Slimmer who was ‘too big’ to ride a rollercoaster loses 5st


Joe Thompson, 35, has maintained his 5st weight loss for a year and has now won a national weight loss award

Before losing weight Joe struggled with his confidence, suffered from painful chronic podagra (commonly known as gout) and had to get off a rollercoaster because the safety harness wouldn’t close

Since joining his local Slimming World group in Woodford Green, Joe has much more energy and now walks with a weighted vest to keep himself fit

A former yo-yo dieter from Essex who was once too big to ride a rollercoaster has finally lost weight for good after joining his local Slimming World group.

Joe Thompson, 35, is now 5st 3.5lbs lighter and has been named Slimming World’s Mr Sleek 2023. He says: “I’d struggled with my weight for most of my life. I was adopted at birth, so I found it hard looking different to the rest of my family – I convinced myself that I had the ‘fat gene’.

“Leaving home for university meant I was away from my mum’s healthy cooking, relying heavily on takeaways and drinking more than I ever had before. During this time, I was also figuring out my sexuality and realised I wasn’t straight. I struggled to come to terms with this and sought comfort in food.

“I had many embarrassing moments over the years – one that sticks in my head was an incident at Thorpe Park where I couldn’t fasten the safety harness on the Colossus ride.  I had to get off and walk past a queue of people, who I’m sure all knew exactly why I couldn’t ride. I tried to brush it off, but inside I was completely mortified.”

Joe, who lives in Buckhurst Hill with his husband Gareth, continues: “I also suffered from chronic podagra. I’d have a flare-up every four to six weeks – during which time I’d be in a lot of pain and sometimes unable to walk for a couple of days. Gareth also used to complain about my very loud snoring, which must have been linked to my weight because he doesn’t mention it anymore!”

Although Joe was worried about his weight and wanted to change, he found himself trapped in a cycle of yo-yo dieting. He says: “For about two years I cut out all carbohydrates and while I did lose a lot of weight I found it really restrictive, and I was miserable. I also put all of the weight back on when I started eating normally again. I felt like I was always on or off a diet, and I’d never found a way to lose weight sensibly and sustainably. I was a classic yo-yo dieter.”

Joe’s turning point came when he saw photographs of himself after attending a number of back-to-back weddings. He says: “I really hated having photographs taken by other people. I’d become quite good at angling the camera so I looked slimmer or cropping out my body so you wouldn’t notice my weight as much. I even used apps to edit my photographs to appear slimmer. So, when the photos came back from my friends’ weddings, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it was me in the pictures and I just felt terrible. I think I’d become so used to editing my photographs that it really hit home to see the ‘real’ me.”

Joe Thompson, Slimming World's Mr Sleek 2023

Before, I’d panic about ‘running out’ of calories and ending up hungry. With Slimming World that never happens because there’s always something substantial to eat when you are hungry. 

Joe Thompson, Slimming World's Mr Sleek 2023

Joe had heard a lot about Slimming World but was sceptical about the plan, especially given that it was a lot more flexible than methods he had tried in the past. He said: “I joined my local Slimming World group just a few days after I’d seen those photographs from the weddings. I have to say when I learned about the eating plan I was pretty cynical – I couldn’t see how I’d be able to lose weight without cutting carbs or counting calories. I decided the only way to find out was to put my faith in the plan and I was soon eating my words – I lost 11½lbs in my first week! From that day forward I haven’t had any more reservations, and I’m living proof the plan works.”

With Slimming World’s Food Optimising eating plan, members can choose freely from more than 350 healthy foods, including lean meat and poultry, eggs, fat-free dairy, pasta, rice, grains, fruit and veg – without weighing, counting or measuring. By satisfying their appetite with this Free Food, which forms the basis of hundreds of everyday meals, slimmers can reduce calories without counting them, lose weight without feeling hungry, personalise the plan to their dietary requirements and enjoy the foods they love.

Weighing almost 20 stone, Joe felt nervous about joining his local Slimming World group, though soon realised he had nothing to fear. He says: “I texted my Slimming World Consultant Lorna in advance and she was so lovely, so that made me feel better. After a few weeks I really threw myself into the group setting and soon found the support of my fellow members to be fundamental to my success. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I wasn’t alone anymore and that was such a wonderful feeling. I’m now help out each week at group and have made some lifelong friends.

“I love that the plan allows me to eat to satisfy my appetite. I had tried calorie counting before, so being able to lose weight without measuring and weighing everything is so freeing. Before, I’d panic about ‘running out’ of calories and ending up hungry. With Slimming World that never happens because there’s always something substantial to eat when you are hungry. It was totally revolutionary for me.”

As Joe began to lose weight, he found that his mobility and energy levels increased, which encouraged him to start thinking about getting more active. He said: “I used to be quite sporty as a kid, but my podagra meant that I’d become really sedentary over the years. As my symptoms started to ease and the flare ups became less frequent, I started to do more exercise. I love walking – I find it’s as good for your mental wellbeing as it is for your physical health.”

Joe soon got on board with Slimming World’s Body Magic physical activity support programme. He says: “I loved that it gave you a framework to build up your activity levels gradually and there wasn’t any pressure. As I became fitter I started walking with a 30kg weighted vest. It’s amazing to think I used to carry extra weight around like that every day!”

Now that he’s transformed his own health, Joe’s next mission is to inspire other people to follow in his footsteps by sharing his journey on social media. He says: “I love when someone tells me that they have joined Slimming World because they have been inspired by my success. I wish I could tell everyone that losing weight doesn’t have to be miserable and boring – and that by joining a group you’ll always have the support you need to achieve your goals. I’m done with the yo-yo diets because I’ve finally found a way to live healthily, for the long term.”

You can follow Joe’s journey on Instagram at @joeyjoejoe__sw


Name: Joe Thompson

Age: 35

Height: 6ft

Starting weight: 19st 9.5lbs/275.5lbs/125kg

Current weight: 14st 6lbs/202lbs/92kg

Weight loss: 5st 3.5lbs/73.5lbs/33kg

Waist measurement before: 40ins/101cm

Size now: 32ins/81cm

Joined Slimming World: November 2021

Group: Joe attends the Woodford Green Slimming World group in Essex run by Consultant Lorna Sheridan

Before menu

Breakfast: Bacon and sausage sandwich with butter and ketchup

Mid-morning: Tube of crisps

Lunch: Pack of instant noodles topped with extra cheese

Dinner: A takeaway such as Chinese, Indian or pizza

Snacks: Chocolate, sweets, crisps, white toast with butter

After menu

Breakfast: Poached eggs on wholemeal toast   

Lunch: Homemade vegetable and chilli soup

Dinner: Home cooked meal such as spaghetti bolognese, burgers or a Chinese fakeaway

Snacks: Low-fat yogurt with sugar-free syrup



For further information please contact Lucy Fisher in the Slimming World press office on lucy.fisher@slimmingworld.co.uk  or 01773 304245

Notes to editors

●        This story is NOT for syndication to any magazines without the consent of Joe Thompson and the Slimming World press office (details above).

●        Slimming World and Joe Thompson retain copyright of all images attached to this press release. After photos should be credited: Slimming World/Paul Buller

About Slimming World

Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell OBE in Derbyshire in 1969 and has become the UK and Ireland’s leading weight loss organisation with more people choosing to attend a Slimming World group each week than any other weight loss programme. We support hundreds of thousands of people, both in our groups and online, to lose weight and to adopt new habits to stay slim for life.

Over the years our founding principles haven’t changed:

·         Our unique programme is based on a powerfully motivating support system called IMAGE (Individual Motivation and Group Experience) Therapy. Underpinned by a deep understanding of the psychology of overweight people, and incorporating the most effective sustainable behaviour change techniques, IMAGE Therapy is designed to inspire and motivate slimmers to make positive changes and to develop new, healthier habits around food and activity.

·         Food Optimising is our healthy eating plan, based on the liberating concept of Free Food. We encourage our members to fill up on those foods that are naturally lower in energy density (calories per gram) and also highly satisfying while limiting foods that are highest in fat and sugar and are less satisfying, so they lose weight without ever feeling hungry or deprived and without having to weigh, measure or count everything they eat.  

·         Our activity programme, Body Magic helps members to overcome any barriers around activity. Members choose when to start and they set the pace, finding activities they genuinely enjoy, until regular physical activity becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine.  

At the heart of everything we do lies our passion for treating every member with genuine care, empathy and respect.

We’re proud to work with the NHS, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), The Royal College of Midwives and others to help shape the future of weight management in the UK and Ireland.

For more information about Slimming World’s approach visit slimmingworld.co.uk or slimmingworld.ie

Follow Slimming World on Twitter at twitter.com/slimmingworld or become a Slimming World fan on Facebook at facebook.com/slimmingworld

For the Press Office visit our newsroom or email public.relations@slimmingworld.co.uk