The doctor had just weighed me and her solemn expression told me that I wasn’t going to like what she had to say... ‘Andrew, it really boils down to this,’ she said. ‘If you don’t lose weight, you might not live to see out your 20s.’ I looked sideways at my mum, Jasmine. At a loss for what to say, I just mumbled: ‘OK then.’
As we left the surgery, Mum turned to me and I knew what was coming. ‘I’ve been telling you this for so long, Andrew – will you listen now?’ She wasn’t just concerned because I sat around the house most of the time, lacking the energy of most young men my age. Stroke and diabetes ran in my family, and I’d already been diagnosed with high blood pressure. I thought Mum, my dad, Michael, and my older sister, Shauntelle, were exaggerating when they urged me to see a doctor about my snoring – they were worried by the choking sounds I was making. I’d only gone along to stop them fretting, but now I was starting to realise that they might have a point.
Mum and Shauntelle had recently joined a Slimming World group and they suggested I join them.
My instant thought was, ‘no way!ʼ – I’d seen Mum try all sorts of weight loss methods before and none of them had worked for her for very long. I didn’t see why Slimming World would be any different. ‘It’s really not for me,’ I told them.
They carried on going to group each week, while I stuck to my guns. Then, one day, Mum – who’d lost over 2st by now – had another go at changing my mind. ‘I know it’s working for you two,’ I sighed. ‘But I just don’t see how all that clapping and talking about weight is going to help me.’ With that, I sat down on one of our solid-looking metal stools and, to my horror, I crashed to the floor as the legs gave way beneath me. Even the furniture was telling me to lose weight! Feeling embarrassed, I picked myself up and made a snap decision. ‘OK, Mum, I’ll do it,’ I said.
A Slimming World group surprise
Walking into group for the first time, I was pleased to spot another man there. Then, after my Consultant, Sarah, had given me the new members’ talk and gone through the plan, everyone in the room burst into spontaneous applause as I was introduced to the group. It turned out Mum and Shauntelle had talked about me quite a bit in group, so not only did the other members know who I was, they also knew what a big deal it had been for me to walk through those doors. The thought of people clapping me had initially put me off going, but... honestly? It felt pretty good! And, as I left that night, I knew I wanted everyone to be just as happy for me the following week when I showed them all how well I could do...
In that first week, I stayed away from the fried-chicken shops and ready-made sandwiches, and made my own meals using lots of Free Food, just like Sarah had suggested. I discovered new favourites, including a classic cooked breakfast and roast chicken (with the skin removed) with plain couscous or noodles, mixed vegetables and a little gravy using a few of my Syns.
I lost 8lbs that week and was made up when the other members in group seemed as chuffed about it as I was!
Dishing up healthy chicken recipes
Before long, I was cooking dinner for all four of us. One night, I tried a Slimming World version of fried chicken for the first time. As I proudly set my creation on the table, there were nods of approval from my family – proof that healthy chicken recipes can taste just as good as takeaways.
As the months went by, I carried on losing weight and I started to think about the amount of exercise I was doing. I decided to join Mum and Shauntelle on a walk, expecting it to be an easy way to get in some Body Magic. I was shocked at how unfit I’d become, though – as they strode ahead, I was left trailing behind, puffing and panting from the effort. Afterwards, I felt sad, thinking about how much my fitness levels had dropped since my teens, and it made me determined to go along with them more regularly, to get my energy back. At first, I could barely keep up – I persevered, though, speeding up a little more each time. Within weeks, I could match their pace… and then I started surging ahead!
The weight just kept dropping off and by the summer, I’d lost just over 7st. So, I did something I’d been waiting to feel fit enough for – I rejoined my old Tang Soo Do club and got back into the martial art I’d loved so much as a teenager. The first session was exhausting, and I didnʼt think Iʼd make it to the end! After a while, though, I found the moves were becoming easier and I started to really enjoy myself. At last, I felt like an energetic, 20-something man.
Feeling footloose and fancy-free!
Iʼd joined a Slimming World group to turn my health around, but as the weight dropped off, I began to feel more confident, too. One night, I took Mum by surprise – rather than staying in my bedroom playing endless video games, I started getting ready for a night out with my mates. Although Mum loved having me around, she couldn’t hide how happy she was to see me leaving the house!
Later that year, in 2019, I also donated around 15 bags of my old clothes to the Big Slimming World Clothes Throw – I knew I wouldn’t be needing them again. It’s such a change for me to go into a high-street shop and find lots of stylish shirts and skinny jeans that fit. I feel like I’m dressing my age for the first time, and can experiment with trendy looks that I wouldn’t have dreamt of wearing at my biggest.
Like most people, I struggled a bit with lockdown and I did put some weight back on, but now lifeʼs returning to normal, Iʼm ready to get back on it and I know I've got the tools and support to do it. These days, I look and feel like a man enjoying the prime of his life – not someone with serious health problems before his time. And it’s all thanks to Slimming World, and to Mum and Shauntelle for leading the way and refusing to give up on me. I know I’m incredibly lucky to have them in my life.
With Mum and my big sis, Shauntelle
7 healthy chicken recipes
There’s a healthy chicken dinner winner for every day of the week! Follow Andrew’s lead and surprise your family with a fantastic chicken fakeaway – or serve up a scrummy Sunday roast...
Tuesday: Cajun chicken
Wednesday: Diet cola chicken
Thursday: Pizza-topped chicken
Friday: Chicken curry
Saturday: Chinese chicken chow mein
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose