This magnificent man…

This magnificent man…

The last time Richard Woodall from Newbury, Berkshire, stood on this airfield, he was told he was too heavy for his friend’s plane. Now, he’s 8st* lighter – and life’s taken off in a new direction.

"I’ve always loved everything to do with engines: cars, planes, anything mechanical makes me happy! I even service our family cars myself, so I know the job’s been done properly. At around 22½st, though, even some fairly routine jobs on the cars were becoming difficult – my ‘bump’, as I politely called it, kept getting in the way. 

"I think being tall had always given me a false sense of weight security. People would say I ‘carried it well’ because I was 6ft 3ins – it was almost a badge of honour. I’d been overweight since my student days, when I lived on a diet of cheap beer, pasties and curries, and my lifestyle didn’t get any healthier after I graduated and got a job in the City. I worked in insurance and as long as I could fit into a suit that made me look smart and professional, I wasn’t too worried. For nearly three decades, I matched (or maybe I should say ‘hid’) my larger-than-life figure with a larger-than-life personality and refused to worry about my appearance.

"Then for my 50th birthday in 2010, my wife Jackie arranged for me to go flying in a friend’s plane. When we got to the airfield, though, the pilot took one look at my size and realised that his plane didn’t have enough power to do the planned journey safely. I was heartbroken. Luckily for us, he knew a pilot with a larger aircraft, so he pulled in a favour. It meant I got my flight, but it made me realise my weight was no longer a laughing matter.

Who dares slims

"Jackie was worried about my size, too, and over the next couple of years, with her encouragement, I did my best to slim down. I tried a weight-loss club (lost 2st, put it all straight back on again) followed by a programme of meal-replacement shakes (lost 3st, put it all straight back on again). Then in November 2012, Jackie told me some of her colleagues had enjoyed good weight losses with Slimming World and suggested that we see what it was all about.

"I was probably a bit cynical about the whole thing, to be honest, I had no expectation other than that it would be like the other weight-loss group I’d tried. Instead I was immediately struck with how welcoming and motivational the group was, and the Consultant Mariana was great.

The hour flew by and at the end Mariana told us just to go home and enjoy plenty of Free Foods, do a little weighing and measuring of our Healthy Extras such as cereal and milk, count our Syns – then come back the next week with a good weight loss! Seven days later I was 8½lbs lighter. I was hooked. 

"Food Optimising has totally revolutionised my life, as well as my waist (which has gone from 44ins to 34ins). I do most of the cooking, so I really appreciate not having to make separate meals. Pasta, rice, meat, eggs, potatoes – we enjoy them all. Favourites with my girls include risotto and spaghetti carbonara. 

Using the ground crew

"My weight loss would not have been possible without the support and inspiration of Mariana and my fellow members. I’m not a person who likes letting myself down, or others for that matter, so making myself and others proud was a great motivator for me. Getting all the awards along the way helped, too. Certificates, Slimmer of the Week, Slimmer of the Month, being voted my group’s Man of the Year and Mr Sleek – it all kept me focused on my journey.

I kept a record of my weight loss on a spreadsheet. I set myself mini interim targets, such as reaching Club 10 or losing 7st before going away on holiday – and being able to come home week after week and log another 2lbs weight loss was exactly what I needed to keep going. I’m a sucker for a good spreadsheet!

"I admit it wasn’t always a smooth ride. I put on nearly 2st over Christmas and New Year 2013/14, which I definitely hadn’t planned! The weight was starting to come off again when I broke my leg – not great timing. It made me realise how important the support of my group was in helping me stay motivated when times were tricky. 

Health and fitness – fixed!

"My weight loss has been transformational. I’m more confident, happier and far more energetic. I’m very aware that being overweight was a major factor in my father’s ill health later in life (he had a quintuple heart bypass, followed by a stroke). Now, for the first time in 30 years, I feel great inside and out, and I know I’ve given myself the best possible chance of a healthier – and longer – life.

"Giving up my job to become a Slimming World Consultant didn’t seem such a strange step. I’d never have thought about becoming my own boss before – I didn’t have the self-belief and would have worried no one would take me seriously. Now I’m running my own group, I always remember what made me walk through the door that first time and how I felt.

I tell my own new members that, while at the time I had no idea just how much it was going to change my life, it was, without doubt, one of the best things I’ve ever done.

"Becoming a Consultant also changed my attitude to exercise. I realised you need to put a lot of effort and energy into your group to make it a success, and how much it helps to be physically fit. Now I walk 30 to 40 miles a week and it’s not uncommon for me to head out for a 10-mile walk in the morning followed by a 10-mile cycle in the afternoon.

"In fact, the man you see in these pictures is a very different person to who I am now. I have a level of fitness and stamina I haven’t enjoyed since I was a teenager, and working on the cars is much easier now. I’m far more agile and can move about underneath the engines and in small spaces without worrying about getting stuck – which is just as well, really, because now that all the kids have their own vehicles, I sometimes think I’m running a garage of my own! It feels great to be able to help them out, though. Being slim, healthy and fit gives me such a high." 

*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose

or become an online member

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.