The first visit to a soft play centre is a milestone in every toddler’s life. Weighing nearly 21st, though, I felt too big and bulky to navigate the plastic obstacles with my son, Reuben, and my wife, Liz. Although I’d said it many times before, this time I really was serious: I absolutely had to lose weight and keep it off for good.
I’d always been big. Looking through old family photos, it’s amazing how many feature a young me eating something. I wasn’t unfit, though. I played cricket as a schoolboy, before trying golf. I even worked as a club professional for a time.
I met Liz, and soon we were planning our wedding. We both wanted to be slimmer for our big day, and for six very long months we lived on low-calorie bars and shakes that left us hungry, irritable and exhausted. I lost 6st – then dived enthusiastically into the buffet during our honeymoon cruise.
After only three days, I could no longer fasten up the waistband of my brand-new trousers.
When Liz discovered she was expecting Reuben, it was only chivalrous for me to join in with her cravings! I think my stomach was bigger than hers by the time he was born.
When Liz and her mum decided to give Slimming World a try, I resolved to lose weight, too. Initially I decided I’d eat the same way Liz did when I was at home and have meal-replacement bars at lunchtime.
I couldn’t believe how much tastier our family meals became. Cooked breakfasts instead of piles of buttered toast. Pasta with lots of lovely homemade sauce. Chilli con carne. All the things I already liked, made fresh and healthy.
Within three months I’d lost 3st. While it was a great achievement, I knew that if I wanted to enjoy a healthier lifestyle for good, I needed to give up the quick-fix meal-replacement lunches and learn to eat the Slimming World way properly. So I joined Slimming World, too.
I started planning my meals in advance. I bought a lunch box with lots of compartments and Liz’s lovely mum packed it with Free goodies every morning – slices of lean ham, a big pasta salad, leftover chilli con carne – so that wherever I found myself at midday, I always had something to eat.
I also kept lots of fruit on hand so that I could resist the lure of chocolate.
There was a moment when my resolve wavered... Liz and I decided to take Reuben on holiday to a caravan park. Although we had the best intentions of cooking for ourselves, or at least making healthy choices when we were out and about, we eventually gave in to the temptation of the on-site fast-food restaurants – and it took two weeks to shift the 9lbs I gained.
I learned an important lesson, though: if I did have a slip, I just had to get straight back on plan to repair it.
Around the same time I resolved to do something about my fitness levels. After reaching my Club 10 target (losing 10 percent of my body weight), I felt much more energetic and I started working out with a personal trainer.
Liz and I also started running three times a week, building up from one-minute jogs to 30-minute runs. We even completed the Liverpool Half Marathon in just over 2½ hours. And that’s not all – I’m weight training to keep up my muscular strength, too.
I reached target and I couldn’t believe the change in my body. One year earlier I’d been struggling to fasten 46in trousers – now I was (and still am) 32ins.
Best of all, I’m the healthy, hands-on dad I really wanted to be. It’s not just the local soft play centre where you’ll find Reuben and me tearing around, shooting down the slides and laughing together. Children’s farms, parks and playgrounds, our own back garden… there’s no stopping the pair of us now.
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.