‘I kicked fast food into touch'
Slim, strong and ready for anything, Haydn Knight from St Austell in Cornwall is swapping the rugby pitch for life at sea after scoring a 7st* weight loss.
"When I left school aged 16, I weighed around 20st. My weight problem had started when I was 12 and moved to Cornwall after my parents separated. Perhaps part of it was living in a house full of boys: I’d always pile my plate up quickly before my brothers could wolf down all the food. Neither they, nor my mum or stepdad, had issues with their weight, though. I was also obsessed with playing on my games console and would sit for hours snacking and gaming.
Watching life from the touchline
"After leaving school I enrolled on a sports course at college, but I soon dropped out because I didn’t feel confident. I joined another course at a catering college, then quit that one for the same reason. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and always felt that my weight was holding me back.
"People would tease me about my size – in what they thought was a friendly way. The truth was that I was touchy about my body and would cry about it in private. The more people told me to lose weight, the more I gave up even trying. Working at a fast-food restaurant really didn’t help.
My conversion to healthy eating
"I’ve always cared about my appearance – I’d have loved to wear designer clothes like my friends. However much effort I made to look good, I had no confidence at all. And, although I socialised with friends, I wouldn’t chat a girl up in a bar. I was single until I met my now ex-girlfriend at work.
"It was she who introduced me to Slimming World. She mentioned that she was going and asked me if I’d like to join her. I’ll admit I thought it was a woman’s thing – I hadn’t heard of men going to slimming clubs.
"I was pretty scared that first night – when I opened the door I saw about 30 women there and only one or two blokes. I couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome though. When my Consultant told me how much I weighed, I was shocked. She was very reassuring and told me not to worry, and just to stick to the plan for a week, get to know it and focus on all the things I could eat. I was amazed to hear that I could still have burgers as long as I made them with lean mince – and I could even have chips!
"I went home that first night 100 per cent determined I was going to have a great week. I made Slimming World roast gammon and chips, and a big roast dinner, and introduced foods that we didn’t usually buy, things like courgettes and asparagus.
When I returned to group after the first week I’d lost an amazing 9½lbs, which felt wonderful. Three months later I went on holiday to Greece, and forgot all about Food Optimising! I drank beer and ate lots of bread and when I got back I’d put on 8lbs. I wasn’t disheartened – I got straight back on plan and the next week I’d lost those 8lbs.
"From then on, I lost a steady 2-3lbs every week. I’d started my weight-loss journey with a 44ins waist and by the end of it I was wearing size 32ins. My boss got fed up with me asking for new uniforms...
"Just before Christmas that year my girlfriend broke up with me. I was heartbroken, and realised that I could go one of two ways: I could comfort eat and pile all the weight back on, or I could stay focused and get on with my life. I chose the latter, and now I honestly think the break-up was the best thing that could have happened. I vowed that I’d do three things: get to my target weight, pass my driving test and apply for a job in the Royal Navy.
"I knew I’d have to do a mile-and-a-half run for my Navy fitness test. I’d always played rugby, even at my biggest, though I’d barely last a whole game and certainly never did any sprinting. So I decided it was time I began running as well. When I went to the Navy careers office to sign up, I just scraped in under their weight limit, so I knew I’d have to get fitter and slimmer to pass the medical test six months later.
The knock-on effects of being slim
"I spent those six months building up my fitness, and had my medical on 26 June, the same week as my 22nd birthday. I even sacrificed going out to celebrate because I wanted to feel my best on the day. I’d applied to be a weapon engineer – a very hands-on, physical job, so you have to be fit. When I found out I’d passed, I was really excited.
"Just over a month later, in August, I reached my target weight. I’d been aiming for my 7st award, and it was a brilliant feeling to be told I’d made it. The difference in the way I look is so noticeable that people don’t recognise me. Even my dad, who lives in Birmingham and hadn’t seen me for six months, walked straight past me in a hotel lobby!
"Looking back, I still can’t quite believe the way I used to eat, or how quickly I could change my life. Today, I have filling, nutritious food, I’ve given my games console to my younger brother and I go to the gym pretty much every day to hit the weights. I keep my biggest jeans in my wardrobe, just to remind me why I never want to go back to my old habits."
My mum is so proud of what I’ve achieved. She says my confidence has soared and that I’ve become a different person. She’s right! I’ve got a new girlfriend and an exciting new job to look forward to. Two years ago I thought I’d hit a dead end; now my future is looking brighter than ever.
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose
You'll find more delicious recipe and menu ideas at your local group, along with all the help you need to get started and reach your target weight.