After a busy morning delivering Slimming World leaflets, my eight volunteers and I had worked up an appetite, so we were thrilled to see our saviour rounding the corner in the family car. My wife, Afshan, waved as she saw us approach. There were oohs and aahs as she handed out containers of her lentil curry, rice, salad and raita, and I was so delighted to say: ‘Home cooked by my amazing wife, and all Food Optimising friendly… I’ll have the recipe ready at group on Thursday.’ 

It was April 2019, and I’d been out promoting the group I was launching, helped by Slimming World members Hayley, Tracey, Joti, Louise, Mel and Asad, and my sister Farzana and niece Alisha. As we ate, I was blown away by the power of family and friendship, knowing my own weight loss had given me the confidence to pay it forward…

Discovering my reason

It had been because of my family that I’d gone to a Slimming World group in the first place. As I’d got into my 30s, I knew my weight was creeping up, but being a busy dad I told myself I didn’t have time to worry about it. 

Then one day, when our daughter Anaaya was about six, I was getting ready to go to work and realised I couldn’t reach down to tie my shoes. Eventually, I gave up and asked Anaaya for help. She’d only just learnt to tie laces, and after a little while she looked up at me and said: ‘I’ve tried my best, Daddy, I hope that’s OK.’ 

I suddenly felt a wave of sadness that I couldn’t even do up my shoes without my little girl’s help. And I wasn’t the healthy role model I wanted to be for Anaaya and her brother Daniyal.

It prompted me to see my GP, who warned me I was at risk of type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease – and that made up my mind.

My first attempt to lose weight was by having shakes to replace my meals. Although it worked to begin with, the moment I started eating proper meals again the weight went back on. At the same time, a colleague had been losing weight with Slimming World. So, in July 2018, I decided to find my local group.

At first I felt a bit intimidated when I realised I was the only man there. But the Consultant, Jeni, helped me realise straight away that, male or female, everyone was there for the same reason, and they were there for one another. That gave me confidence, because I knew I’d be making some big changes. 

I’d often skipped breakfast and got through the morning at work on a hot chocolate, followed by a bowl of chips or a loaded sandwich for lunch. Dinner was usually a chicken curry cooked in lots of oil, with a naan and full-fat Greek yogurt, while my favourite dessert was gulab jamun – fried dough balls dipped in a sugary syrup. 

Now I had a Healthy Extra portion of blueberry wheats with skimmed milk, sliced banana and berries for breakfast, and a jacket potato with baked beans and salad for lunch. In the evening, I’d make a curry from Slimming World’s Curry Club cookbook, or have skinless roast chicken with home-made Slimming World chips and veg. We soon discovered a new favourite family dessert, too – fat-free natural Greek yogurt topped with lots of fresh berries and a crumbled plain meringue nest (2½ Syns). For me it was all about keeping it easy and tasty, cooking around work and the kids, and enjoying my food.

Resetting my target

I’d set myself a target of losing 2st and when I got there 10 weeks later, the old me would have been satisfied with that. But I’d seen the other members lowering their targets, and being a bit competitive myself, I wanted to see what I could do. I loved being applauded for a successful weight loss week, but the best feeling was when someone said ‘Thanks, I tried your idea and it really helped’. Over the next two months, I lost another stone, and I was feeling amazing.

Not long afterwards I was nominated for the Mr Sleek competition in group, which meant telling the other members about my journey. Afterwards, Jeni said: ‘You spoke really well and seemed comfortable. Have you ever thought of becoming a Consultant yourself?’

It stopped me in my tracks. I thought about IMAGE Therapy, and how much I’d enjoyed helping others by sharing my own ideas and experiences. I had a full-time job as an IT project manager, though. Could I really fit running my own business around the demanding career I loved? I went to a Consultant opportunity event, then spoke to my company to see if there was enough flexibility to make it happen. We arranged a timetable that would allow me to run a group on a Thursday evening.

Getting the word out

In early 2019 I travelled to Slimming World’s head office in Alfreton, Derbyshire, to start my training. I discovered that, as a Consultant, I’d develop a deep understanding of the company’s methods to help members reach their dreams. As I was introduced to techniques to help people make lasting changes, they just blew my mind! I also loved all the training on how to run my group and promote it in the community. It struck me how important it would be to reach out to people. I felt there were so many whose lives could be changed as mine had been.

I was going to be launching a group in Hall Green, Birmingham, so I threw myself into getting to know the local community. The more I discovered about the diverse communities in the area, the more I wanted to get the word out to all cultures and religions. 

I knew that lots of Muslim men in particular would assume that Slimming World wasn’t for them – and I was proof that it could be!

I also realised that many people in the Asian community might be put off by the idea that they couldn’t carry on eating their traditional meals and lose weight, whereas in reality Food Optimising adapts so well to all cuisines and tastes. Afshan is a much better cook than I am, so together we sat down and thought about how to use Food Optimising principles to adapt the traditional Pakistani recipes our family loves. The first thing was the oil, which I realised was really only there to brown the onions in the first stages of cooking. ‘So we can cook them with low-calorie cooking spray*,’ I said. 

We came up with delicious meals, such as keema matar, loading up Speed Free Food vegetables on the side. And by serving dishes with plain boiled rice instead of naan, we could save the Syns for something else. It was rewarding when my recipe suggestions started to go down well with the members in my new group. After doing some local media interviews, I was thrilled to find some Asian men among my new members. Often, the first thing they said when they rang me was: ‘Isn’t this just for women?’ I’d share the worries I’d had when I first joined Jeni’s group. ‘And look how that turned out for me,’ I’d say. ‘If I can do it, so can you!’

Loving the support

My group and the people in it became more and more important to me as I got into my stride, and it gave me a sense of pride that was very different to anything I’d experienced before. While I loved the freedom of building my own business, I certainly wasn’t going it alone. As well as head office support, I had a local team and a Team Developer to support and inspire me. I was still loving my career in IT, but when you succeed at something you’ve created, it’s a different type of job satisfaction. Now I had the best of both worlds! 

I’ve always been proud to tell members that I’ve been in their shoes and, of course, I do have my own ups and downs. I’m out of my 12st 4lb target at the moment and, while I’m confident I know what to do to get back there, I’m not leaving anything to chance.

I still attend Jeni’s group, because that’s my time to focus on me, and I continue to pick up great ideas and lots of motivation from the other members. You never stop learning about yourself as a slimmer, and every setback just makes you stronger!

My family are everything to me, and I’m so pleased that Afshan and the kids have played a part in my group’s success. I started my Slimming World journey in order to be a healthy role model for my children, and now it feels even bigger than that – what I’ve ended up creating with their support is something we can all be proud of!

*Some low-calorie cooking sprays contain alcohol as a preservative. If you’d prefer to avoid any trace of this, always check the label. Only spray oils with one calorie or less per spray are Syn free. For the Syn values of other sprays, check on the Food Search. 

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