My feet were throbbing and I could feel my knees creaking as I came to the end of another hectic shift at the salon. I’d been on my feet all day and was looking forward to a Chinese takeaway.

As I finished cutting my client’s hair, she teasingly patted me on the tummy. ‘You’ve been eating too many puddings haven’t you, Dave?’ she said. I laughed and pretended I didn’t mind. I’d known her for years and was sure there’d been no malice intended, but still I felt self-conscious at having someone comment on my weight.

At the age of seven, I’d become very fussy around food. And, although I started getting big for my age, I was outgoing and quite happy, and my weight didn’t seem to affect my life in any way.

After I started senior school, I suddenly became very self-aware and by the time I reached my early 20s, my self-esteem was at an all-time low. Even then, I never once admitted to anyone how I was feeling – not even to my twin sister, Katie. Everyone assumed I was just as happy on the inside as I was on the outside.

I loved the idea of being fashionable, wishing I could wear skinny jeans and tailored shirts like my mates. My wardrobe mainly consisted of black, elasticated-waist trousers and oversize T-shirts and jumpers, bought from plus-size men’s shops.

A pivotal moment

Then, in 2008, Katie announced she’d be marrying her fiancé, Stuart. ‘I’d love you to be an usher,’ she said as she broke the news. ‘Of course,’ I smiled.

I dreaded having to go for the first suit fitting. My waist was 44 inches – far bigger than my dad and the two other ushers. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!

The wedding itself was amazing and I felt really happy for Katie. It was only when I flicked through all the photos afterwards that I realised how uncomfortable I looked beside her. 

It was seven years later, after my hairdressing client had teased me about my size, when something clicked. 

My older sister had said she was planning to join Slimming World – and it seemed like the right time at last for me, too.

I was nervous about what to expect, but within seconds of walking into the room, my worries eased as Samantha and I were welcomed by our Consultant, Tracy.

Even though I did gasp when I eventually found out how much I weighed – 22st 7lbs – Tracy reassured me that if I stuck to the plan, I’d soon be seeing a much lower number on the scales.

The moment I got home, I started planning what food I was going to eat that week. I’d have porridge for breakfast, make chicken salads or stir-fries cooked using low-calorie cooking spray for lunch, and try out a Food Optimising recipe for dinner – maybe a lightened-up version of my favourite Chinese takeaway. Filling up on lots of lean meat, vegetables and other Free Food, I felt less bloated than I had done in years.

When I stepped on the scales after my first week to find I was 7lbs lighter, I was made up. Samantha and I also decided to join a gym. Before I knew it, a heart-pounding 1km walk on the treadmill had become so easy I was walking and running – until I could run for half an hour non-stop!

Within a few months of losing weight I was feeling like a new man. For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t have to buy my clothes from plus-size shops. At that point, I decided to leave group and, although I managed to maintain my weight loss for a few months, I began to lose focus.

One of my newer clients, Laura, was a Slimming World Consultant and we’d always had a good giggle. I sent her a text one day asking where her group was, thinking maybe a fresh start would help to motivate me, and I joined in January 2017.

Just like my previous group, the members were full of great ideas and it reminded me how much the support of a Consultant and fellow slimmers had helped me to stay on track before. And the benefits kicked in immediately – I lost 9lbs in my first week back!

Not long after reaching my target of 13st 4lbs, my middle sister asked me to be an usher at her wedding. Instead of shying away from the camera, I posed for every snap and danced the night away feeling amazing.

Losing weight has changed my life in another very exciting way. Last year, I met my partner through Instagram. And the funniest thing was that we met by posting about Slimming World! He also loves travel and the outdoors, so we’re planning a hiking holiday together – the type of trip that would have been impossible when I could only walk a few steps before feeling out of breath.

I’m now the confident, energetic person I always dreamt of being and it makes everything seem possible. Who knows, perhaps one day soon I’ll even open up a salon of my own!

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