When sharp pains shot through John Cunningham’s chest, he immediately feared the worst.
Aged just 44, but well aware he was carrying too much weight, he was worried he was having a heart attack and headed straight for his local A&E.
Thankfully, doctors discovered it wasn’t coronary related. He was diagnosed with gallstones which needed surgery – but it was the wake-up call he needed to change his life.
Now, after losing a staggering 10st 4.5lb, the dad of one is embracing a new healthier life.
John, now 46, says: “When I felt the pains in my chest, I knew something had to change.
“I was worried the bad choices that had led to me putting on so much weight had finally taken their toll. When you feel that your weight is a life-threatening issue, that’s a very scary feeling.”
Wife Gayle, 44, and daughter Tegan, 13, encouraged John’s lifestyle changes, but he was still nervous walking through the doors of his local Slimming World group for the first time at the end of December 2016.
Heartened to find the encouragement and support he’d been hoping for, he lost 5.5lb in his first week by following the Food Optimising plan, enjoying lots of protein-rich foods such as chicken and lean beef, and increasing his intake of fruit and vegetables.
John says: “I was really worried about being the only man at my group, but I needn’t have been concerned.
“I was the only man for a couple of weeks, but then some other blokes joined.
“My sister-in-law was already a member of the group, so I had her support, and I soon got to know the other members too.
“The pounds continued to come off steadily and when I could feel a difference in my clothes, there was no way I was going to stop.”
John, from Polbeth, West Lothian, has now trimmed down from 22st 2.5lb to just 11st 12lb.
He adds: “The group was a game-changer for me. I picked up so many tips and recipes from other members, and if I was having a bad week, they’d pick me right up again and give me all the motivation I needed to keep going.”
For years, John’s diet had consisted of grab-and-go food from burger vans and takeaways while working as a lorry driver. Things didn’t change when he moved to his current job as a transport manager for a skip-hire company.
Every day he’d eat burgers, pizza and chips, all washed down with litres of sugar-loaded fizzy drinks.
When bosses bought him a special re-enforced chair for his work, he tried to laugh it off. “They told me it was so I’d be comfortable,” says John.
“But the box the chair came in advertised that it could take up to 23st so I knew why it had really been brought in.”
John hated feeling sluggish and not liking what he saw in the mirror, but most of all he hated
not being able to be the kind of dad he wanted to be.
He adds: “Tegan was always asking me to go and kick a ball with her or to take her swimming, and I’d constantly make excuses. Not because I didn’t want to – but because I didn’t have the energy.
“Occasionally I’d take her swimming, but I’d drive for miles to a pool out of our local area so that no one would know me.
“And once I was in the water, I’d stay there – I didn’t want anyone to see me.
“It was horrible feeling so ashamed all the time and so guilty because I wasn’t being as active with
my daughter as I’d have liked.”
These days, it’s a different story. Now a keen cyclist who will often head off for a 20-mile ride after work, John says Tegan struggles to keep up with him now.
He smiles: “She’ll moan at me and ask, ‘how far are we going today, Dad?’ It’s funny to think how different things were. I’ll never go back to being that 22st guy.
“I like this new guy – I like this new dad far too much.
“Simple things like clothes shopping are a pleasure now. I’d never try anything on in a shop before – I was a 46in waist and I was too embarrassed. I’d buy everything online. Now I’m a 32in waist and I can go into any shop I want.”
John says joining Slimming World has truly made him enjoy food. Instead of eating high-fat, high-sugar junk that wouldn’t satisfy him, he stays fuller for longer cooking healthy meals the whole family can enjoy, such as spaghetti bolognese or a Chinese dish called Shanghai Chicken.
Instead of two rolls with sausages for breakfast, he enjoys porridge oats soaked overnight in low-fat yogurt and piled high with delicious berries.
Multiple sandwiches at lunch have been replaced with chicken salad, and instead of a large pizza at night, he’ll have grilled chicken or a salmon fillet with lots of vegetables and potatoes.
He adds: “Gayle has helped so much by cooking Slimming World recipes for the family, and I cook too at weekends whereas I’d never have done that before.
“I’d love more men to join Slimming World as I’ve done. It’s a decision you’ll never regret – and I’m the proof that it’s not just for women.”
Weight before: 22st 2.5lbs
Weight now: 11st 12lbs
Size before: 46in waist
Size now: 32in waist
Weight lost: 10st 4.5lbs
Breakfast: Two sausage rolls
Lunch: Multiple sandwiches
Dinner: Large pizza
Breakfast: Porridge oats with low-fat yoghurt and berries
Lunch: Chicken salad
Dinner: Grilled chicked or salmon with vegetables
- To find your nearest group, visit slimmingworld.co.uk or call 0344 897 8000.