The motorcycle riders revved their engines as they waited for the signal to start... and then they were off! I’d been going to speedway races since I was 11 and, over 45 years on, I found it just as thrilling as I had back then. The bikes had one gear and no brakes, so the agility of the riders was extraordinary.

I joked to myself that I only had one gear, too – set to eating. Plus, I also seemed to have no brakes! I’d always been a big lad and having grown up in a house where there were always hearty meals, treats and snacks on tap, I’d passed that tradition on to my own family.

Even the health checks I’d had for my welding job hadn’t spurred me into action. At the last one, I’d found out I was glucose intolerant. ‘Be careful,’ the doctor had said. ‘If you keep this up, you’ll probably develop diabetes within a year.’ Despite his warnings, I didn’t feel any urgency to address my weight.

Within the next 12 months, though, a lot changed. I was made redundant from the welding job and became a delivery driver for a bread company. Every day I struggled carrying the bread and I’d often wonder if I’d soon be completely unfit for work.

Gearing up

A few months later, my wife, Denise, and I were on a cruise. One night, I took my suit into our cabin’s tiny bathroom to change for dinner. As I twisted myself to get into my outfit, sweating and panting, I honestly thought I might get stuck. And when I caught my reflection in the mirror, I saw that my shirt and trousers barely fitted. I knew I had to lose weight – but how?

My daughter, Rebecca, was a Slimming World member and had been raving about it, and Denise had realised I was finally open to the idea of losing weight... So the next time Rebecca mentioned it, Denise jumped at the chance. ‘It sounds great! David and I could go together,’ she said.

As we walked into group, I suddenly felt worried. Then the Consultant, Sally, gave me such a warm welcome that my negative thoughts were banished. When I looked around, I realised I was in a roomful of people in the same boat as me and that there was no stigma to seeking help.

Sally explained Food Optimising and I must admit I did think: ‘How can I eat all this normal food and lose weight?’ Then I found out I weighed over 25st, and realised I needed to give it a go.

The next day, Denise and I sat down to plan our week’s meals, then went food shopping. We kept it simple, enjoying grilled lean meat with lots of veg or salad and boiled potatoes, and trying out a couple of Slimming World recipes.

After a week of eating Food Optimising meals and snacking on fruit, I got on the scales at group to see if it was doing any good... I’d already lost 10½lbs!

I got to my first target weight of 20st in four months and from there decided to break my weight loss down into 2st chunks – this helped me reach milestone after milestone.

Then one week, I put on 3½lbs. I was feeling disheartened, then I got a supportive text from Sally. Knowing she cared about my weight loss was the boost I needed. I’d done so well, I wasn’t going to give up. I followed Food Optimising 100% and the scales started moving again.

Having worn size-6XL clothes for years, I was now comfortably fitting into an XL.

I was feeling so much better in myself ­– especially at work. Delivering those trays of bread had become easier, and my confidence was growing. When a new position came up, I applied, and within weeks I was made logistics manager, in charge of a team of delivery workers.

Victory lap

I reached my target of 14st 5lbs within a year and Denise had now lost 3st 4lbs, too.

For my 59th birthday, my family bought me a gift certificate for a speedway experience day. This wasn’t just watching riders, it was getting on one of the bikes and taking part.

A year ago, I’d have never dreamed of doing anything like this. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

Welcoming us to the track was one of my childhood speedway heroes. We lined up on our bikes at the starting gate, the tape sprung up and we were off… It felt absolutely amazing.

Getting on that bike opened my mind to trying other new things. I’ve started learning the guitar, and playing bowls. I’m also so full of energy that I can run around with my four-year-old granddaughter, Imogen. I feel like a man a third my age!

And that was confirmed by my doctor when he reassured me that my risk of diabetes had fallen dramatically. ‘Your blood sugar levels are normal,’ he said. ‘In fact, you’ve got the results of a 19-year-old.’

At that moment, I thought back to how sceptical I’d been about joining group, little realising how much it could transform me – inside and out. And as I look forward to my next speedway day, I already feel like I’ve won the greatest race of my life.

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