The doctor had just weighed me and her solemn expression told me that I wasn’t going to like what she had to say next. ‘Andrew, it really boils down to this,’ she said. ‘If you don’t lose weight, you might not live to see out your 20s.’ I looked sideways at my mum, Jasmine, who was sitting next to me. At a loss for what to say, I just mumbled: ‘OK then.’
As we left the surgery, Mum turned to me and I knew what was coming. ‘I’ve been telling you this for so long, Andrew – will you listen now?’ She wasn’t just concerned because I sat around the house most of the time, lacking the energy of most young men my age. Stroke and diabetes ran in my family and I’d already been diagnosed with high blood pressure. I thought Mum, my dad, Michael, and my older sister, Shauntelle, were exaggerating when they urged me to see a doctor about my loud snoring – they were startled by the choking sounds I was making. I’d only gone along to stop them worrying, but now I was starting to realise that they might be right.
Mum and Shauntelle had recently joined a Slimming World group and they teamed up to encourage me to join, too.
My instant thought was that there was no way I was joining a slimming group. I’d seen Mum try all sorts of weight loss methods before and none of them had worked for her for very long. I didn’t see why Slimming World would be any different. ‘It’s really not for me,’ I told them.
They carried on going to group each week, while I stuck to my guns. Then one day Mum, who’d lost over 2st by now, started trying again to change my mind. ‘I know it’s working for both of you,’ I sighed. ‘But I just don’t see how all that clapping and talking about weight loss is going to help me.’ With that, I sat down on one of our solid-looking metal stools and, to my horror, I felt myself toppling sideways as the legs collapsed beneath me. Now even the furniture was telling me to lose weight! Feeling foolish, I got myself up off the floor and made a snap decision. ‘OK Mum, I’ll do it,’ I said.
Walking into group for the first time, I felt slightly better when I realised I wasn’t the only man. Then, after my Consultant, Sarah, had given me the new members’ talk and gone through the plan, I was amazed to hear the room burst into spontaneous applause as I was welcomed into the group. It turned out that Mum and Shauntelle had talked about me quite a bit in group, so not only did the other members know who I was, they also knew how much of an effort it had been for them to persuade me to join. Though the thought of people clapping me had initially put me off going, it actually felt pretty good. And, as I left that night, I knew I wanted everyone to be just as pleased for me the following week when I showed them all how well I could do.
In that first week I stayed away from the fried-chicken shops and ready-made sandwiches, and made my own meals using lots of Free Food as Sarah had recommended. I discovered new favourites such as the classic big breakfast, and roast chicken with the skin removed with plain couscous or noodles, mixed vegetables, and a little gravy using a few of my Syns.
I lost 8lbs in a week and was thrilled when the other members in group seemed as excited about it as I was!
Before long, I was cooking dinner for all four of us... and one night, I tried a Slimming World version of fried chicken for the first time. As I proudly set my creation on the table, there were raised eyebrows and nods of approval from Mum, Dad and Shauntelle - proof that healthy chicken recipes can taste just as good as takeaways.
As the months went by I continued to lose weight and I started to think about the amount of exercise I was doing. I decided to join Mum and Shauntelle on a walk, expecting it to be an easy way to get in some extra Body Magic. I was shocked at how unfit I’d become, though – they strode ahead as I was left trailing way behind, puffing from the exertion. Afterwards, I felt sad thinking about how much my fitness levels had dropped since my teens, and was determined to go along with them regularly and start getting my energy back. At first I could barely keep up with them, but I persevered, speeding up a little more each time. As the weeks went by I began to match their pace as they strode along… and then I started surging ahead!
The weight just kept dropping off and by this summer, I’d lost just over 7st and felt ready for anything. So, I did something I’d been waiting to feel fit enough for – returning to my old Tang Soo Do club and getting back into the martial art I’d enjoyed so much as a teenager. The first session was so tiring I thought I’d never make it to the end! Then, after a while, I found the moves were coming back effortlessly and I started to really enjoy myself. At last, I felt like an energetic, 20-something man.
I joined a Slimming World group to try to turn my health around, but as the weight dropped off I began to feel more confident, too. One night, I took Mum by surprise – rather than staying in my bedroom playing endless video games, I started getting ready for a night out on the town with my mates. Although Mum loved having me around, she couldn’t hide how happy she was to see me leaving the house for a change!
Earlier this year I donated around 15 bags of my old clothes to the Big Slimming World Clothes Throw – they were far too big for me, and I knew I wouldn’t be needing them again. It’s such a change for me to go into a high-street shop and find lots of stylish skinny jeans and shirts that will fit me. As a result, I feel like I’m dressing my age for the first time, and can experiment with new, fashionable looks that I wouldn’t have dreamt of wearing at my biggest.
Now I look like a man enjoying his freedom years – not someone with serious health problems before his time. And it’s all thanks to Mum and Shauntelle for leading the way and refusing to give up on me. I know I’m incredibly lucky to have them looking out for me.
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose
There’s a winner for every day of the week with these seven healthy chicken recipes. Follow Andrew’s footsteps and surprise your family with a fantastic chicken fakeaway – or serve up a scrummy Sunday roast.
Tues: Cajun chicken
Weds: Diet cola chicken
Thurs: Pizza-topped chicken
Fri: Chicken curry