The time of the week I always dreaded had arrived again, as my colleague spun around in her chair and asked: ‘So, who’s up for going out when we knock off tonight?’ One by one, my work friends confirmed that, yes, they would be joining the regular Friday night out on the town, and I was already getting my excuse ready as she turned to look at me. ‘You know what?’ I replied, ‘I said I’d go to visit my gran. Maybe I’ll come next week, though.’

Leaving the office quietly, I went over to my parents’ house, the one place I felt at ease. The truth was, I just didn’t want to be seen in public, and would much prefer to spend a night in at my parents’ and order a takeaway pizza or curry. Anyway, my colleagues were just being nice, I told myself. They wouldn’t really want me there, getting in the way of their fun.

Shutting myself away

I looked across at my dad, Alan. We both tipped the scales at over 20st and, although it’s not something either of us would have admitted to each other, I suspected he felt as sad and defeated by his weight as I did. I could track my lack of confidence back to my school days, when I was relentlessly teased about my size. Having the surname Thynne and being overweight seemed to be an endless source of fun for others.

By the time I left school my self-esteem had dropped even further. While other lads my age were going on nights out and finding girlfriends, I couldn’t imagine approaching a girl in a bar – I was sure she’d just laugh me out of the place. So, other than going to work, I’d stay at home and comfort myself with chocolate or crisps – avoiding most social situations, and feeling more and more isolated. The vicious cycle saw my weight creep up further and further. By the spring of 2016, I weighed 24st 10½lbs and found it a struggle to walk up the stairs at the office where I worked as a gas-fitting supervisor.

Then, that May, there was an event I felt I really couldn’t excuse myself from – a work friend’s 21st birthday bash. Putting on a brave face, I went along and did my best to join in the fun. The following day, when I saw the pictures on social media, I let out a groan. I thought I looked twice my age – and winced to see my tummy hanging over the trousers I’d bought from my usual plus-size clothing shop, now clearly too tight around my middle. I felt utterly hopeless.

By an amazing coincidence, the answer arrived later the same week in the shape of my cousin Kylie. Every time I’d seen her recently, she looked slimmer and slimmer. ‘You look amazing,’ I told her. ‘How much weight have you lost?’ She smiled and put her hand on my arm. ‘I’ve been going to Slimming World and I’ve lost 5st. The kids think they’ve got a new mum!’ As she told me about the tasty food she was eating and how much better she felt, I listened closely. ‘I wish I could do that,’ I said. ‘Why don’t you come to my group?’ she suggested.

The following week Kylie picked me up and, as we drove along to group, I started to worry what I’d let myself in for. I was shaking with fear as I got out of the car – the whole thing felt impossible and overwhelming – so I was very grateful for Kylie’s reassurance as she led me in and introduced me to the Consultant, Michelle.

There was something about the way that Michelle looked at me – not at all judgemental, and full of confidence. I could just tell she didn’t think I was a hopeless case, as I’d feared she might. When she said: ‘Don’t worry, Glyn, we can help you,’ I knew she meant it. Michelle explained how, by focusing on Free and Speed Food, I could eat as much as I wanted and lose weight. I couldn’t wait to give it a go and I left group that evening determined to prove her right.

At first, to keep it really easy, I ate the same two meals all week, based around chicken or steak with generous sides. And in my first week, I lost 3½lbs. Now that I knew it really did work for me, I started to get a bit more adventurous and tried out some Food Optimising recipes – curries with rice, pasta dishes, you name it!

Seeing a difference

I hadn’t told anyone that I was trying to lose weight. Only Mum, Dad and Kylie knew at first. After losing over 2½st in three months, though, I could no longer hide the fact that something had changed. A colleague who hadn’t seen me for a while came in and said: ‘Wow, you’re looking good, Glyn.’ Suddenly, all eyes were on me and, for once, I didn’t feel like hiding away. ‘I’ve been going to Slimming World,’ I said. ‘It seems to be working so far…’

I carried on losing month after month. Then, in January 2017, I went on a cruise with my parents. We’d just docked in Dubai and were eating together when Dad turned to me and said, ‘You’ve done so well with your weight loss and you seem much happier. When we get home, maybe you could show me some of the meals you’ve been making?’ Of course, I said yes – I knew Dad would benefit from eating healthier meals, just as I had.

After the holiday, I started making double the quantities of my favourite recipes, taking half round to Dad so he could tuck in after his shift at the food factory where he worked as an engineer. He loved my Slimming World liver and bacon casserole, and moussaka. Soon, Dad switched up his breakfasts and lunches, too, and little by little his weight started to fall along with mine.

Meanwhile, I’d decided to add in some Body Magic. I’d never have dreamt of getting in a pool when I’d felt so embarrassed about my size, but as the pounds dropped off, my mindset started to change. I thought I’d try swimming and plucked up the courage to go to the leisure centre on my own. Soon, I was swimming three times a week, boosting my fitness as my weight continued to fall.

A big moment for me was when I was visiting Kylie and her kids – Abi, 12, and Sam, eight, my god-daughter and godson. Before I lost weight, when Sam wanted to play football I’d always do my best to kick the ball back and forth with him, standing on the spot. This summer, playing a full-on, one-on-one match with Sam, I chased after the ball, giving him a proper run for his money!

Sharing the love

Eventually, I found the courage to start dating. The thought of it was still pretty daunting, but with all the compliments I’d been getting at work starting to sink in, I thought it was worth a try. No longer restricted to plus-size websites, I bought some fashionable clothes I felt great in, took some photos, and put up a profile on an online dating site.

After years of avoiding as many social occasions as I could, I found myself actually suggesting getting together for dates and, to my surprise, I was enjoying meeting new people. Then, a few months ago, I met a really nice girl, Corrine. I felt a connection right away, which soon developed into something deeper.

Sometimes, it’s hard to remember just how hopeless and unhappy I felt before losing 12st – especially when I’m out enjoying myself with my workmates. And I’m not the only one who’s become more outgoing. Dad has lost 8st and he looks fitter and happier than I can ever remember. He goes out more, and he and Mum are enjoying a busier and more active life together.

For Father’s Day this year I bought Dad a flying lesson and as I watched him soar up into the sky, I realised we’ve both benefited so much from our revamped lifestyle. An exciting future has opened up before me – and with my new can-do attitude, I feel like the man I was always meant to be.

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