Chef Matt Bradley from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire lost 6st in just over a year and transformed himself into a super-trim, super-fit athlete. Now the 23-year-old is happy, healthy and has just got hitched.
“Hannah and I both piled on weight quite quickly in our late teens. We'd been together since we were 15 and were very comfortable in our relationship. And once we both started earning our own money, we spent a lot of it on takeaways and nights out.
“It didn't help that I became a chef and spent my working days picking at food. I could easily eat three or four times a day at work, and when I got home I wasn't the healthiest cook!
“On the one hand, I was really happy and secure with Hannah. On the other, my confidence had taken a real nosedive and I was very self-conscious about my size. When we went on holiday, I'd refuse to take my shirt off on the beach – even in the sweltering heat. I could never dress how I wanted and had to buy XXL clothes online. I hated seeing photographs of myself, too.”
“Around 18 months ago, Hannah and I started planning our own wedding and we decided it was time for us both to lose weight. The wedding wasn't my only motivation, although it certainly gave me focus. Over recent years, I'd developed asthma and got out of breath easily. I'd lost all my energy. My GP told me I needed to lose weight – and sooner rather than later.
“Hannah's aunt and another friend had been getting good results at Slimming World, so Hannah suggested we join. To say I wasn't looking forward to it is an understatement. I really thought it was somewhere only women went to – no place for a young bloke like me!
“I soon realised I'd been completely wrong. For starters, I wasn't the only man there. Jess, my Consultant, put me at my ease straight away and everyone was incredibly friendly. I can say now it doesn't matter who you are, you'll never feel out of place. Once Jess had explained how the plan worked, though, I couldn't see any reason why it wouldn't work for me. Hannah felt the same, so we decided to give it a go.
At first, neither of us could believe we were still able to eat so much. At the end of the first week, I had a massive boost: I'd lost 6½lbs.
“We soon got into the habit of planning our meals at the start of each week. Now when I cook, I use low-calorie cooking spray for most meals, including one of my favourites – Slimming World burgers and chips, served with piles of vegetables such as broccoli and carrots. I'm not keen on salad, so I make sure I base my lunch and dinner around lots of cooked veg.
“We still have a big night out or a takeaway once a week, and on Saturday nights I'll have a couple of beers before switching to diet drinks and mixers to save Syns. Although there's been some teasing from my mates – especially when I turn down the booze – everyone's generally supportive.
“As the weight began to fall away, I could feel my confidence and energy growing. After I'd lost three stones, I decided to bite the bullet and join a local gym. My first visit was like the first Slimming World experience all over again. I expected everyone there to be toned and intimidating – instead it was really welcoming. I started running, too – walking and jogging at first, then building up to a proper run.
“The biggest boost came when I went to see my GP a couple of months ago. Because I'd been feeling so much fitter and healthier, I hadn't felt the need to take my asthma medication. He was really impressed by my weight loss, and agreed that I could stay off the inhalers.
“A lot of people have commented on how hard it must have been to lose weight working as a chef. I still have to try my food to check it; these days, though, I taste a small spoonful rather than eating loads. Recipes are based on fresh ingredients, and there's always a selection of veg available, plus chicken, rice and jacket or new potatoes.
“Reaching my 11st 12lb target weight in April was brilliant – although I worried I would lose motivation. So I planned more challenges: a new target of 11st 5lbs, which I reached two days before my wedding; training for a half-marathon, and playing footy again.
“Hannah's lost 3st 7lbs, too. She's always been gorgeous; now she's more gorgeous than ever! Even though we've always been very happy with each other, we weren't happy with ourselves. Now we both have so much more energy and confidence. It has made a big difference to our relationship and before the wedding I realised I was actually looking forward to seeing our photographs! We're excited about starting our married life together.”
*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.