A Leeds man who lost more than half his body weight during a slimming campaign met a former England footballer at the semi-finals of a national competition.
Jason Mills, 44, was 30st 13lbs when he began dieting with Churwell Slimming World group – but with help shed 16st 13.5lbs.
Now 13st 13.5lbs, he was congratulated by John Barnes as one of 43 men to win a place at the semi-finals of Slimming World’s Man of the Year 2018.
But Mr Mills believes it can be hard for men to admit that they need help to lose weight – and more difficult to join slimming clubs.
“I’m so glad I had the courage to walk through those doors,” he said. “In fact, I haven’t looked back since.”
He added: “I did worry that I’d be the only bloke in the room, I wasn’t though, and, even if I ever was, it wouldn’t matter because everyone is there for the same reason and it’s such a supportive and friendly environment. All the hints, tips and recipes you pick up in group are really helpful too.
“Losing weight has even encouraged me to think about how active I am too, so I’ve taken up running. I started with small Park Runs then built up to the Leeds 10k and more recently I ran the Pontefract Half Marathon. My aim is to now complete a full marathon.”
He said that simple changes such as using low-calorie cooking spray instead of olive oil or butter, and trimming the fat off meat, has helped him shed the pounds. But he eats similar food to before his diet started – steak and chips, cooked breakfasts and curries.
Mr Barnes, who has now hung up his football boots to become a successful pundit, was blown away by the achievements of the men he met at the competition.
He said: “It was a pleasure to meet Jason – I can’t believe his transformation, he doesn’t look like the same bloke.”
Michelle Carter, who runs the Churwell group at St Peter’s Church, said Mr Mills was “living proof “that slimming clubs are not just female-only zones.