Growing up, I was always big. I’d tell myself it didn’t bother me, though when I look back now, I realise it really did. When I was studying for my degree, I threw myself into the social side of university, and often found myself eating kebabs and burgers on the way back from a boozy night out. Customers at work would ask to see the ‘big manager’, and when I went to Disneyland Paris it took two members of staff to push down the safety barrier on one of the rides.

The final straw

My worst moment was when I went to a friend’s wedding. I was an XXL and had a 38in waist, so shopping could be difficult, and it had taken me ages to track down a nice waistcoat for the occasion. I felt really smart when I put it on, then on the way to the ceremony, all the buttons burst off. I was mortified. And I felt even worse when I saw a video from the reception. I couldn’t believe how big I looked.

The first step

I joined Slimming World and quickly realised it was going to be different to any weight-loss plan I’d done before. I’d be learning about nutrition, too. Nerves set in when I stood on the scales and it was worse than I’d feared: 17st 9lbs.

I made a meal plan for the next seven days, writing a list of everything I needed. My first week was great. I had huge breakfasts of scrambled eggs, lean bacon medallions, plum tomatoes, mushrooms, and even wholemeal toast on the side (a real surprise; bread was always the first thing I’d had to cut out when I’d tried to lose weight before). Then, because I was so full, I’d have a smaller lunch of salad or soup, followed by a Free yogurt with berries or other fruit.

One of the best things about Slimming World is that it made me realise just how much I love cooking.

I bought the magazine for recipe inspiration, and every evening I’d make something different. I’d have a chilli, a chicken dish, or spaghetti bolognese. Soon, I was experimenting and altering recipes to create my own versions, and that gave me even greater satisfaction.

In my first week, I lost 9½lbs. While I was delighted, I also knew from my years of yo-yo dieting that you can often lose a lot at the start. So I was actually more excited about the 3½lbs I lost in my second week – and the fact that within three weeks, I’d lost a whole stone.

I’d been concerned that I’d have to stop going out with my friends – even that was simpler than I thought. If they were going to the pub, I’d have a couple of gin and diet tonics, then move on to soft drinks. And if the plan was to go out for dinner, I’d just check out the menu online beforehand so I had plenty of time to decide what to have.

The big changes

When I began losing weight, it was all about being happier with the way I looked. I had no idea it would change other aspects of my life. I’d always believed I’d be a constant yo-yo dieter; able to lose a few pounds for a special event, but ultimately destined to be overweight.

Now, I’ve not only lost 6st, I’ve also kept it off. Being healthy has become part of everyday life.

I’ve started swimming again. A friend had signed up as a member of our local pool and suggested we go together. I was concerned about how I would feel: now I’m going three mornings a week and I feel great – so much more awake and full of energy when I get to work.

Before I lost weight, I barely thought about clothes and never went shopping unless I really had to – it was just too embarrassing. I had a single pair of jeans and a few shirts I’d picked up because they fitted me, not because I liked them. These days I can go into any shop I want and choose freely.

While I’ve always thought of myself as pretty confident, I’m so much more comfortable in my skin now.

I’m happier at work because of my extra energy, and when I go out, I’m no longer worried about walking into a bar and having people stare at me because of my size. I’m not just the big bloke in the corner. And that’s the best feeling in the world.

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