Life of Ryan
From paradise beaches to skydives, 22-year-old Ryan Sargeant from Basildon, Essex is living life to the max. Here he explains how a 6st* weight loss has gained him endless new horizons.
"My friends and I had been at an 18th birthday celebration and we’d had a great night. A few beers, a couple of shots, a late-night stop-off at our local burger place… the only downer had been when someone dragged me into the photo booth that had been hired for the party. Bleary-eyed, I logged on to Facebook the next day and groaned when I saw the pictures. It had been months since I’d seen myself – I hated looking in the mirror.
"From as early as I can remember, I’d labelled myself ‘the big one’. When we all got new blazers for secondary school, mine was the largest. As I became a teenager, I went from being aware of my size to being really bothered by it. It preyed on my mind and my self-esteem had shrunk. I felt I wasn’t entitled to the same things as my friends. I’d tell myself ‘I can’t have those clothes’ or ‘Nobody will want to go out with me’. Being big felt like a given.
"Despite my family’s efforts, my diet was packed with sugar and fat. Breakfast was a huge bowl of sweet cereal and I’d often have seconds. At school, I’d head out at lunchtime in search of chips or sausage rolls. Mum would cook healthy meals in the evening – then after dinner, I’d go out with my mates and eat junk, or I’d sneak upstairs with a packet of biscuits. I had no ‘off switch’.
"At 16, my confidence was really low and I began a series of unsuccessful attempts to lose weight: one week it would be ‘miracle pills’, the next I’d try to eat nothing but low-calorie ready meals. I’d last a month or so before deciding it wasn’t for me.
"Around this time, I came out as being gay, and I felt much better in lots of ways. The way I felt about my body wasn’t one of them, though. I dreaded going to parties and hated not having anything fashionable to wear. My waist was fast approaching 40ins and the only jeans that would fit were baggy and shapeless. When I was out, I’d dive for cover if anyone started taking pictures, which is why that Facebook photo was a shock.
Meeting my match
"Not long after coming out, I met my partner, Calum. Being with him made me so happy – though my weight was still dragging me down. We were also a terrible influence on each other, spending most of the first few months of our relationship in our favourite restaurant chain! Within 18 months of us meeting, I’d put on another 2st and Calum had put on 5st. So when a close friend, Jade, said she’d just joined Slimming World and suggested I go with her, I was tempted. ‘Just come once,’ she said. ‘If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go back.’ I talked to Calum and he thought it was a great idea – in fact, he decided to come along, too. We were putting on weight together. It made sense to lose it together.
"Even with my friends around me, I still felt nervous and embarrassed about walking into group in March 2012 – as if everyone would be looking at my body and thinking how overweight I was. Of course, it wasn’t like that at all. They were all friendly and welcoming, and I got lots of tips for getting started.
I’m a creature of habit, so I went straight to the Free Foods and Healthy Extras lists in my Food Optimising book, found all the things I liked and built my meals around them – adding lots of fresh vegetables.
"Not long afterwards, my sister, Sian, joined Slimming World, too, and Mum decided to follow Food Optimising at home. Having so many weightloss buddies turned out to be a fantastic motivator! We’d be texting one another constantly, and after each weigh-in we’d go to a local restaurant to chat through our week. At home, we took turns to make evening meals. My specialities became a delicious fajita-style dish using lean meat, peppers and onions, and a low-Syn chicken teriyaki with rice. Keeping within my Syns was easier than I thought, and if I fancied a dessert, I’d make a mean Eton mess with shop-bought meringue nests for 2½ Syns each, no added- sugar jelly at 1½ Syns for a 115g pot and fat-free natural fromage frais.
Food Optimising just made sense to me, and I lost over 3st in four months. Since then, I’ve had a few ups and downs, and now I’m only a couple of pounds away from my target of 10st 6½lbs.
Dining-out dream team
"All these little changes have become a way of life for Calum and me. We’re on my Consultant Lynn’s social team, helping her out every week at group – Calum does the ‘pay’ and I do the ‘weigh’! We really enjoy chipping in at group with advice. Whenever anyone asks about eating out, Lynn points to us, because we’ve got it down to a fine art! We still go to our favourite restaurant, though now we order a lower-Syn option. Calum is a waiter at a carvery and sometimes we eat there, too. We’ll trim the fat off meat and add steamed potatoes and veg, and have a Yorkshire pudding using some of our Syns.
People ask how I stay motivated to keep the weight off and I have one word: holidays! Calum and I love to travel – it’s what keeps us going when the biscuit tin’s calling.
"There’s always a trip booked, so I’ve always got a reason to stay slim. Although our first few breaks were wonderful, I was self-conscious: I got out of breath quickly and covered up as much as I could. Now I’m slimmer, my fitness has improved loads. This year, I was able to keep up with our ski instructor, which was a huge achievement for me. We do tend to put on a few pounds when we’re away, as we eat more and have a few drinks. As soon as we’re home, we switch up to Extra Easy SP and the weight comes off again. Calum’s also lost 3½st, so he’s delighted.
The sky’s the limit (literally!)
"With each stone dropped, my confidence has grown and I’ve tried loads of new activities. Last year, Sian and I even did a skydive! Her partner had bought her the dive for a birthday present and it wasn’t until she’d lost 2½st at Slimming World that she was eligible to jump. At the same time, I was turning 21. Mum and Dad knew skydiving was on my bucket list and thought it would be a great gift to mark our weight losses. They’ve lost a stone each, too, and Dad hasn’t even been trying!
My life has been totally transformed by losing weight, and I now have huge ambitions to keep travelling and seeing the world.
"When I was bigger, I would never have dreamed I’d love being on a beach in front of people… and in shorts with a 30ins waist! All those things I used to think I wasn’t entitled to, I have – and more. My next dream is to go backpacking through South America and Asia. Whether I’m on a beach, on the slopes, jumping out of a plane or hiking up a mountain, I’ve got my healthy new weight to thank for it. It’s been my passport to a new, incredible way of life and I can’t wait for my next adventure."
*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.