As the kids ran around excitedly, all I felt was a growing sense of dread. I was on holiday with my girlfriend, Olivia, and her family – and we’d been having a blast. Then someone suggested a trip to the pool and, for me, the fun instantly drained away. Just as we were about to set off, I said: ‘Actually, I’m not feeling too good.’ The thought of taking my shirt off, even around family, was unbearable.  

On the bench

While everyone went off to enjoy their swim, I was left thinking about how much my life had changed. Until the age of 19, I’d been outgoing and active. If I wasn’t playing football with my friends, I was watching my idols at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground. The older I got, though, the less time I had for sport, and the more time I spent socialising at the pub and tucking into takeaways. As my confidence ebbed away, I started buying T-shirts and jumpers in XL sizes to cover myself up.  

My weight was affecting my work life, too. I enjoyed my job as a youth engagement adviser, but there was a downside – it meant spending a lot of time speaking in front of groups of teenagers, which I was finding increasingly difficult because I felt so self-conscious and embarrassed. 

Then, in 2020, my brother, Jamie, asked me to be his best man. ‘It would be an honour!’ I said, giving him a big hug. Then the realisation hit me… being the best man meant standing up in front of everyone and giving a speech. The thought made me feel physically sick, and it was then I knew things had to change.

Getting the ball rolling

My grandad had lost 3st at his Slimming World group, and it had made a massive difference to his life. He’d encouraged my mum to join and she’d done really well, too. With my family behind me, I decided to sign up to the digital service, Slimming World Online. After downloading the app and learning about Food Optimising, Olivia and I headed to the supermarket to load up on Free Foods, like fruit, vegetables, rice, pasta and lean meat, as well as some snacks that I could enjoy without derailing my efforts. I used the Slimming World barcode scanner on my phone to check the Syns on anything I wasn’t sure about, and I also checked the app if I needed a reminder about the basics of the plan. In my first week, I was surprised by just how much I could eat – and even more surprised when I found out I’d lost 5lbs! 

That gave me the confidence to be a bit more adventurous the following week, so I looked up some of our favourite dishes and used the app to work out how to make them Food Optimising-friendly. Olivia is vegetarian, and we found lots of recipes that could work for both of us – we’d cook the vegetarian version and I’d add meat to my portion at the end.

Charlie’s ‘top of the table’ recipes

More for members

Back of the net!

When I became a Slimming World member, I weighed 16st 1lb. Within four weeks, I was down nearly a stone and feeling great about my progress. I’d read on the app that doing some physical activity would support my weight loss and could help to boost my confidence, so I decided to give Slimming World’s Body Magic activity programme a go. 

I started getting up earlier to go for a walk. At first, 30 minutes would leave me sweating and out of breath. Then, as the weeks went by, it became easier and easier, until I was really enjoying the peaceful start to my day.

As I worked my way through the Body Magic awards, I felt so much better and my mood was lifting – then one day, I realised I’d stopped worrying about how I looked. I was reaping the benefits of the slimmer, fitter me at work, too. I found I was talking to the students in a more relaxed way, and it just felt like a completely different version of me was getting up on stage to speak. By 15th April 2021, I’d lost more than 2st and was feeling happy and confident... which was a good thing because I’d decided to ask Olivia to marry me. When she said ‘yes’, I felt like I’d won the World Cup! 

It was lovely to be engaged when Jamie’s big day arrived. By then, I’d lost 3½st and I felt great in my blue three-piece suit. The best man’s speech was a breeze, and I was the first one on the dance floor at the reception. 

Charlie’s winning moments 

A team effort

As I approached my 4st weight loss target, I’d sometimes put the odd pound back on, or only lose a small amount. And it was then that I fully appreciated the Slimming World Online Community, where the other members would encourage me, saying: ‘Don’t worry, refocus and concentrate on next week.’ With their help, I learnt not to view a week without losing as a defeat, but instead to look back and congratulate myself on how far I’d come. 

As a Nottingham Forest supporter, I’m a big fan of Brian Clough, the legendary manager who brought Forest two European Cup wins, in 1979 and 1980. Once, when asked what had inspired him to greatness, he’d said: ‘My values stemmed from the family. Anything I have achieved in life has been rooted in my upbringing.’ That seems so apt because, when I was in need of help, I turned to my family – and to my new family in the Community. Their support gave me the strength to build an amazing new life!  

Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.