I had to try and be as healthy as I could – not just for her but for me as well. I was also worried that if my mum did pass away, I wouldn’t be able to be one of her pallbearers, which was heart-breaking. She died in October 2017, by which point I’d lost 5st. I know she’d be really proud if she could see me now – more than 21st lighter.”

Phil was encouraged to join Slimming World by a friend who agreed to attend his local group with him. He says: “I was, of course, nervous on that first night but it really helped to have my friend Laura beside me. I even contacted the Consultant in advance to check the scales would be able to weigh me. The last time I’d weighed myself was at the hospital, where I had to stand on two sets of scales just to get a reading. My Consultant assured me that there was nothing to worry about and she was right – everyone was so supportive and friendly and although it was a shock to see the scales hit 37st, for the first time – thanks to her kindness and hearing about Slimming World’s plan – I felt like I could do something about it.”

Phil Kayes, Slimming World's Greatest Loser 2020
What was so different about Slimming World was that I could still eat hearty meals to satisfy my appetite while losing weight. It felt like a bit of a lightbulb moment when I realised losing weight didn’t have to mean starving yourself.
Phil Kayes, Slimming World's Greatest Loser 2020

He soon got to grips with Slimming World’s Food Optimising eating plan, which enables slimmers to lose weight while enjoying a wide variety of foods – like lean meat, potatoes, pasta, fruit and vegetables. He says: “In the past I’d been referred to dieticians and dabbled with intermittent fasting and restricting my portions. I would lose weight initially but I could never stick to it because I was hungry most of the time.

“What was so different about Slimming World was that I could still eat hearty meals to satisfy my appetite while losing weight. It felt like a bit of a lightbulb moment when I realised losing weight didn’t have to mean starving yourself. I was a bit vegetable-phobic when I first joined but now one of my favourite dishes is a Mediterranean vegetable pasta – and I even tend to an allotment with a veggie patch!

“The group environment really helped me too because for the first time I was surrounded by people who knew how it felt to struggle with their weight. Checking in with everyone each week has been invaluable and I have learned so much from everyone. I attend virtually now that we’re in lockdown, which is really great and helps keep me on track. I couldn’t be without them.”

Since halving his bodyweight, Phil has become much more active – and has started cycling again after a near 30-year absence from the activity. He says: “Years of being overweight really took its toll on my knees and I used to take medication daily to manage the pain. I will still need a knee replacement at some stage, but I have certainly delayed the inevitable and made the operation itself more likely to be successful. When I was 37st, my doctor told me it was too risky for me to have surgery because calculating the anaesthetic needed for someone my size was so tricky.

“Now I’ve started cycling again, I can walk without getting out of breath and I also enjoy yoga. It’s a completely different life to the one I had before – one that is full of opportunities, friends and adventures.”

One such adventure is the one he is embarking on with his partner, Nicole Mulholland, who he met on an online dating app. Phil says: “By far the best thing that has happened to me since losing weight is meeting Nicole. When I was bigger I couldn’t imagine ever finding love and felt resigned to dying alone.

“Since meeting we’ve moved in together, swam in the Mediterranean Sea, been on a walking tour of Berlin and I’ve learned to drive. There are lots more adventures we want to tick off the list and for the first time in a long time, I’m excited about the future.”

Since the temporary suspension of its 19,000 community groups, Slimming World has launched a virtual weight-loss service to continue to support people to stay on track with healthy habits and lose weight at this time.


Name: Phil Kayes

Age: 47

Height: 6’3”/190cm

Starting weight: 37st 2½lbs/520½lbs/235kg

Current weight: 15st 6lbs/216lbs/98kg

Weight loss: 21st 10½lb/304½lbs/137kg

Waist measurement before: 68”/172cm/5ft 8ins

Waist measurement now: 36”/91cm

Shirt size before: XXXXXXXXL (8XL)

Shirt size now: Large

Date joined Slimming World: July 2017

Group: Phil attends the Bangor Slimming World group which is run by Consultant Roberta Crawford and was previously run by Lyndsey Hanna.

Before menu

Breakfast: Sausage roll or a sausage bap with cheese and ketchup. Full fat latte or cappuccino with added sugar.

Lunch: Tinned soup with 3-4 rounds of white bread, large bag of crisps and a chocolate bar or chips with cheese and lots of sauce

Dinner: Large supermarket pizza, crisps and chocolate or a Chinese or Indian takeaway

Evening: Multipack crisps, jumbo bar of chocolate, family bag of sweets, doughnuts, biscuits

After menu

Breakfast: Bran flakes or reduced-sugar muesli with fat-free yogurt and frozen berries. Americano coffee with skimmed milk.

Mid-morning: Fruit

Lunch: Leftovers from a home-cooked meal the night before or a pasta dish and some fruit

Dinner: Chicken or salmon with Slimming World chips or potatoes with lots of fresh veg from the allotment

Evening: A Slimming World Hi-Fi bar


For further information please contact Lucy Fisher in the Slimming World press office on 07833 684131 or email lucy.fisher@slimmingworld.co.uk

Notes to editors

  • This story is NOT for syndication to any magazines without the consent of Phil Kayes and the Slimming World press office (details above).
  • Slimming World and Phil Kayes retain copyright of all images attached to this press release.

About Slimming World

Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell (OBE, FRSA) in 1969. There are now more than 19,000 weekly groups supporting 900,000 members across the UK and Republic of Ireland. Groups are run by a network of 5,000 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. Following the suspension of its weekly groups as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Slimming World has launched a temporary virtual service so its members can continue to enjoy – in a virtual environment – the vital weight-loss support, but also friendship and community spirit they find in their local group each week. 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 people who are overweight and 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, encouraging and empowering members to make changes in a supportive, 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 Care Excellence (NICE) and the NHS.

For more information about Slimming World’s approach visit www.slimmingworld.co.uk or call 0344 897 8000. Follow Slimming World on Twitter at www.twitter.com/slimmingworld or become a Slimming World fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/slimmingworld 

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