Across the dinner table, my wife, Bev, smiled at me as we finished up the delicious three-course meal she’d made for my 47th birthday. She poured us both a glass of Prosecco for a toast and I held up my glass, smiling back. ‘Just look at us, we’re like new people,’ I said. It was no exaggeration – a year before I’d been 9½st heavier and couldn’t have imagined feeling this good. And not only had Bev surprised me with an amazing birthday spread, she’d made sure all of it was on plan, knowing how much my weight loss meant to me. I’d been a company mechanic with the Royal Engineers until 1995 and it was after leaving the Army that my weight started creeping up.
Weight Loss At Home Photo Gallery
I enjoyed spending time in the kitchen, so I tended to cook for both of us – often something like pasta or a jambalaya using a jar of ready-made sauce. Then we’d sit down after dinner with a few glasses of white wine, a bag of crisps and some chocolate. Or if I didn’t fancy cooking, we’d have an Indian takeaway instead. My new job with a large car supermarket was less physical than army life, too, and I got bigger so gradually that it never really crossed my mind to do anything about it. Then, in May 2016, Bev and I went on holiday to the Canary Islands and hired bikes to ride along the Fuerteventura coast. We both struggled so much to make it up the hills, we probably spent more time pushing the bikes than we did riding them. After we got home, Bev was sitting in the living room uploading our holiday photos onto Facebook, when she suddenly called me over.
‘Mark, I can hardly bear to look at these,’ she said. ‘I have to do something about my weight.’ When I looked at the pictures it was my turn to feel aghast – not at Bev, who still looked gorgeous in my eyes, but at my own increasing size. No wonder those hills had been a challenge – I’d got so big I was unrecognisable from the fit military man I’d once been. One photo showed me side-on in an orange T-shirt, my stomach in profile. Bev saw the dismay on my face. ‘My friend at work has done so well at Slimming World,’ she said, ‘I’m going to give it a try.’ I knew what she was saying and nodded. ‘I’ll come with you,’ I said, adding, ‘but only so you don’t have to go on your own!’
It wasn’t the first time she’d suggested Slimming World. I’d kicked against the thought of it for months, even to the point where I’d hidden a leaflet that had come through our front door before Bev could see it and raise the subject again. I have Type 1 diabetes and thought it would make any kind of dieting impossible, as I had to be exact about the amount of carbs I ate to keep my blood sugar at a manageable level. But being overweight was clearly affecting my health – I took blood pressure pills, cholesterol pills, and larger and larger daily doses of insulin. I worried that it wasn’t fair on Bev, either – if I kept getting bigger, I feared I’d be unable to change my own socks or tie my shoelaces. Not exactly romantic! Maybe it was time to try something new. I went along to group with no real expectations and when I stepped on the scales, my eyes widened as they read 22st 5lbs. I really had no idea I’d gained quite so much since my army days. As usual, I covered my embarrassment with a joke.
‘That’s actually my ideal weight, it’s just that I’m not the ideal height – I should be 8ft 9ins!’ I said to Ann, our Consultant. The moment Bev and I got home, I opened the cupboards and announced: ‘We’re getting rid of all this!’ We filled a black bin bag with crisps, chocolate, ready-made sauces and other high-Syn foods from our cupboards, fridge and freezer. Then we restocked with all the healthier choices from our Food Optimising book. I threw my heart and soul into the plan and we spent time together choosing recipes and deciding what to buy at the supermarket. I discovered I could make sauces with quark instead of cream and got a taste for all kinds of grilled fish, including ones I’d never tried before, such as pollock, served with lots of vegetables stir-fried in lowcalorie cooking spray. And we could still have our favourites – a lean fillet steak with salad, a Slimming World curry, and I even found a Food Optimising recipe for my favourite dish, jambalaya, which tasted just as good as the high-Syn ones I’d loved before. We were both enjoying our food and it certainly seemed to be working.
I lost 8lbs in my first week, then 6lbs the week after, then 8lbs before my weight loss got into a more steady rhythm. At first I stayed off the wine as I knew it was a big temptation for me, then, as I got into a healthier new groove, I had the odd glass again using my Syns. Six weeks after we’d joined Slimming World, already 2st 8½lbs lighter, I was raising a glass at the wedding of Bev’s niece, Victoria. We’d both bought smart outfits for the occasion and our family noticed the difference straight away – not just in the way we looked, but in how happy and relaxed we were. We got so many compliments, it started to get a bit embarrassing! Inspired by how I’d looked in those wedding photos, I bought myself a new red T-shirt. The hanger had said it was a large, but when I got it home it was actually a medium. I pulled it on, and we both fell about. It was skin tight! Still, I didn’t mind. At my biggest I’d worn XXXL T-shirts and my body had changed so much already, I was able to believe that one day I might be a medium…so I hung it in the wardrobe to spur me on. Full of energy, I’d started going running four times a week, and bought weights and a machine for stomach exercises. Our Newfoundland dog, Millie, couldn’t believe her luck as her walks got brisker by the day.
Then, in September, we returned to the Canaries on an all-inclusive holiday. Determined not to gain any of the weight back, we used our Food Optimising knowledge to make the healthiest choices in the buffet restaurant, joined in the hotel’s aqua aerobics class every day, and I went for a run every other day. When we got back, I’d lost 5lbs, and that red T-shirt fitted perfectly! That gave me an idea. ‘I’m going to give away all my old clothes,’ I told Bev. ‘I’m never going to need them again anyway.’ I put the seats down in the car, loaded it with everything that no longer fit me and pulled up outside a charity for the homeless in Leeds. When I opened the boot, the staff member who’d come to help me unload burst out laughing. There were so many clothes! I started restocking my wardrobe with slim-fit suits and jeans, and even a few designer brands like Diesel, Armani and Hugo Boss. Spending money on nice clothes seemed worth it now I felt so good in them – especially when I got dressed up for dates with Bev and saw her face light up. Once I’d lost 9st and was nearly at my target, I realised something remarkable. Millie, our dog, weighs 9st…I’d lost an entire Newfoundland’s worth of weight! My GP is really pleased, and Bev is thrilled to have lost almost 3st, too. Sharing this experience with her has been really special and it’s changed her life as well as mine – for a start, she’s got out of helping me with my socks! Seriously, though, I owe everything to her. Without my amazing wife, I would never have taken that first step to becoming the man I am today.
We’d had a few scares over the years with Mark’s health, because the bigger he got, the more insulin he needed to manage his diabetes. So I was relieved when he finally agreed to join Slimming World with me and we both realised that Food Optimising could work alongside his diabetes management. After losing 8lbs in week one, Mark’s competitive nature kicked in and he won Slimmer of the Week over and over. I was losing a couple of pounds each week, which I was generally really happy with. I did joke, though, that I’d go to group on my own if he kept showing me up! Occasionally, I’d get frustrated that my weight loss was slower; Mark was great during those times. He’d tell me I was doing brilliantly, that each week I was getting closer to where I wanted to be. And he was right – I was. I went from 12st 3lbs to 9st 4lbs, and I’m the slimmest and fittest I’ve been in years. Mark looks like a completely different person. While he was always a happy chappy and never lacked confidence on the outside, I can tell how much better he feels. I’ll catch him looking in the mirror, and it’s not vanity – I think he still finds it hard to believe that handsome man is really him. He’s changed on the inside, too. He’s so full of energy he thinks nothing of going for a run, he needs 70 per cent less insulin, and his doctor has taken him off his daily cholesterol and blood pressure pills. As we toasted Mark’s 47th birthday, I smiled because I was thinking about what a changed couple we are. We’ve done this together, with the help of our amazing Slimming World groups, and it’s definitely brought us closer. I may have been the one who started things off, but Mark has been my rock when I might easily have given up on my own weight loss. We make a very good team!