Friday, 22 January 2016

Who are you losing the weight for?

For quite a few of us, at some stage in our life someone has encouraged us to try and lose weight be that a few pounds to several stones. 
Also whilst some 'encourage' there are others around us that downright try to bully us into losing weight.  
Sometimes these people are family and friends, other times it will be strangers on the street. 
For me as I was growing up my family would refer to my weight as 'puppy fat' but of course strangers would just see me as "the fat kid". Did that see me lose weight, no it didn't. 
Over the years my family members and friends have hinted to me about losing the weight, from the gentle "are you sure you want to eat that?" to the outright "come on Stu, don't you think it's about time you lost some weight?" I know that they were only saying it to try and encourage me but looking back, I think they could have offered me a million pounds to lose weight but I know that I still wouldn't have lost it successfully (as I wasn't doing it for me). 
From the gentle encouragement of family and friends we go to the other side of the extremity with strangers in the street shouting abuse at me because of my size. Many times when I was overweight I suffered abuse from strangers on the street, from the point and snigger to the shouting verbal abuse. Did they really think that by shouting this abuse at me I'd think 'you know what, that person is right, I'd better lose some weight.' Of course I wouldn't, it would make me feel quite low and worthless and of course I'd go and eat another 5,000 calories of chocolate and crisps just in order to try and cheer myself up. This partly made me a recluse and other than going to work or football I generally stayed in the house surrounded by unhealthy food keeping myself to myself. Whilst I might have portrayed myself as happy in life I can honestly say now that I wasn't. A very good friend I have met through losing weight said once that when she looked at photographs of herself at her biggest, whilst she was smiling she wasn't really happy at all and at looking at the few photographs there are with me at my biggest I can see that I was the same. Very often if there were photographs being taken I would either be the one taking them or the head at the back hiding behind everyone else.
Over the years, the number of times people have encouraged me to try and lose weight were futile. My mind wasn't buying in to it. My weight loss only occurred once my head had decided I wanted to lose weight, I was doing it for me and what I wanted in life not because someone was telling me to. For me, the straw that broke the camels back (or my epiphany) was the stark realisation that the car crash mentioned in my previous post together with my size at that time could have meant that I could have been dead and this really made me think about my future and to me this really was my wake up call.
I decided I wanted to lose my weight to increase my longevity and to enjoy life to the fullest, spending good quality time with family members and potentially find a loving relationship (I had never had a long term relationship whilst I was overweight). Others lose weight for many reasons, wanting to be more active, for medical reasons (to have an operation or to get pregnant), for family, better role model for their children, weddings/family events, confidence and so on. The only thing is that in my experience gives a person has more chance of successfully losing weight is when they are doing it for themselves and the reasons they believe in and that it is right in their mind. 
Whatever your reasons for losing weight and whatever it is that motivates you, I wish you luck. For me I think you need to be sure in your own mind it is what YOU want to do, you are doing it for YOU, make the time for YOU, enjoy YOUR weight loss journey stay focused. YOU will achieve YOUR goals. 

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Will I have excess skin? Belly's gonna get you!!

On speaking to a lot of people wanting to lose weight, the common concern especially with those wanting to lose large amounts of weight is the fear of excess skin. A lot of you will remember the Reebok advert in the 90's/early 2000's with the beer belly chasing the man down the street and this has stuck with some people.
Belly's gonna get you.
When I was putting the weight on I cannot say that I was conscientious about my skin and the effect my weight may have upon it. Even when I started my weight loss journey I cannot say for sure that I gave much consideration to it or maybe I had subconsciously blocked it out or was just hoping it would shrink with my weight loss. 
When I first started Slimming World I was wearing 70 inch waist trousers and wearing 6 or 7xl shirts and it wasn't as if they were baggy.

70" trousers and 7xl shirt
The first time I ever gave thought to how much skin I might be left with was one evening when I had lost around 13-14 stone. I was laid in bed watching television and Embarrassing Bodies came on. Normally I would not watch this type of programme (I cannot watch the fake injuries in Casualty without feeling ill). However, watch I did and one of the patients was a man who had lost 14 stone cycling to and from work. Sat talking to the doctor he looked fantastic but they asked to remove his shirt so they could see the excess skin. As he did I could feel the blood drain from my face and tears begin to form. As his shirt came off he had roll after roll of excess skin. This guy had done superb in losing his weight but had been left with the skin that was causing him psychological issues. I was in floods of tears, I wanted to lose another 8 stone on top of what this chap had lost, what was I going to look like?? That night I cried myself to sleep. The next day at work I hardly spoke and just concentrated on what I was doing. On the journey home I rang my dad and found myself in tears again as I described what I had seen. I didn't want to continue to lose anymore weight, I wanted to leave my body as it was. I could live with the excess skin I had. My dad listened patiently and when I had finished pouring my heart out he spoke calmly and lovingly saying he would support me with any decision I made but that my body may be different and I may not be left with as much excess skin as the chap on the television. He also encouraged me to speak to others including my sister and Annette my SlimmingWorld consultant and the general opinion was that I was doing great and this should not be a reason for stopping my journey. I was also enjoying the wide variety of food I could eat and still lose weight, was this a valid reason to look to stop?
I found myself scrutinising my body in mirrors, I had been exercising (walking/jogging/swimming) now for a few months and I was now fitting in 54-56 inch waist trousers and 4xl shirts. For the weight I had lost I found myself thinking that my excess skin did not look as bad as I feared, I had a bit of a matrons apron, I could live with that but there was always that niggling doubt that with the additional weight I had to lose would I still end up with the roll after roll?

I never gave any thought to the excess skin
I decided to visit my doctor to see what he could advise. At the appointment I explained to him about the weight I had lost, the amount I was hoping to lose and my fear of excess skin. The doctor listened and said that should I lose the weight and keep it off he would have no hesitation in putting me forward to have the excess skin removed but there was no guarantee that I would be offered the surgery on the NHS. I asked the doctor if there was anything I could do to lessen the amount of excess skin I would have. He gave this some consideration and then said that in view of the weight I had got to that I had stretched the skin in getting to that weight and that as my weight reduced I would be left with excess skin, there might be some elasticity but nothing that would make much difference. Despite being disappointed with the reply from my doctor, there was something in my head that was telling me to continue on my journey and dealing with the issue of the excess skin when I got to my target.
As my weight loss continued and I increased the exercise I was doing I found myself becoming less concerned about the excess skin that I had got. Yes, when I was running in just joggers etc there was the clapping of my thighs but I found that once I had started wearing cycling/compression shorts there was no clapping.
As mentioned in previous blog posts, I reached my target in December 2013 and was now wearing 34-36 inch waist trousers and medium to large tops. I was happy with how my skin was looking, it wasn't perfect, I still had my matrons apron and I had excess skin on my inner thighs but nothing to the extent I had feared. At the time I found my arms were aching after exercise and I made another appointment to see my doctor and whilst waiting for the appointment I spoke to a friend who said that the aching could well be caused by my arms now actually resting in a different position now my body shape had changed. I kept the appointment with the doctors as I wanted a professional opinion and as I walked into the consulting room I could see the doctors jaw drop. He asked me how much weight I had now lost and I explained 22 stone, he asked me how I had lost the weight and I replied Slimming World, "Slimming World" said the doctor as if in disbelief that someone could lose such an amount following a healthy eating plan and I replied "yes doctor, Slimming World, no pills, no magic potions just a healthy balanced eating plan." He then asked me about my excess skin, I removed my top, his jaw appeared to drop again, he said that he could not believe how well I had done with my excess skin. As in the previous appointment he said that if I kept the weight off he would certainly put me forward for the skin removal surgery and I said I would keep considering my options.
As I sit here typing this some two years later, I have kept the weight off, I am still wearing the same size clothing. I still have my matrons apron and the excess skin on my thighs but I am comfortable and can live with these trophies of my weight loss success. Do I think I will ever have skin removal surgery? Never say never but at this time in my life I am very content with what I have got. I am in a very loving relationship and neither one of us is concerned about what excess skin I have. It does not effect me physically or emotionally and I do not find myself hiding away in changing rooms in fear of someone seeing what excess skin I have. I am comfortable laying on I have nothing to be embarrassed about.

Do I think my doctor could have been more supportive? For me, yes I think he could have been. Whilst I appreciate he had got to manage my expectations, I feel he could have said that if I kept up my exercise that there may be some reduction in the amount of the excess skin but he could never give any guarantee of any success. There was a big possibility that I could have left that appointment and given up there and then. I'm so glad I didn't. Being 37 stone might well have seen me to an early grave, no amount of excess skin will.
Is the fear of excess skin a reason to not lose weight? For me it is not but I can appreciate for others it may well be and that all bodies react differently to weight loss and that I could very well have been left with more excess skin than I have. However, without losing the weight I would have never known and I am glad that I continued with my weight loss journey. The guy on television had his surgery and I hope that gave him the closure and satisfaction on his journey.
Not perfect
Belly's gonna get you??? Sorry to disappoint you belly but I'm outrunning you!!

But happy with my excess skin.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

You can't outrun your fork....but at least I can now try

As well as following a healthy eating plan, I wanted to feel the endorphins from exercise. I had loved playing football and cricket in my younger years and I also wanted to ride a bike again. The last time I had rode a bike it was one with suspension and due to my size it wasn't a comfortable ride. As I lost weight I decided that I would take up exercise, little did I realise where this would take me.
Since I achieved my weight loss target I have been a guest speaker at lots of Slimming World groups. I have been asked many questions about exercise in relation to my weight loss and I thought it would be useful to post the questions and my replies. I cannot stress enough that we are all different and our bodies may react differently and therefore you may wish to seek professional advice before embarking on an exercise regime.
Taking a rest from the football aged 22-23.
Getting out the pool on holiday in 2003.

Do you need to exercise to lose weight?

You certainly do not need to exercise in order to lose weight a good healthy balanced diet like Slimming World will help you lose weight. I had lost 9 stone before even attempting any form of exercise, indeed my girlfriend Jen has lost over 10 stone without any exercise.

When is it the right time on my weight loss journey to start exercising?

We are all different and to me it was important to listen to my body. At 37 stone I found it difficult to walk 50 metres without having to stop for breath and continuing. As I started losing weight I found walking got easier, enjoyable, less of a chore and I could walk further before having to stop for breath.

How did you start?

I started with walking further. Where as old me would park as close as possible to where I wanted to go I parked the car further away from the entrance. Also my friend Julie Smith asked me if I would start walking with her at lunchtime. We work next to the canal in Nottingham and so we embarked on walking a couple of miles each day and over time we walked further and quicker. Where as initially we walked 2 miles in about 32 minutes we increased it over time to walking 3 miles in 44 minutes.

How did you decide to increase your exercise?

As mentioned, it was important to listen to my body, if it was tired and my joints were aching I would have a rest or take a more gentle stroll. When I could complete a walk several times without getting too out of breath I would look to either increase the distance or walk more briskly. I also owned an exercise bike which had been doubling as a clothes horse (come on admit it, we're all guilty of that one :o) ) and after a month or so of walking I decided to start using it for its original purpose. Again I started off with doing a gentle ride of no more than 5 minutes every couple of days. After a couple of weeks when I was able to do 5 minutes without feeling any ill effects I increased it to 10 minutes and increased it further once I felt I was comfortable with what I was doing.

How did you start jogging/running?
For me the running started spring 2013,  after I had lost approximately 10 stone, one day whilst out walking. I was doing a 5 miles walk and I had got to a part where I was going downhill. I had music playing through my headphones and Adam and the Ants 'Goody two shoes' started and I remember thinking "this is a really good tune and one you could run to." As the intro continued I felt myself start to jog.....I couldn't believe it....was this really me...I thought 'I know, I'll continue jogging to the next lamppost.' I got to the next lamppost and I was still feeling good, the next challenge was, could I get to the next one? I got to the next one and I had to stop, my heart was pounding and I was sweating (not a pretty sight) but I felt great. I continued to walk the rest of my route. Again it was important to build the jogging up gradually, so I started to run between one set of lampposts and then walk for the next three, run one, walk three and over time when my body felt comfortable I would jog continually for two lampposts and walk the next two. About six weeks after starting jogging I was able to jog a mile without walking or stopping for breath, it wasn't the quickest by any stretch of the imagination but it was jogging all the same and it was a good start.

But surely only running for 2 minutes is a waste of time?
Certainly not, it is important to be patient and build up gradually. Slimming World Body Magic promotes that when you want to earn Body Magic awards you start 15 minutes 4 times a week of something that gets you hot, sweaty and your cheeks blush. So by jogging/running for 2 minutes and then 13 minutes of brisk walking you are on your way to bling (shiny stickers that are awarded for each stage of the Body Magic).

Did you/Do I need to purchase any exercise/running gear when starting?
When setting out on starting exercise there is no reason why you need to purchase any special clothing, comfort is more important. The only thing I would recommend is that you do consider the footwear and ensure it is appropriate for what you are doing. The only item I purchased when starting was comfortable cushioned trainers (these don't have to be expensive) to lessen the impact on my joints whilst walking/jogging. When I started exercising more regularly I did spend money on running/cycling gear. As with most things, it is better to shop around as you can pick up some good bargains, for example the cycling clothing sold by Aldi is a good quality comfortable fit without being overly expensive. Likewise Decathlon and Sports Direct have excellent choices for running gear especially in sales and all of my running trainers are from Sports Direct.

Did exercising have any impact on your weight loss/water retention?
For me, I found that when I increased my exercise intensity my weight losses initially slowed down but then as I continued with that level of exercise my losses increased. Everyone will be different in this respect and likewise it will depend on water retention. With water retention this is the areas around the joints filling with fluid to protect the joints from injury.

Do I need to join a running club or run with another person?
There is certainly no need to have to join a club or run with another individual however, for safety it is always important someone knows where you are and how long you expect to be. I have walked/run solo with just my music for company and I am quite happy pounding the pavement all by myself. I have also walked/run with friends and family members and this too is enjoyable. I often run with my sister and to me our relationship has grown through our enjoyment of running (a bit of sibling rivalry is also fun!). Running clubs are a good way of meeting people with a similar passion and it is always helpful to pick up tips from others. Should you progress to running in organised events it is generally cheaper if you have a running/athletics club affiliation.

When you were out running were you ever taunted and did it put you off?
Unfortunately I was indeed subject to ridicule from others whilst out running, generally these would be brave individuals that would be driving past who would shout an obscene or unsupportive comments. It was quite funny watching their reaction if they had to stop at traffic lights (window wound up tightly, staring straight ahead not daring to look in my direction). Not that I would encourage entering into conversation with these people, if they ever did look at me as I went past I smiled, waved and then laughed. Whilst I appreciate others might be put off by this I used it to my benefit as if challenging myself to be better than them. For anyone else who may suffer ridicule I would suggest just remembering it is you that is doing something positive with your life and those individuals that are taunting must be sad as they have nothing good to feel about in their lives.

What about excess skin and chaffing, any advice?
For me personally I have not suffered much from chaffing but should I have done I would have used Vaseline or some other kind of lubricant prior to running in order to reduce the risk of chaffing. Where I have suffered from chaffing I have used Sudocrem to treat the effected areas. As for the excess skin I use cycling shorts as I find these keep everything comfortable and in place. Prior to wearing these I would be embarrassed as when running I found my excess skin would slap together and make a clapping sound (not the kind of clapping a runner likes to hear). I prefer using Karrimor 3/4 length running trousers as these support most of my muscles and keep the clapping to a minimum.  
As well as running what other exercise do you do?
I enjoy swimming and cycling. Again it was important that when doing these I built these up gradually over time and listening to my body when it was getting tired. I have then incorporated all of these into my holidays so now I can run, swim and do bike rides in excess of 60 miles. I now cycle to work which is a 28 mile round trip, not only is this good for my health it is also saving me petrol and parking fees. I have also started playing 5 aside football again although now I am training for the London Marathon I will not be doing this as often as I do not want to risk injury.

Do you use any special apps/watches to record your workouts and when did you start using these?
When I first started exercising it wasn't about time or distance so initially I didn't bother. When I was running more regularly I downloaded Runkeeper to my IPhone as I found it great for recording what distance I had done and the time I had exercised for. Runkeeper is also good as you can play your music via your phone but you can also program it so that you get interval updates on your progress without having to break your exercise. The only drawback being that the GPS can go a bit awry at times meaning that your workout figures are not correct. Now I exercise and compete in races I have invested in a Tom Tom Multisport watch and this syncs to your phone/computer through an app. The GPS on this is more accurate and therefore more insightful on progress and together with the other functions on the watch I have found that I can look to improve on previous times.

What events have you participated in?
In 2014 I completed 3 sprint triathlons. A sprint triathlon is a 400 metre swim, 20km bike ride and a 5km run. My first was the Ashbourne Sprint Triathlon and this really set my love for doing them. It is set around Ashbourne in Derbyshire and is an indoor pool swim followed by a riding round the Ashbourne area near Carsington Water and the run was along the Tissington Trail. I finished this in a time of 1hr 22mins 35secs.
My next was the Bassetlaw sprint triathlon which again was an indoor swim and a cycle out into the countryside followed by a run of the Worksop area, this one I finished in a time of 1hr 25mins 23secs.
The final sprint triathlon was the Derby City which again was an indoor pool, a ride out of the city and back in followed by two laps of the Moorways sports centre, I was delighted when I finished this in 1hr 19mins 28 secs.
In 2015 I wanted to concentrate on my running and only entered a couple of events, these being the Mansfield 10km in August which I completed in 47min 58secs and the Clowne Half Marathon in November that I completed in 2hr 3mins.
Finishing the Ashborne Sprint Triathlon
Finishing the bike ride in the Derby City Triathlon

Do you feel you still stand out weight wise compared to other runners/triathletes?
I do indeed. I think I will always feel like the overweight guy running. I know that when I have gone to exit the pools when doing the swims on my sprint triathlons I have thought that I must look like the Orca at one of the theme parks in America. The truth is though that I am probably not the heaviest person competing that day but I think it will always feel that way. When I look at my old 70" waist trousers I now think 'how did I fill these?' but likewise when now putting on my 34" waist trousers it is only when they are fastened that I realise I can wear clothes that small.

 Do you think that you will continue with the exercise now you have lost your weight?
Most definitely, exercise is now part of my routine and I think if I stopped I would feel lost. The endorphins exercise gives me is immense and really help me feel good about myself. I'll be honest, I am also scared that if I do not exercise I will gain weight but again I know this is not true as by sticking to a good healthy eating plan like Slimming World there is no reason why I would gain weight.

How do you find time to exercise?
If I can incorporate the exercise into my daily routine I will try to do this so during the longer daylight I will cycle to and from work. If I don't cycle I will try and get out running at least 3 times a week. The runs can vary in time length from 20 minutes to 2 hours. I found it important to work out what worked best for me and try and stick to it as much as possible whether it be in lunchtime at work or in the evening before tea. As I am training for the marathon the runs I will need to do will be longer in distance and duration but I am determined to do these to help see me cross the finish line in April. 

Have you suffered any injuries whilst exercising and has it put you off?
There have been a couple of occasions where I have suffered injuries whilst exercising. The first was when I blacked out having completed an 8 mile walk. I had done the walk with a friend and we returned to their house having completed it. I was stood talking to them in the kitchen when I went all light headed. Instead of sitting down I remained standing until the next thing I knew I was coming round on the kitchen floor, not only was this a shock to me, it was to my friend, her family and their small dogs who I nearly landed on. Looking back, I realise I had done too much too soon and should not have walked the 8 miles straight off, the most I had walked up to this point was probably 5 miles - as I say, lesson up gradually.
The only other major injury I suffered was when cycling to work one morning when I was knocked off by a driver whom did not see me when pulling out of a junction. Thankfully I had half anticipated that they were going to pull out on me and had started to slow down but I could not avoid the collision and ended up going to A&E with a broken rib and bruising to my arm and leg.
Neither of these incidents have made me even question why I am exercising, I love it, as I say the buzz it gives me is amazing and I would miss it if I stopped.
Do I need to join a gym?
I am a member of a gym although with all the other exercise I do it is very rare I use the membership unless it is for a sauna or swim. To exercise you do not need to join a gym and it is all about personal preference. Like me someone might choose to go it alone and just walk/jog/run/cycle in the great outdoors. Other people might choose walking up and down the stairs continually as a form of exercise and others might do bicep curls using tins of beans out of the cupboard. Gyms can be a nice place for socialising but sometimes I think that the socialising can outweigh the exercise and it needs to be a right balance. Most gyms provide a personal trainer at an additional cost and although I have never used one, people might find it useful to have an exercise regime put together for them for a specific event etc.
What food do you eat for exercising?
In no way am I an expert on what foods to eat prior and post exercising. For me I enjoy eating a lot of fruit before exercising especially bananas, raspberries, blueberries and grapes as I find for me they give me a slow burst of energy throughout my exercise. After exercising I enjoy eating pasta and chicken as I find this helps me recover quicker. I am still learning a lot about food and will learn more especially in the build up to the marathon with carb loading etc. With exercise it is important to give the body fuel to burn during exercise and so never exercise on an empty stomach.
The answers to all the above are just my own personal experience and I would always encourage others to get professional advice that will be tailored to their own personal circumstances. As I say, you do not need to exercise to lose weight but should you decide to make sure you enjoy it, do it at your own speed and don't over do it.
If you have any questions about my exercise please do not hesitate to message me through this blog.

Monday, 28 December 2015

My Slimming World journey the highs, the lows

After weighing in at 37 stone I left group and for the first time in many years started to plan my meals and bought my shopping accordingly. Gone were the share sized bag of crisps, the chocolates, the chicken tikka slices and the ready made sandwiches. In came the healthy stir frys, jacket potatoes with homemade chilli con carne, proper cooked dinners all using the Slimming World principles.

A couple of meals from my first week.

In my first week I really began to discover my love for cooking and I never found myself hungry. This was not a diet, this was a healthy eating plan, I was never going hungry, my plates were always full at the start of meals and empty at the end.

After my first week on plan it was time to get weighed. I returned to group, I knew I had eaten well but I didn't know what to expect on the scales. I stepped up and watched the numbers climb. I was hoping for a loss and you can imagine my surprise and delight when the scales read 35st12lbs. I had lost 16lbs in my first week!!!!! I felt that I could climb a mountain, I had earnt my first 2 awards for my 1/2 and 1 stone awards. However, even if it had been 8, 4 or 2lbs, it was something that showed me that if I stuck to the Slimming World plan I could lose weight whilst still eating full plates of food.

Over the following months my weight losses continued ranging from 11lbs to 1/2lb meaning that most weeks I had lost the most in our group and I would be awarded 'Slimmer of the Week'. My lovely fellow Slimming World members would be very incredibly supportive and jokingly ask what I would like in the slimmer of the week basket the following week.

By Christmas 2012 I had lost around 7 stone and I even lost weight over Christmas and New Year. On returning to work a colleague asked if I would accompany her walking at lunchtimes. We work next to the canal in Nottingham and so we would walk 2-3 miles each lunchtime. I had started to exercise again, but more about that in my next blog post.

In March 2013 it was competition time in group and for the first time I was awarded the Greatest Loser as the member with the highest weight loss in the group I attended.
Greatest Loser 2013
In the April I had my first ever gain. My beloved Mansfield Town Football Club won promotion back to the football league and I allowed myself to go out drinking. I avoided the obligatory kebab or curry following the drinks but I had not planned my meals for the next day and so whilst not eating rubbish I didn't have full plates of healthy food. It told on me the following Wednesday when the scales showed I had gained 1/2lb. Was I jeered, was I told I was a disgrace to Slimming World?? no I was not I was given the support and told that life was for living and that no one was going to judge me for a gain. The 1/2lb was gone the next week, so long as I was mindful, I could gain weight one week, there was no reason why I could not lose it the following.

By June 2013 I had lost around 14 stone but I had the first major doubts about my journey and whether I wanted to continue with my weight loss. I was laid in bed one evening watching telly when the programme 'Embarrassing Bodies' came on. A patient went into the surgery and he too had lost 14 stone although he had lost his through cycling to and from work. He looked fantastic but then he took off his shirt and had roll after roll of excess skin. I found myself in floods of tears, I had a lot more to lose, what was my excess skin going to look like??  The next evening I spoke to my family again and expressed my fears, as ever they were to be my rock and voices of reason, I might not end up with so much excess skin, there was no reason why my weight loss could not continue. I will cover the issue of excess skin in a later blog post.

In July I had another non-scales victory, I had agreed to fly to Malta to see Mansfield Town on their pre-season tour. For years when I was able to fly I had always had to suffer the embarrassment of having to ask for a seatbelt extension. I boarded the plane and took my seat, I pulled the seatbelt to the very end and tried to fasten it. The ends touched but in the position I was in would not fasten. I turned, I twisted, I breathed in and pulled...CLICK!!! the seatbelt had fastened, I hadn't needed to call the stewardess for an extension.

I continued to lose the weight and in the October I went on a family holiday with my sister and her family. Again I boarded the plane and got ready to face the seatbelt. I pulled it to the end and pulled the two parts was too loose, I had to ask my sister how you tightened them....I then had to have the obligatory selfie.
No extension required
On the return from the holiday we visited Thorpe Park. The last time I had visited a theme park I had queued for 2 hours to get on Nemesis at Alton Towers only to find out that I was too big to fit in the seats and I was asked to leave the ride. This time there was no problem as I went on all the rides making the biggest screams and the biggest smiles for the camera.
The next big milestone came  on 05 December 2013, I hit the target I had set for myself the day I joined Slimming World. I stepped on the scales on they stopped on 15 stone....I had done it, in 15 months I had lost 22 stone, I could not have been happier and the cheers it got from my fellow members was humbling.
Over the next few months I lost a further half a stone and in March 2014 I was crowned Greatest Loser in my group. Annette, my consultant, said she would like to enter me for the national competition. I was shocked and honoured to be invited to a ceremony at Kensington Rooftop Gardens in London where I met 9 other super slimmers and between us we had lost over 172 stone. I was therefore shocked and humbled to be crowned Slimming Worlds Greatest Loser 2014 and was presented to the national media.
Greatest Loser 2014
Being awarded the title has given me many wonderful opportunities from sharing a stage with Peter Andre (who is a very genuine and sincere person) when he presented the Slimming World Awards 2015 to being asked to visit Slimming World groups up and down the country. I find visiting the groups a privilege and it is interesting to hear other peoples stories and reasons for joining. The one thing we all have in common is that we have all took the brave decision to step over the threshold into a Slimming World group and got a warm, friendly welcome and the support to give us the tools to lose weight successfully.

Whilst I have achieved my target my Slimming World Journey is far from over. I still attend group each week and some weeks I gain and some weeks I lose but one thing I know, I'll never be 37 stone again.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

How did I get here?

I was always a chunky kid when I was growing up but I always felt I was happy. As happens, being the big sized chap meant that I ended up being put in goal with the statement "you may as well go in net, you fill most of it." Football and cricket with the local kids were as close to exercising as I got. As for running, like others I had to do cross country at school but I would always look to get out of it with some forgotten kit or injury.

It wasn't that I particularly ate rubbish all the time and my parents were always mindful of giving me a healthy balanced diet, just that what they didn't see, didn't hurt them. I had paper rounds which would pay for additional crisps and chocolate and so my weight was in my own hands. I started work and got more income which as I got older meant I could go out into town with friends drinking. My weight with the alcohol increased but I never took any notice even after a medical for one job where the physician described me as morbidly obese.

I was still playing 5 aside and 11 aside football with friends even if the team I was playing for had to get a XXXL shirt for me to wear. Whilst the majority of time I was played in net, I did play some games as an outfield player but regardless of what position you could see the opposition laughing at my size.
Aged 23, me filling the goal at a tournament in London.

At the age of 25 I was devastated as my mum was first diagnosed and then died from pancreatic cancer. I will over time mention the dreaded 'C' word in future blogs as part of my reason for running the London Marathon is to raise vital funds for Cancer Research UK.

Apart from a short period of time where I was using a gym 5 times a week, over the next 16 years my weight continued to increase and my time playing any sport ceased. I had been to see my GP to discuss my weight but he just spoke about carbs and protein and I left more confused and continued to put on the pounds. I had not been on scales in many a year and had no idea of what I weighed but I was up to 6XL shirts and a 70" waist. I was struggling to walk 50 metres and had to stop for breath when I did, something had to give!
Me at my 40th birthday party

The straw that broke the camels back happened in August 2012 when travelling to work one morning. I was travelling through Nottingham when a car came speeding through a junction without giving way and smashed into the offside rear quarter of my car causing my car to spin 180 degrees before coming to a stop. The fuzziness in my head cleared just in time to see the driver of the other vehicle speed off, I then realised a had got blood coming down my face from a cut on my forehead. I called the police and paramedics were despatched and I was checked over. Thankfully my vital signs were all good and although the car was to be a write off, I wasn't.

Over the next few days, I gave some serious consideration as to had the accident been more serious what could the implications have been. If they needed to, could the paramedics have got in the car to work on me, could they have easily got me out of the car, would they have known to have sent an ambulance with a tailgate lift in order to get me in? You hear about the 'golden hour' whereby if they can get you to hospital within an hour of the accident your chances of survival increase. The stark realisation to these questions was that they would have struggled. If I was ever going to do anything about my weight, it needed to be now.

I spoke to family and friends and admitted I needed help and I discussed the various weight loss organisations with my step mum Jane. She had done Slimming World previously and said that she would rejoin in order to support me so on 12 September 2012 I took my first steps into a Slimming World group. I was met by the consultant Annette Towle who came bounding over to welcome me and give me the new member talk. She explained about the Slimming World Extra Easy plan and the importance of following the plan. When she asked me about foods I liked I said the usual bloke type things of chips, curries, cooked breakfasts etc and when she explained I could still have all these on Slimming World I felt my bum sink deeper into the chair. I then joined the image therapy session (it was nothing like Marjory Daws of Little Britain) and realised that this too could give me tips on my weight loss journey. People shared recipes and ideas or if something had caused them to gain weight that week, the protectors that could have helped them to avoid the gain.

It was then the time to face the dreaded scales. As mentioned I had no idea what I weighed, Jane had already checked with Annette that her scales could cope with someone who was morbidly obese. In my bravado I had tried to convince myself that the scales would read about 28 stone....I stepped up and the figures started to form 26, 27, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36......they had to stop at some point surely....they did, the scales read 37 STONE, I was mortified. Annette could see the hurt and disappointment in my face, she just looked up at me standing there and said "Don't worry chap, you can do this."

My Slimming World journey had begun and in my next blog posts I will talk about that journey, the highs, the lows and how my love for exercise began.