A voice in the distance was calling my name: ‘Ryan... Ryan!’ I woke with a jump to find myself in my work van with my lunch on my lap. My dad, Ian, was staring at me. ‘I think you might need to go to bed earlier,’ he said.’ I know you’re tired, but we can’t let it affect our work.’
Dad and I are specialist builders, which is hard physical labour for anyone, but I knew my weight was making it even tougher. And the fact I was waking every hour of the night, feeling unable to catch my breath, wasn’t helping. I’d done some research and was pretty sure it was sleep apnoea – a condition that can cause you to temporarily stop breathing when you’re asleep and which can also cause very loud snoring. I was reluctant to go to the doctor, though, as I knew I’d be told to lose weight.
Things finally came to a head when I went camping with friends at a site that was near the end of an RAF runway. When I woke on the first morning, I found everyone else already up. Apparently, I’d been snoring so loudly I could have given the jets a run for their money! I was mortified and slept in my hot car for the next two nights. By then, the situation at work had become dangerous, too – it just wasn’t safe to work on a building site in a state of constant exhaustion. Something had to be done.
When I first walked through the doors of my Slimming World group in September 2019, I had two major fears. The first was that I’d be the only man. The second was that my weight would be announced to everyone. I needn’t have worried – I spotted two other guys straight away. Then, later, it was time to privately step on the scales. I expected to see 24st, as that was the number when I’d last weighed myself. For a second, it was what I did see… until I realised the two was actually a three! I was too shocked to speak. I weighed 34st 3½lbs – a full 10st heavier than I’d thought.
I went home in a slight daze, but with a good grasp of Slimming World’s Food Optimising plan. The first meal I made was a slimming-friendly fry-up, and I realised that I could still have the foods I enjoyed, just with some easy changes like using low-calorie cooking spray instead of oil and removing all the visible fat from meat.
Still, I didn’t feel particularly confident when I went back to group the following week. I’d been filling my plate with lots of Free Food (which you can eat as much of as you like), including lean ham, skinless chicken and hard-boiled eggs, and I hadn’t felt hungry once. I couldn’t help doubting that it was going to work. Then I stepped on the scales to see that I’d lost more than a stone!
When my Consultant, Tracey, asked me if I’d struggled with anything, my mind immediately went to snacking. I’d got into the habit of constantly grazing on sweets, crisps and chocolate, and it was a hard one to break! The group suggested filling that snacking gap with Speed Free Foods, which would help me to lose weight, and trying things like sweet cherry tomatoes and cucumber sticks with a Free dip.
One of the great things about Slimming World is that it helps you understand the reasons behind your weight gain, which then makes it much easier to avoid going back to those old habits. As the weeks went on, I started to look at how I’d been eating before and, for the first time, I saw how self-destructive it was. I realised that I’d been using my active job as a justification for overeating – telling myself it didn’t matter because I’d burn it all off. In reality, my calorie intake had been off the scale. I’d become reliant on pies, crisps and takeaways – anything I could lay my hands on while I was on the go. There was even one occasion when the lunchtime queue in a chicken shop was so long, I nipped into a nearby burger bar, bought two burgers and then ate them while I queued for my fried chicken!
Food Optimising changed the way I thought about food completely, and I found myself naturally reaching for fruit and veg. I could hardly believe it when I achieved my 19st target in 17 months. It was a number I’d had in mind when I still thought I was 24st, so at 34st it had seemed a very long way off.
In February 2021, I set a new target of 17st. I had more energy than I could ever remember and I was finding it much easier to get around the building sites. I knew that adding more activity into my life outside of work would help me to keep the weight off, so my French bulldog, Chester, found himself being walked further and more often. I also started putting on some high-energy tunes and shadow-boxing around my bedroom of an evening – I’d always loved watching boxing and found it a fun way to work out.
Another change in my life was meeting my girlfriend, Emmie, who’s an amazing cook! Before I met her, I was sticking to quite simple meals, like chicken, broccoli and rice, but Emmie really makes the most of the Slimming World recipes. Now I’m enjoying all sorts of tray bakes and fakeaways, including burger and chips, hot dogs and curries.
MORE FOR MEMBERS: There are more than 1,700 tried-and-tested Slimming World recipes on the member website – with new ones being added all the time.
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By the summer, I was down to 17st 2½lbs – I’d halved my weight in less than two years! It meant a lot when, after watching me dashing back and forth on the building site, Dad took me aside and said: ‘Me and your mum are really proud of what you’ve done, son. You’ve turned yourself into a new man.’
He’s 100% right – I’m fitter and healthier than I’ve ever been, and I sleep like a log! Shopping for clothes is a pleasure now, too, and I especially love buying rugby shirts. I’ve been a huge fan of Bath Rugby Club for years, but I was never able to show it – even the biggest shirts were far too small for me, and I couldn’t go to matches because I didn’t fit into the stadium seats. These days, I wear my shirt with pride. And now I have a new goal. All that shadow-boxing has inspired me to train for an amateur fight. I feel strong and more than up for the challenge. I’ve lost roughly the weight of boxer Anthony Joshua and, like him, I’m ready to take on the world!
Snooze more to lose more
Our survey of more than 3,100 Slimming World members found that over a third sleep better since joining. This is important, because sleeping better means that we have more energy during the day, feel more motivated to prepare healthy meals and are more likely to stick to activity plans.
Weight loss will vary according to individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.