47-year-old Phil Kayes has just been crowned Slimming World’s Greatest Loser 2020, after losing a whopping 21 stone.
And that’s not the only massive achievement he’s made recently, having also found love and even beaten coronavirus.
Phil’s transformation began when he was warned by doctors that his size was putting such a strain on his health he would be lucky to reach the age of 40.
He weighed 37st 2.5lbs at his biggest – but has now managed to cut to an impressive 15st 6lbs in just three years.
Phil said he was spurred into action after his mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer – deciding he wanted to be as healthy as he could.
He then embarked on his weight loss journey, during which met partner Nicole Mulholland.
Phil said he had previously resigned himself to ‘dying alone’ – but credits his slim size with helping him find love.
The civil servant, from County Down, Northern Ireland, also believes his weight loss may have saved his life after he caught COVID-19.
He added that his survival was a ‘timely reminder’ how important his health is.
Phil said: ‘My size meant that my life became increasingly insular and I made up a variety of excuses not to go out.
‘I’d avoid gatherings like parties and weddings because I just felt so uncomfortable. I knew I wouldn’t fit into a plane seat so I never travelled, even though I really wanted to.
‘Apart from my job as a civil servant, I didn’t really do anything except hide away and eat. It was a very lonely time.’
At his heaviest, Phil suffered a string of other health issues including pressure on his knees and sleep apnoea.
He struggled to buy clothes due to his size, which was XXXXXXXXL in shirts and 68in waist in trousers.
But his main worry was that, should he die in his sleep, his body couldn’t be removed as he lived on the third floor of his parents’ house.
Phil then realised he had to do something about his weight when his mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
It was then that he joined Slimming World, and despite being nervous about weigh-ins and the food plan, he has had great success.
Breakfast – sausage roll or a sausage bap with cheese and ketchup. Full fat latte or cappuccino with added sugar.
Lunch – tinned soup with 3-4 rounds of white bread, large bag of crisps and a chocolate bar or chips with cheese and lots of sauce.
Dinner – large supermarket pizza, crisps and chocolate or a takeaway.
Evening – multipack crisps, jumbo bar of chocolate, family bag of sweets, doughnuts, biscuits.
Breakfast – bran flakes or reduced-sugar muesli with fat-free yoghurt and frozen berries. Americano coffee with skimmed milk.
Mid-morning – fruit.
Lunch – leftovers from a home-cooked meal the night before or a pasta dish and some fruit.
Dinner – chicken or salmon with Slimming World chips or potatoes with lots of fresh veg from the allotment.
Evening – a Slimming World Hi-Fi bar.
He said: ‘Mum was facing her fourth cancer battle which sadly turned out to be her last.
‘The news sort of spurred me into action and I knew this time I had to try and be as healthy as I could – not just for her but for me as well.
‘I was also worried that if my mum did pass away, I wouldn’t be able to be one of her pallbearers, which was heartbreaking.
‘She died in October 2017, by which point I’d lost 5st. I know she’d be really proud if she could see me now – more than 21st lighter.’
As with any story of weight loss, the biggest positive isn’t simply the fact that someone has lost weight, but the confidence and independence they can get as a result.
For Phil, one big plus was taking control of his health and becoming active. He says he is delighted to now be able to go on bike rides and walk without pain.
He said: ‘Years of being overweight really took its toll on my knees and I used to take medication daily to manage the pain.
‘I will still need a knee replacement at some stage, but I have certainly delayed the inevitable and made the operation itself more likely to be successful.
‘When I was 37st, my doctor told me it was too risky for me to have surgery because calculating the anaesthetic needed for someone my size was so tricky.
‘Now I’ve started cycling again, I can walk without getting out of breath and I also enjoy yoga.
‘It’s a completely different life to the one I had before – one that is full of opportunities, friends and adventures.’
Phil also thinks his thinner size could have helped him beat what he thought was coronavirus.
He said that, while it was unpleasant and he was knocked off his feet, he’s not sure he would have survived if he hadn’t lost weight.
But, most importantly for Phil, was meeting Nicole, who he found through an online dating app.
‘When I was bigger I couldn’t imagine ever finding love and felt resigned to dying alone,’ he said.
‘Since meeting we’ve moved in together, swam in the Mediterranean Sea, been on a walking tour of Berlin and I’ve learned to drive.’
Through Slimming World Phil has changed his life, and says he ‘couldn’t be without’ the groups (which he now attends online) and the food plans.
‘It felt like a bit of a lightbulb moment when I realised losing weight didn’t have to mean starving yourself,’ he said.
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