My six-year-old son, Mylo, is on his tiptoes, peering out of the window. The spring sunshine is finally shining and it’s the perfect day for a kickabout in the park. But instead of grabbing our coats and heading out into the fresh air, I switch on the games console. As Mylo snuggles up next to me on the sofa, I feel a stab of guilt. Despite the fact that the park is just at the end of our road, I can’t remember the last time I took my son there.
At over 28st, I wasn’t fit enough to run around the park. I could hardly make it up the stairs without struggling for breath. My lack of fitness was in contrast to my wonderful wife, Jo, who was slim, fit and deep in training for the London Marathon. We couldn’t even go to bed at the same time any more, as my snoring would keep her awake. I felt like I was letting both my wife and my son down.
I knew that I needed to make a change but I don’t think anyone, least of all myself, expected the drastic action that I ended up taking. In a moment of sheer madness – ironically fuelled by beer and a takeaway curry – I entered into the ballot to run the London Marathon myself.
It was Jo who gently put the brakes on my grand marathon training plan. As an experienced runner, she knew that I’d find the training much easier if I lost some weight first. She sensibly suggested that I hold off lacing up my trainers for now and put myself in the running for weight loss the healthy way by joining Slimming World.
I was immediately resistant, mainly because I was worried about being the only man in the group. Strangely, the thought of starting hardcore training for a 26-mile marathon run was less daunting than asking for support to achieve healthy weight loss. Luckily, Jo doesn’t give up easily, and she found me a group with a male Consultant, to help me feel more comfortable. This actually did make a big difference to me on my first night at group, as it was amazing to look at the ‘before’ photos of my Consultant, Ian, and see what a change Slimming World had made to his life. He looks like a different man!
I realised that Slimming World isn’t only for women. Men can benefit from the plan just as much.
The moment I got home that night, I threw myself into a different way of eating. My typical daily diet until then had been a breakfast of four rounds of buttered toast, bags of crisps mid-morning, a large sandwich with more crisps for lunch, then whatever chocolate bars and biscuits were circulating in the office at work. Dinner would be something like fajitas with lots of cheese and sour cream, with cereal, more toast and cheese before bed.
Switching to the Slimming World way meant starting my days with overnight oats – porridge oats layered with fat-free natural yogurt and lots of chopped fruit or berries – which filled me up so much that I didn’t miss my mid-morning crisps. At work, I’d have an egg, tuna and roasted butternut squash salad that I’d prepared at home, with a low Syn bag of popcorn or rice cakes instead of biscuits or chocolate. For dinner, Jo and I loved trying out new dishes, with healthy pasta recipes at the top of the list. I was amazed to discover that pasta is a Free Food at Slimming World, which means that you can eat as much of it as you like!
We enjoyed the Slimming World Cajun chicken pasta recipe so much that we’ve made it part of our weekly menu.
Within five months, I’d lost just over 6st and felt more able to give running a go. I’d been gradually building Body Magic activity into my week by cycling on an exercise bike, so my fitness had already improved a little. Now I was ready to take it to the next level.
The park at the end of our street became my milestone. On my very first run I jogged up the street, through the park and back again – a distance of just over a mile. It took me 13 minutes 18 seconds, and I returned home sweating and wheezing but with the most incredible sense of achievement. Once I’d got my breath back, I felt so invigorated that I couldn’t wait to get out and do it again. And that’s how my marathon training started.
After that, my Slimming World journey and my marathon training journey fell into perfect step with each other. The more weight I lost, the easier running felt, and the more running I did, the bigger the Body Magic boost to my weight loss.
As the pounds fell off, so did the seconds on my personal best!
Training for a marathon gave me a great goal to aim for, but the very best benefit of my weight loss has been in my relationship with Mylo. He was my motivation for getting started on the path to a slimmer, fitter me, and we can do so much more together now. Looking back to March 2017, a trip to the park felt like an impossible task. Fast forward two years and we’ve ventured much further!
Now we love having active father-and-son days out. One of our very first trips together was to the Sandcastle Water Park in Blackpool. I was still overweight at 21st 4Ibs, but I felt so much more confident and energetic already. As I floated down the river creek with Mylo, my resolve to continue on my slimming journey grew even stronger.
In April 2018, six months after completing that very first run up to the park and back, I did it. Weighing 16st 12Ibs, I actually ran the London Marathon! I didn’t get the ballot place that I’d applied for in my beer-fuelled moment of madness – even better, I ran for charity and raised £5,500 to help fund research into myeloma, a rare form of bone cancer that my dad, Leo, has been battling since 2012. I can’t say that it was easy. It was the hottest London Marathon on record and, with the heat sapping my strength after 16 miles, I wasn’t sure that I could carry on. But I pushed through to cross the finish line after the most gruelling five hours of my life.
I was so proud and I know that my dad, Jo, Mylo and the rest of my family were proud of me too.
I didn’t think it was possible to top that moment, but I felt even prouder later that year when I ran the Santa Dash through Blackpool with Mylo, both of us dressed in Santa costumes. His little face when he received his medal was an absolute picture.
I used to feel like I was letting Jo and Mylo down, but now, at 16st 7Ibs – having achieved a healthy weight loss of more than 12st – I feel like part of an active, healthy family. Together we’re swimming, running and finally making the most of that park – while the games console sits gathering dust!
Damian is running as part of the Slimming World 2019 London Marathon team on 28 April. All funds raised will go to the Slimming World SMILES charity. If you’d like to support our team’s fantastic effort, visit the Just Giving page to donate.
Pasta is a fantastically filling and family friendly mealtime staple, and so many members are delighted to discover that it’s a Free Food on Slimming World. We have lots of satisfying low Syn or Syn free pasta recipes for you to choose between, from filling chicken pasta recipes to our ever-popular bolognese. Which one of these five healthy pasta recipes will you try first?
If you’re planning to start a new exercise programme, we recommend you check with your GP first – especially if you have an existing health condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. If you’re pregnant, check the suitability of your exercise with your midwife.
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.