It’s my nan I have to thank for turning my life around – and maybe even saving it. She was the one who saw how miserable I was and she was my biggest supporter when I joined Slimming World.
I’d always struggled with my weight, even at primary school, where I was often heckled by the other kids for being bigger than them. It really hit home when I was older, and it began to affect my footballing ability. I’d started my first job – coaching at Brentford FC – and having a wage meant I could eat takeaways whenever I wanted and go out with my mates regularly. As I got bigger, I’d puff my way across the pitch, struggling to keep up. I overheard one of the young players say: ‘Yeah, he’s fat and he can’t run.’ So, at 20 years old, I quit the game I loved.
After giving up football, I didn’t do any exercise and instead filled my free time by going out with my mates even more. After a day of eating fast food, I’d join them for a few pints of lager and finish with a kebab or pizza on the way home.
My self-confidence dwindled and I struggled to make a good impression in interviews. All I could imagine was them looking at me and thinking I must be slow and useless, which meant I didn’t have the self-belief to convince them I’m actually a really hard worker.
Everything changed when my sister, Kelly, announced she was getting married. I was asked to be best man and, delighted, I accepted the offer… But then I started thinking about getting up in front of all those people – and I was terrified about getting a suit to fit. I was so ashamed of myself, I told Chris and Kelly that I’d rather they chose a different best man. The day of the wedding came, and my made-to-measure blue suit marked me out as different from the other groomsmen, who all wore the same, off-the-peg style.
Yet again, I felt like my size was getting in the way of my life.
My nan, who had been watching from a nearby table as I tucked in my shirt tails for the umpteenth time, pulled herself up out of her chair and took my hand. ‘Let’s you and me nip outside for a bit,’ she said. The wedding disco was in full flow as we stood just outside the doors. Nan turned to face me. ‘You’re not happy, are you, Aaron?’ she began. I shook my head and answered: ‘No, I… I couldn’t even be their best man.’ She put her hand on my arm. ‘You’ve got to do this for you. Weight is a big thing, it affects your health in all sorts of ways. You don’t want to end up in my shoes, do you?’ Her voice trailed off a little at the end, but we both knew what she meant. Five months earlier, Nan had been diagnosed with lung cancer, so she knew better than anyone how precious the gift of health is. While I was terrified of losing her, as ever, her first thought was for others. ‘I’ll do it, Nan,’ I told her. ‘I’ll get healthy, I promise.’
It was a chance meeting with some strangers that led me to Slimming World. I was on a lads’ holiday in Magaluf, and drunkenly got talking to a couple who were both group members. We talked about the eating plan and how easy it was to follow. They showed me their ‘before’ photos and I was stunned at how well they’d done – I’d never believed it was possible to lose such a significant amount of weight. A lot of what they said really hit home and, as we spoke, I began to feel emotional. As soon as I got home, I looked into Slimming World and joined a couple of months later.
That first night, I remember being too scared to even walk in and, when I did, I sat at the very back of the room, quietly observing. But I got the warmest greeting from my Consultant, Georgina, and the group. Everyone was so kind and interested in me, and there wasn’t a hint of judgement.
Before Slimming World, I would eat out most days – fried chicken and Chinese takeaways were a particular favourite. I’d always told myself that I never had time to cook, but I promised to embrace the Food Optimising plan. I found clever ways to enjoy low Syn fakeaways and I tried out new dishes like diet cola chicken and katsu curry. I lost 8½lbs in my first week, and knew then that I’d grasped it!
Only a month after I joined, Nan passed away. She’d been like another parent to me and it felt like the end of my world. I kept remembering the kind words she’d said to me at Kelly’s wedding and all I could do was cling to the knowledge that she'd be so proud of me for getting my health back on track.
I started to get active again, going back to playing football and trying other sports like rugby, cricket and badminton. A whole world of activity opened up now I no longer felt I was being judged, which worked wonders for my confidence.
I recently started a new job as a workplace co-ordinator for a high-end company – just applying for that role is something I wouldn’t have done before, as I was convinced I wouldn’t fit the image of an organisation like that. I’m pretty certain that, in the past, I lost out on jobs because of my appearance rather than my abilities. But now, I can shop in any high-street store and find a nice fitted suit, so I can dress to impress in interviews.
My Slimming World experience has changed my life in so many ways – physically and mentally – and I can’t put into words how grateful I am.
I used to have high blood pressure and get migraines and hives but, since losing the weight, I don’t suffer from any of them. I no longer get abuse from people because of my size and I can go into bars without fear of being judged. I can go on holiday and sit on sunloungers without falling through them (that happened to me three times in the same day once!). I’m enjoying the life I was supposed to live instead of wasting it away.
My greatest regret is that Nan didn’t get to see the result of her love and care for me. Knowing she was there with me in spirit kept me going, and made me believe that I could do it. And, with the help of my Slimming World group, I did!
Breakfast: Full-fat fry-up, 3-4 slices of toast, or a crisp sandwich.
Lunch: A burger meal or the nearest grab-and-go takeaway.
Dinner: A microwave meal or another takeaway.
Snacks: Chocolate, biscuits, crisps.
Lunch: Rice salad with plenty of chicken, or the night before’s dinner leftovers with lots of salad or veg.
Snacks: Fruit, hi-fibre cereal bar.
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.