I’d battled with my weight ever since my teens and it really crept up after my mum was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Being the eldest, I became her main carer and we relied on convenience food and takeaways. I also started comfort eating as a coping mechanism and I no longer had time for hobbies like swimming, martial arts and squash. Then, in March 2000, just a month before my 18th birthday, and after six months of progressively getting worse, my mum passed away. Again, I turned to food for comfort and, of course, gained more weight.
It was nearly 10 years later before I was spurred into action, when my stepmum, June, managed to get a rare picture of me with my dad on Christmas Day 2009, and uploaded it to Facebook. When I saw the photo, I was mortified. I tended to avoid cameras, so to see myself looking so big was a real shock. I couldn’t believe it was really me. When my dad asked me if I was happy, I had to admit that I wasn’t. I pretty much woke up, went to work, came home and slept. If I went out to bars and clubs with friends, I always felt uncomfortable, and with a 56in waist, I had to buy my clothes from specialist websites. I wanted to change but I didn’t know how.
June suggested we joined Slimming World together, but I was sceptical, to say the least. I’d already tried following a 1,000-calorie-a-day diet given to me by my GP and was taking the slimming pill, Xenical – neither of which had had much effect and they left me feeling bored and hungry. Dad had offered to pay for my first 12 weeks at Slimming World, though, and also made me a bet that I couldn’t lose 2st, which was too good an opportunity to miss – he’s a typical Yorkshireman and it’s difficult to get money out of him, so I couldn’t say no!
So on the 20th January 2010, I went along to my local Slimming World group with my stepmum and weighed in at 31st 3½lbs. I sat through the new member talk and couldn’t help but think, ‘Wow, this all sounds too good to be true!’ It wasn’t, though – I lost 12½lbs in my first week!
I began following the Food Optimising plan and swapped my regular takeaways and bottles of fizzy pop for home-cooked fakeaways and sugar-free drinks.
I’ve always been a picky eater, but I started to turn my relationship with food around.
I used to skip breakfast and lunch, thinking I was being healthy, but then I’d have something full of fat for dinner. Since joining Slimming World, I’ve discovered a new love of cooking and my favourite meal is home-made chicken curry with rice. I realised losing weight and keeping it off wasn’t about depriving yourself, counting calories or just having smaller portions of the same unhealthy foods, it’s about a complete change of lifestyle.
Once I’d lost 10st, I felt confident enough to up my activity levels. I started by parking my car a mile away from work so I had further to walk. I tried my hand at cycling, then running and I even joined a gym.
These days, I’m always on the move and I love giving new activities a go. I’ve cycled 50k for charity, climbed Ben Nevis, been part of Slimming World’s marathon team and run the New York Marathon in memory of my mum.
I never worry about photos ending up on Facebook now!
Having lost 17st 7lbs, I decided to train as a Slimming World Consultant and now, I run multiple groups, helping other people in York to slim down. When I first joined Slimming World as a member, I was really shy and hid away at the back, but before long I was sharing my new-found love of cooking and picking up tips and recipes. I got a real buzz from the sense of community in group and that’s what I try to recreate in my groups. Being able to support other people to change their lives – like I did mine – is an amazing privilege.
Eleven years on, I’m still slim, healthy and loving life. I inherited many of my lovely mum’s qualities. She used all her strength to fight her disease until the very end, and it’s the same determination I’ve used to keep going on my weight loss journey.
Matt’s day on a plate
Nothing to eat, just a large mocha with whipped cream and three sugars.
Two slices wholemeal toast topped with Marmite, followed by a fresh fruit salad with fat-free natural yogurt and a coffee with my Healthy Extra ‘a’ skimmed milk and sweetener.
Fresh pineapple sticks or a couple of Hi-fi bars.
Usually nothing, but occasionally I’d get something from the local bakery.
A home-made tuna and spinach omelette, followed by half a punnet of strawberries with chocolate-flavoured fat-free natural fromage frais.
A bag of crisps or bar of chocolate.
An apple and a Cadbury Freddo.
A couple of takeaway pizzas followed by a tub of ice cream and a 2-litre bottle of cola.
Chicken stir-fry with lots of vegetables and plain boiled noodles, with a bottle of low-calorie flavoured water, followed by the rest of the strawberries and the chocolate fromage frais.