It was February 2017 when I first realised that something was seriously wrong. I’d been on the road all week, driving my HGV. After settling down to get some sleep in a lorry park, I started getting sharp pains in my jaw and felt like I’d got painful indigestion. I had pins and needles in my left arm, too. I managed to get back to sleep, but over the next couple of days I noticed I was out of breath and felt easily exhausted.
When I got home that weekend, I had another sharp pain in my chest and down my left arm. After googling my symptoms, I realised it could be a problem with my heart and I needed to call 999 immediately. The paramedics arrived within five minutes. They confirmed I was having a heart attack and that it was probably my second attack that week. Before I knew it, I was in the ambulance on the way to hospital, with the blue light flashing.
Over the next five days I had three stents fitted, to help the blood flow to my heart. I was miserable and kept beating myself up about my lifestyle. Once I was out of hospital, though, despite my cardiologist telling me that I needed to change my diet, I was still getting takeaways.
In January 2019, my sister Racheal said she was joining her local Slimming World group and asked if I’d go with her. I was nervous, but once I got there and saw how supportive and friendly everyone was, I decided I’d give it a try. I was so glad I did, as I lost 7½lbs in my first week!
I went on to lose nearly 3st in six months and wished I’d joined years earlier! Slimming World taught me new ways of looking at food and how to make healthy changes I could stick to. My Consultant explained Food Optimising, and I knew I wasn’t on my own – I got so much support to make healthier choices. At first, I was surprised at the variety of food I could eat. I’ve never felt hungry or as if I’m missing out. Along the way I’ve learnt so much about myself as a slimmer, and being aware of my danger zones and trigger points has been crucial in helping me to lose weight. I find the support from the other members really powerful, too, and if you have a tough week, group is the best place for expert advice and encouragement.
When I think about my diet before I joined Slimming World, I can’t believe it. When I was driving, I was spoilt for choice with all the fast-food options available – which, of course, tended to be unhealthy and full of fat. Now I batch-cook at the weekends and make full use of my fridge freezer and microwave on the lorry to store and heat up my Food Optimised meals, instead of having junk food all day. I used to rely on takeaways; these days I make Slimming World’s fakeaways. For me, it’s about taking things back to basics: cutting out the oil and cooking from scratch. When I make a bolognese now, instead of using a jar of sauce, I make my own with tinned tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and tomato purée, and it’s delicious. I love making curries, chillis and stir-fries, too.
MORE FOR MEMBERS: Find Leigh’s before and after menu on our exclusive member website.
After the first lockdown ended, my wife and I divorced, and I moved house to be closer to my family. I asked my twin brother, Sean, if he’d come along with me to his local Slimming World group for support and we joined together. I know Sean was extremely sceptical, but now he’s lost weight, too!
Since l lost weight, I’ve had so much more energy. I’m loads more active. I never did any exercise before as I was always too tired. I never walked anywhere and sometimes I’d even drive 300 yards to the shop! Now I’m passionate about being active and I love hill walking in the Peak District or the Shropshire Hills.
I feel so proud that I’ve turned my life around by joining Slimming World, and I know my kids are proud of me, too. I see a bright future for myself, one where I might even look for a new relationship. Before I lost weight, I was always so worried about my health. I couldn’t think about anything else, especially after the heart attacks. Losing weight has freed me from that worry and given me a new lease of life.
Keeping your heart healthy
Heart disease is one of our most common health problems, with around 1.4 million people in the UK having survived a heart attack. Heart and circulatory diseases cause a quarter of all deaths in the UK (more than 160,000 deaths each year)*, and cardiovascular disease is the UK’s – and the world’s – number one killer**. Eating more healthily and getting more active are known to improve heart health, yet we know changing habits takes time. The in-depth support and encouragement shared at our weekly Slimming World groups is what helps our members to make long-term behaviour changes. Our programme is built on a deep understanding of how people with a weight problem feel, coupled with a healthy eating plan based on the science of energy density and satiety – a powerful combination.
*British Heart Foundation (BHF)
**World Health Organisation (WHO)
Health information is intended to provide general knowledge and should not be used to replace the advice given by your healthcare team.
Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.