As I reached the front of the long queue for a Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios Florida, I was full of excitement. But when I took my seat, I couldn’t get the safety bar over my stomach. No matter how hard I pulled, it just wouldn’t click into place. Instead of being whisked away on a magical ride through Hogwarts, I was whisked back to my own school days when my nickname had been Steven not-so-Little. Back then I’d tried to laugh it off, but I was deeply unhappy with my weight. Food became my comfort, creating a vicious cycle that saw me steadily put on more weight as I grew into adulthood.

Ditching the meal-replacement shakes

As much as I hated putting on weight, takeaways and fast food were my downfall. I’d eat sausage rolls from the bakery for breakfast, sandwiches, crisps, chocolate and a pork pie for lunch, then dinner would be a takeaway – usually fish and chips, a kebab or fried chicken. The number on the scales became more and more daunting.

Sometimes, feeling desperate, I’d try meal-replacement shakes or fad diets that cut out whole food groups. Of course, none of these worked as they weren’t sustainable and didn’t teach me anything about food, how to lose weight healthily or how to maintain my weight loss.

Slimming World fakeaway swaps

Finding Slimming World made weight loss finally click into place for me. Determined to lose weight, I decided to join my nearest group, although I felt nervous and a bit worried that it’d be all women. The warm welcome instantly put me at ease, and I was soon excited to get going with the Food Optimising plan – and guess what, I wasn’t the only man in the room!  

I loved the fact that no food is off the menu with Food Optimising, as there’s a Slimming World version of pretty much everything. I could even swap my beloved evening takeaway for a Slimming World fakeaway made from scratch using fresh, healthy ingredients. I can still eat all my old favourites, such as chips, burgers, steak and roast dinners – my ultimate meal is lean fillet steak and Syn-free Slimming World chips with lots of Speed food like mushrooms, onions and asparagus. And I use my Syns to enjoy things like wine, vodka and crisps.

The meal-replacement shakes are well and truly off the menu!

I’ve even converted my friends to the Slimming World way and I cook a Slimming World roast dinner for them every week – they can’t tell the difference and love getting stuck in. In return, they’ve cooked Slimming World meals for me, as they enjoy the recipes so much. It’s actually been a shock for them to meet the slim Steve as they’d never seen him before!

Back across the pond

As the weight came off I felt able to increase my activity levels. Instead of laying on the couch watching TV, I’d jump on my bike and ride up to gym. I could hardly believe it, but within six months I’d lost 6st and hit my target weight! It was time to book a return trip to Florida, and on this visit I was determined to go on every single ride.

After a fun-packed time at the theme parks, we went on to the bright lights of Las Vegas, where I posed riding a Harley-Davidson (with a huge grin on my face!). Now slim, happy and no longer held back or embarrassed by my size, that was a real pinch-me moment that would never have happened before I lost weight.

A life-changing decision

While it’s fantastic that I can now enjoy my holidays to the full, the health benefits of losing weight have been life-changing. In 2017, I suffered a seizure and lost consciousness. I was diagnosed with epilepsy, which means having to walk and cycle places instead of driving. I can easily cycle 10 to 15 miles or walk six miles in a day, and there’s no way I’d have been able to do that when I weighed over 20st.

I also feel in a much more positive mindset now that I’m fit and healthy, which has made my epilepsy diagnosis easier to deal with.

The key to my success – apart from the amazing Slimming World fakeaway recipes – is the incredible support that you get in group (or from the online Community, if you’re an online member). Even though I’m now a Slimming World Consultant with my own group, I still give myself an hour a week to attend group as a member. The support I get there helps me to maintain my target weight and means that I can continue to give full support to my members.

On top of my new healthy lifestyle, fantastic new friends from group and a new job as a Consultant, my Slimming World journey has led me to meet someone special to enjoy more American adventures with. We’re planning a dream trip to Florida and I know that this time it will be extra magical.

Six super Slimming World fakeaways

As Steven discovered, there’s absolutely no need to give up your favourite Friday night takeaway dishes. A Slimming World fakeaway is a magical takeaway makeover that’s just as tasty, with a fraction of the Syns. So take your local takeaway off speed-dial and try one of these super-satisfying Slimming World fakeaways instead.

spinach and ricotta pizza

chicken tikka masala

fish, chips and mushy peas

jerk chicken with fruity Caribbean slaw

Korean beef noodles

chunky bean burgers with Cajun wedges

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