As I bent down to check a gas meter, the sharp pain in my knee took my breath away. As ever, I managed to stay professional in front of my customer as I filled in the paperwork and politely said goodbye. Then, once I’d limped back to my van, I collapsed into the driver’s seat in agony.

My knee had been troubling me for the past couple of years and I knew that being 20st was putting pressure on my joints. My wife, Trisha, was a member of Slimming World Online and had been following the plan for nearly a year, but even with my knee problems, I hadn’t felt motivated to join her. Now, though, I had another reason to get more mobile as quickly as possible. Our youngest son, Josh, had recently been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and I knew I needed to be fit and healthy to give him his very best life. Josh struggled to walk for any distance, and if I tried to carry him I started gasping for breath after a few steps.

Work brought its own set of problems. As a gas engineer, I was forever climbing into awkward boiler cupboards, or getting up and down off customers’ floors to test their gas supply. When the pain in my right knee was so severe that it made work near impossible, I went to my GP, who diagnosed a build-up of fluid. I tried to push through it, telling myself it would just go away, but it became so badly infected I ended up spending a week in hospital while the fluid was drained. I’d never felt pain like it.

After Josh’s diagnosis, it took five months and another bout of knee pain before I decided I had to change my eating habits. I worried I’d struggle after a lifetime of relying on fast food for lunch, so Trisha found some Slimming World recipes she knew I’d like, like tuna pasta salad, that I could eat in the van. At home, I ate the same Food Optimised dinners as her. After a week, I was already feeling better in myself, finding I no longer slumped down after every meal, bloated and uncomfortable.

Two months went by and, though I’d lost nearly 2st, I knew I needed more support. When I told Trisha I wanted to join a Slimming World group, she could tell I was nervous and offered to come with me. In fact, my mum, Susan, also wanted to come along, and the three of us stepped into the hall in July 2018. Within a few minutes, any fears I’d had drifted away, and even when I stood on the scales and saw I weighed 18st 5lbs, I wasn’t fazed. I got lots of new ideas that night and was soon having overnight oats for breakfast and a different packed lunch every day, courtesy of Trisha. I stopped taking chocolate and crisps with me to eat in the van, replacing it with fresh fruit. And in the evenings, I slowly started learning how to cook.

Taking to the kitchen

Whichever one of us got home first would involve our two eldest sons, Liam and James, then 13 and 10, in making dinner. They loved being able to choose what we were going to eat and helping me to knock up a home-made burger with Slimming World chips or a spicy curry – and I treasured the time I was spending with them. Within two weeks, I’d lost another stone.

As the weeks went by, my weight loss steadied and occasionally I put on a couple of pounds. That’s when my group helped me most. Their support and words of encouragement meant I didn’t falter – I just picked myself up and got back on it!

Work was already becoming much easier, as my knee pain eased and eventually disappeared. I had monthly meetings with my colleagues and each time I walked into the room, the surprise on their faces made me smile. I was changing before their eyes.

 In just over four months, I’d reached my target of 13st 1lb and had never felt better. 

By then, I’d also signed up for a 4K fun run for Scope, a charity that helps people with disabilities. It was years since I’d done any kind of exercise and, after a few weeks of running just a little further each time, I was buzzing with excitement as I prepared to set off. Afterwards, I got a call from the charity asking if I’d be willing to run the 2019 London Marathon for them. Thinking about how much effort it took for Josh to put one foot in front of the other, I agreed. I wanted to be the role model he deserved, and in April 2019, I finished the 26-mile race, for Josh. 

Trisha’s now 4st lighter, Mum’s lost 1st, and the difference in me is phenomenal. Now, no boiler is too difficult to get to when I’m working, and there are no aches and pains when I get up and down off the floor. Back at home, I love having a kick-about in the garden with the kids. And when Josh starts to tire, I can lift him on to my shoulders, meaning he’s still part of the fun. In all areas of my life, I’m the man I want to be.

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