Kieron, 50, says: ‘I’d been overweight for much of my life, to the point where I didn’t really acknowledge it any more. Being inactive, wearing 5XL shirts and asking for seat-belt extenders on flights was just my ‘normal’. I was even used to the abuse I got in the street. It wasn’t until my doctor told me that an injury to my leg was struggling to heal because I’d developed type 2 diabetes that I decided to make a change. I knew the condition was often weight-related, so it was a wake-up call for me. I was almost 30st at the time, and I couldn’t even put my own shoes and socks on; I had to get Helen to do it for me.’
Helen, 51, was keen to support her husband. She says: ‘I’d struggled with my weight since school and although I’d had the odd weight loss attempt here and there, I never had much success. I thought joining Slimming World with Kieron would be a good way to help him and to improve my own health. The first group we could attend happened to be on Valentine’s Day 2020. We don’t usually celebrate it, but it turned out to be a great night for our marriage!’
Watch Kieron and Helen tell their story
Helen and Kieron soon got to grips with our eating plan, Food Optimising, enjoying a wide variety of healthy everyday foods, such as fresh fruit and veg, lean meat and poultry, fat-free dairy, pasta, rice and potatoes.
Kieron says: ‘I didn’t know much about Slimming World, so I’d assumed I’d be on a diet of salad and was worried it would be really restrictive and complicated to follow. I was blown away when I discovered how wrong I was. We found it easy to fit the plan around our lives — and around the dietary advice from my healthcare team. We still eat our favourite meals, like satay chicken and home-made chips – we just cook them in a different way – and we’re never hungry.
‘Group was really great, too, and I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t the only man there. I was nervous about being judged and having my weight read aloud, but neither of those things happened. Instead, we found ourselves surrounded by so much support. After a few weeks, the country entered lockdown, so our group moved to a virtual service. It ment we never felt alone and, without the usual visits from our family and friends, it became a bit of a lifeline for us. It was the highlight of our week and it kept us motivated.’
Kieron and Helen’s day on a plate
A fried breakfast with sugary tea.
Overnight oats made with fat-free natural yogurt and fresh fruit.
Sandwiches, crisps and packets of biscuits.
A platter of lean meats and vegetable crudités.
A takeaway, two bottles of wine and cans of beer.
A home-made Food Optimising meal such as cottage pie, served with plenty of vegetables.
A share-size bar of chocolate, sweets.
Slimming World Hi-Fi bars, gin and slimline tonics.
Helen adds: ‘I dread to think where we could have ended up weight-wise if we hadn’t joined Slimming World before lockdown hit. Being furloughed meant we had time to experiment with new recipes and get used to cooking from scratch, which was great. Having each other really spurred us on, too, and it encouraged us to stay on track.’
Kieron says: ‘We also got on board with Slimming World’s physical activity programme, Body Magic, and loved that it was about finding an activity we enjoyed and taking it at our own pace. That was really important for us, as we hadn’t been active at all beforehand. We found it reassuring that even little improvements all added up. I could barely walk 100 steps at first, but that didn’t matter – it’s all about doing what you can.
Before losing weight, we’d use the bus or the tram for even short journeys. We’d started to really enjoy our walks, though, so when Helen went back to work, I decided to walk with her there and back. These days, I’ve usually done a few miles before the “old me” would have even woken up! I’m still in shock that such simple changes have totally transformed our lives. I genuinely think that if I hadn’t tackled my weight when I did, I wouldn’t be alive now.’
More for members: Head over to our Body Magic essentials page, to find everything you need to get started – including activity-themed podcasts and exclusive workout videos
Helen and Kieron aren’t the only ones who’ve been surprised, as the couple didn’t tell their family and friends that they were losing weight. Kieron says: ‘It wasn’t a big secret, we were just taking it one day at a time, but because of lockdown we weren’t seeing anyone. I don’t think we realised quite how different we looked until we started socialising again and some of our closest friends didn’t recognise us. Helen’s colleague of 15 years asked her if she was a new starter and once, while we were out shopping, I almost walked straight past her without realising I was looking at my own wife!’
As well as having an amazing effect on his diabetes, which is now in remission, Kieron also credits losing weight with improving his mental health, and he’s started volunteering with a mental health charity. Helen has lost more than 8st, dropping from a size 26 to a 12, and she says her rheumatoid arthritis has eased.
She says: ‘The difference in our lives is amazing – it’s like the whole world has opened up for us. We’re off to Berlin soon and for the first time ever, we aren’t worried about being uncomfortable on the plane or having to ask for seat-belt extenders – we’re just looking forward to spending time together. For us, life really has begun at 50.’
If you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day this year (or just want to show yourself some love!), give these ideas a go...