Watching my sister Katie walk across the car park into the hall, I felt like I was rooted to the car seat. Part of me was desperate to follow her, but I’ll be honest, I was terrified of walking into my first Slimming World group.
Katie and I had agreed to come together. As we’d pulled into the car park, though, that anxious inner voice had piped up: What if I’m the only man there? What if people laugh at me? Then I had the thought... what if I waste this chance to change? I started to think about my reason for wanting to join Slimming World – Mum.
My mum, Lisa, was just 41 when she was taken by cervical cancer in 2010. Her death left a hole in my life that was impossible to fill. In my grief, I’d go for days without food then, suddenly, I’d be unstoppable, eating chocolate, crisps, chips and takeaways until I felt ill. This unhealthy cycle seemed to control me – and my weight just kept on climbing.
I knew how sad Mum would’ve been to see me feeling like this, and that gave me the push I needed. I walked in 15 minutes after Katie and as the Consultant, Pat, came over to speak to me with warmth and humour, my anxiety melted away. Looking around the room, I noticed there were other men, too, and I could tell straight away that it was a place where I’d feel supported.
Samuel with his mum, Lisa
As Pat explained Food Optimising to me, I was struck by the simplicity of it. Later on, she spoke to the other members about the obstacles they’d overcome during the past seven days, and about the concerns they had for the week ahead. I loved how everyone was encouraged to chip in with suggestions and advice. All the members were rooting for each another and they sounded determined to stay on track.
I’d been dreading finding out what I weighed, though, and I had to use all my courage to step onto the scales. I was 18st 4lbs – much more than I’d imagined. That could have sent me into a downward spiral, but I felt a surge of hope after everything I’d seen and heard.
I went home that night full of optimism, but there was one small problem – I’d never been much of a cook. I stuck to what I knew, which was mostly omelettes with lots of salad, and I also bought some strawberries, bananas and grapes for when I wanted a snack. If I fancied a chocolate fix, I’d have a Curly Wurly using my Syns. When I stepped back on the scales the following week and discovered I’d lost 10lbs, it gave me an amazing confidence boost.
I realised I’d finally found something I could stick to that worked. I knew that I couldn’t just live on omelettes, so after getting some recipe inspiration in group, I decided to try a chicken stir-fry with noodles. It was pretty tasty. Then I moved on to making simple pasta dishes, like spaghetti with meatballs.
As the months went by, I carried on losing weight, and the applause from the other members fired me up for each new week ahead.
In the past, I’d turned to food in times of real difficulty, and I realised that my eating was often triggered by my emotions. Now, if I’d had a rough day at work or was feeling down, I’d still reach for chocolate or a biscuit, but group had helped me learn a new way of thinking, so that it didn’t become a downward spiral. Gone were the days when I’d have thought: I’ve already fallen off the wagon, so I may as well finish the packet or order a takeaway. Knowing that I could have a bag of crisps or a bar of chocolate using my Syns helped me get past that ‘I’ve blown it’ mindset.
More for members: How to get off the emotional eating rollercoaster
By the start of 2018, I’d lost 3st and was feeling happier than I could ever remember. My XXXL clothes needed replacing, and I finally had the confidence to start experimenting with fashion and wearing bolder shirts.
There was something else happening, too. When I was a teenager, Mum had gently asked me whether I might be gay. Deep inside, I knew that I was, but I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself and I’d quickly changed the subject.
After Mum was gone, I regretted that so much, because I knew I’d never get to have her support as I embraced my true self. Now, the slimmed-down me – brimming with confidence in all areas of my life – was ready to accept what Mum had suspected. In January 2018, I told my close family that I was gay, and I was overwhelmed by their loving responses. I felt like the person I’d always wanted to be and I knew Mum would have been looking down on me with pride.
My new-found confidence was having an impact in other ways, too. Hearing the other members talking about the Body Magic physical activity programme, and how it could benefit your body and mind, made me realise that getting fitter might help with my emotional wellbeing.
I loved exercising outdoors, so I used the Body Magic awards to make walking a regular habit, eventually progressing to joining a gym. I really enjoyed it and throughout 2019, I was going four or five times a week. The combination of Food Optimising and regular activity really powered up my weight loss, and I reached my target that year. I felt so proud of my achievement... unaware I was about to hit my first major setback – the pandemic.
More for members: Walk your way to better health and fitness with our exclusive 15-minute audio podcasts.
Although I could have attended Pat’s virtual group, I thought I’d be able to maintain my target myself. During those difficult weeks, I put back on almost 2st, and I really missed having a community of like-minded people there to support and inspire me. In August 2021, I rejoined Pat’s group – and I was back at target in 11 months.
Then, something wonderful happened. Back in 2019, I’d met a guy called Scott and we’d become friends. Now our friendship had turned into love – and we moved in together!
It’s amazing to think that I once lived on omelettes. These days, I do most of the cooking at home and I’m always experimenting with different recipes, using the Slimming World app, magazine and cookbooks. I feel certain that my healthy lifestyle is for keeps.
With Scott’s encouragement, I’ve trained to be a Slimming World Consultant, and now I run my own group, which fits really well around my job at a care home. It’s so rewarding to be able to help others make their lives happier and healthier.
My family often tell me that Mum would be so proud of everything I’ve achieved, and I know that’s true. She’d have been delighted to see me living proudly as a gay man with a loving partner and enjoying life again. And she’d be so proud of Katie, too, who’s also lost 3st and is getting married next year. I’m sure Mum is smiling down on us both.
Could you be a Slimming World Consultant?
If you’d love to help transform lives and make weight loss dreams come true, we’re always looking for caring and committed people to run their own Slimming World groups. Find out more about this life-changing role here.
Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.