‘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
Find your nearest group