That first visit to a soft-play centre is a big moment for a toddler. Weighing nearly 18st, though, I felt too heavy and bulky to navigate all the plastic obstacles with my son, Reuben, and my wife, Liz, so I stood on the sidelines, watching them have all the fun. I’d thought it many times before, but this time I was serious: I had to lose weight – and keep it off for good.

I’d always been big. Looking through old family photos, it’s amazing how many show a young me eating something. I wasn’t unfit, though. I played cricket as a schoolboy, before trying golf. I even worked as a club professional for a time.

Looking for a ‘quick fix’

I met Liz, and soon we were planning our wedding. We both wanted to be slimmer for our big day and – for six very long months! – we lived on low-calorie bars and shakes that left us hungry, irritable and tired. I lost 6st – then, as soon our cruise ship set sail on our honeymoon, I dived enthusiastically into the buffet. Within just three days, I could no longer do up my brand-new trousers.

I was over the moon when Liz discovered she was expecting, and it seemed only chivalrous for me to join in with her cravings! I think my stomach was bigger than hers by the time Reuben was born.

When Liz and her mum decided to give Slimming World a try, I resolved to lose weight, too. Initially, I decided I’d eat the same way Liz did when I was at home and have meal-replacement bars at lunchtime.

I couldn’t believe how much tastier our family meals became. Cooked breakfasts instead of piles of buttered toast. Pasta with lots of lovely home-made sauce. Chilli con carne... I was eating all the things I already loved, just made from scratch and healthier.

Within three months, I’d lost 3st. While it was a great achievement, I knew that if I wanted to enjoy a healthier lifestyle for good, I needed to give up the quick-fix lunches and learn to eat the Food Optimising way properly. So I joined Slimming World, too.

Discovering a new food groove

I started planning my meals in advance. I also bought a lunch box with lots of compartments and Liz’s lovely mum packed it with Free goodies every morning – slices of lean ham, a big pasta salad, leftover chilli – so that wherever I found myself at midday, I always had something delicious to eat. I also kept lots of fruit on hand so that I could resist the lure of chocolate.

There was a moment when my resolve wavered... Liz and I decided to take Reuben on holiday to a caravan park. Although we had the best intentions of cooking for ourselves or at least making healthy choices when we were out and about, we eventually gave in to the temptation of the on-site fast food restaurants – and it took two weeks to shift the 9lbs I gained.

I learned an important lesson, though: if I did have a slip, I just had to get straight back on plan to repair it.

Feeling fitter

Around the same time I decided to do something about my fitness levels. After reaching my Club 10 target (because Iʼd lost 10% of my body weight), I felt much more energetic and I started working out with a personal trainer.

Liz and I also began running three times a week, building up from one-minute jogs to 30-minute ones. We even completed the Liverpool Half Marathon in just over 2½ hours! These days, I’m weight training, too, to keep up my muscular strength.

I reached target and I couldn’t believe the change in my body. One year earlier, I’d been struggling to fasten 46in trousers – now I was (and still am) a 32in waist.

Best of all, I’m the healthy, hands-on dad I really wanted to be. It’s not just the local soft-play centre that Reuben and I tear around these days. Children’s farms, theme parks, playgrounds, our own back garden… there’s no stopping the pair of us now!

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