How Darren did it!
After years of hiding his body away, the idea of a lads’ holiday filled Darren Spencer with dread. Now 7st 11lbs* lighter, he's feeling more confident than ever.
October 2015 20st
I was sitting at the kitchen table chatting with my mates, when the subject turned to something that sent a shiver down my spine – holidays. ‘We should all go to Spain next summer,’ said one of the lads. ‘Get a bit of sunshine… It’ll be a laugh!’ ‘Great, sounds like fun,’ I replied. But my enthusiastic smile was entirely fake.
I’d been at university for two years and so far hadn’t learnt how to cook and lived on takeaways. Deep down, though, I knew that my eating habits weren’t doing my body any good. And now that I was training to be a nurse, I knew all about the risks associated with carrying on getting bigger and bigger. I also knew that the prospect of jetting off for a holiday should have been an exciting one. Instead, all I could think was, ‘Hmm…no thanks!’
January 2016 21st 2lbs
The last few months had been tough. One week on placement I was shadowing a district nurse and I could tell she was concerned about my size. Eventually, as we were coming off a shift one day, she asked: ‘How would you feel if a patient had a cardiac arrest and you couldn’t run across the ward quickly enough to help them?’ I was too shocked to reply.
I went to the student union where I ended up crying in front of one of the counsellors. I spoke to her for ages, then realised I was nearly two hours late for my shift at the local supermarket. My manager, Debbie, was going to kill me!
I hurried there, eyes still red and puffy. Instead of being angry, Debbie took one look at me and said, ‘You’ve been crying. What’s wrong?’. I explained everything, including what the district nurse had said to me earlier that day. ‘I think I might be able to help,’ she said.
The next day she brought in a bag full of Slimming World books and magazines. She explained how she’d lost a few stones by Food Optimising and thought it might be something I could try, too.
Later that week I went along to my first Slimming World group. I walked in, feeling really nervous and not knowing what to expect. ‘I’m Sam, the Consultant,’ she smiled, taking me over to the new members’ area. It was a simple gesture that instantly put me at ease.
Then she explained Food Optimising and how I could still enjoy the food I loved by making a few simple changes and keeping track of Syns. I came away feeling determined to put my new food learning into action!
With some easy-to-follow recipes to hand, I soon grew more confident in the kitchen. After that week, whenever my uni mates suggested a takeaway, I had an alternative to try.
In my first week I lost 6lbs and, by the end of my first three weeks, I’d lost a stone and was on a roll.
March 2016 18st 4lbs
Back home for Easter, I could see from Mum and Dad’s faces that they were thrilled with the change in me. In fact, Mum was so impressed she asked if she could come along to group with me.
Dad had encouraged me by offering to lose pounds of a different sort – giving me £2 for every pound I lost! I was aiming to get my 3st award before I went back to university and, with a couple of weeks still to go, I came back from group waving it triumphantly. When Dad saw the award, he handed me £84 for losing the 42lbs since joining group.
June 2016 15st 10lbs
Back at uni, I’d returned to Sam’s group. I hadn’t set a target weight and was happy aiming for a few pounds at a time. By June, my nurse’s uniform was so baggy it was hanging off me.
August 2016 14st 4½lbs
Given how dubious I’d been about a sunshine holiday when my mates had suggested one less than a year ago, I was surprised at how much I’d looked forward to our family getaway to Portugal. And now here I was, running along the golden sand as my six-year-old niece, Caitlin, scampered ahead of me, and not feeling out of breath at all.
I’d started going to the gym every few days in the weeks leading up to our holiday, running on the treadmill, and I could now do a few miles quite easily.
At nearly 7st lighter, getting active seemed so much more enjoyable than it had before, and I loved being able to play with my niece without having to take time out to recover.
I’d used the money Dad had given me for losing my first 3st to buy new summer clothes for our trip. After years of hiding my body away, now I wasn’t self-conscious about it at all. In fact, I was so happy with the way I looked, I kept taking selfies and posting them on Facebook.
January 2017 12st 13lbs
A year and five days on from my first group, I smashed my target of 13st 2lbs, weighing in at 12st 13lbs – and at the very same weigh-in, Mum found out she’d lost 2st. I was so proud of both of us and how far we’d come on our slimming journey.
Buttoning myself into 32in-waist jeans instead of my old 46ins ones – yes, I’d lost 14ins! – I felt like a new man.
Having qualified as a nurse, I noticed the difference most at work. I had much more energy for running around the wards and knew I’d be able to move just as fast as anyone else in an emergency. Although the district nurse’s words hurt me at the time, I’m grateful to her for waking me up to my situation.
July 2017 13st 5lbs
I’m still at target and go to Sam’s Slimming World group whenever I can. I’m also helping to raise money for a member’s grandson who has neuroblastoma by running a 5K inflatable obstacle course – who’d have thought I’d be doing that a year ago? I can’t thank Debbie enough for suggesting I join Slimming World, or Sam for continually spurring me on. Thanks to them I’ve not only found the confidence to become a qualified nurse, I feel like I’m aceing life in my 20s, too.
Darren's day on a plate
Breakfast Large bowl of sugary cereal
Morning snacks Chicken and bacon sandwich, large bag of crisps, full-sugar cola
Lunch Fried chicken and hash brown burger, fries and full-sugar cola
Afternoon snacks Sausage roll and chocolate bar
Dinner Microwave burger or takeaway pizza
Breakfast Lean bacon and mushroom omelette
Lunch Slimming World-style chicken nuggets or drumsticks with pasta and sauce
Snacks Slimming World mini quiches made with cottage cheese, and a 16g bag of Walkers Quavers (4½ Syns)
Dinner Nacho-style feast or low-Syn chicken Kiev with Speed veg, diet cola, and a 4½ Syn Nestlé Milkybar Mousse (which I freeze so it tastes like ice cream)
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose
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