A couple who were nearly too fat to fly off on their dream holiday have lost nearly 15st to win a prize for slimming couple of the year.
Andrew and Paula Butler almost had to abandon their trip to Dubai when they both struggled to fasten their seat belts on the plane.
Humiliated, the couple pledged to avoid flying again until they’d lost weight – and now they’re nearly 15st lighter and planning a water-sports holiday for their next trip.
Not only have they lost more than seven stone each, the pair have also been named as Slimming World’s Couple of the Year 2016 after shedding the stones.
Andrew, 37, said: “We worked really hard to save the money for the trip to Dubai, but Paula told me that she’d get off the flight rather than have to ask for an extension for her seat belt.
“We both only just managed to make our belts close but we promised ourselves we wouldn’t set foot on another plane until we’d lost weight.
“When we saw the photos from that holiday it made us even more determined to make a change.”
True to their word, the couple changed their ways straight away, and Andrew, who is 6ft 4in, achieved his target weight in just seven months, dropping more than 7st to 15st 4lb.
Paula, who has 22-year-old twin sons from a previous relationship, didn’t hang around with the weight loss either and went down from nearly 21st to a lean 13st 11lb.
Andrew, a machine feeder for an engineering firm, gained 6st in just three years after quitting smoking in 2012 and found even walking short distances a struggle.
Paula, who is 6ft tall, had battled with her weight since school and suffered with chronic asthma and painful knees.
The couple, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, have been married since 2005 and repeatedly tried to slim down without success, even making themselves ill following a no-carb plan.
Then, Paula’s sister Diane introduced the pair to Slimming World, and they joined in January 2015, two months after the trip to Dubai.
Andrew said: “Walking into the group was quite a daunting prospect, especially for me because I thought I’d be the only man.
“Our biggest fear was that we’d be judged by the other people in the group, but Diane assured us that everyone there would be in the same boat.
“Within a few weeks we felt completely relaxed and we’ve made so many friends including our consultant Sue – in fact, our group’s more like a family.
“Even now we’ve reached our target weights we’re still there every week, we wouldn’t want to miss it.”
Andrew and Paula started following the weight loss group’s healthy eating plan and swapped takeaways for home cooked meals.
Now, lunch is a healthy baked potato and in between meals the pair choose low-fat yoghurt or a piece of fruit.
Andrew, originally from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, said: “We love that we never have to feel hungry, unlike other weight loss plans we’ve followed.
“Food Optimising has really educated us about food too, so we think more about the choices we’re making.
“We still have a lot of the same meals, like spaghetti bolognese, but now we buy lean minced beef and we make the sauce from scratch using passata and veg.”
The pair have also become much more active, and even taken up roller-skating to keep fit.
Andrew can now complete his walk to work in 20 minutes rather than the 45 minutes it used to take, and Paula walks the dogs twice a day.
It’s not only Paula’s weight that’s changed – the mother-of-two also had her waist length hair cropped short for charity after Diane passed away from leukemia in April 2015.
Paula, who is training to work in holistic therapy said: “After losing Diane I decided to donate my hair to the Little Princess Trust and it made three wigs for leukemia patients.
“Losing Diane could have thrown us off track with our weight loss, yet it made us want to finish our journey more than ever – we know she’d be so proud of what we’ve achieved.
“Doing this journey together and having each other’s support has been so important for us and it’s been amazing to see the changes in each other as well as ourselves.”
Now, the newly-slim couple are looking forward to doing so much more together, without their size stopping them.
Paula said: “We’ve always avoided theme parks because we worried we’d be too big for the rides and we’ve always wanted to try watersports on holiday, too.
“Now we can do all of those things without fear – and we can’t wait to get started.”
Height: 6ft 4in/1.93m
Starting weight: 22st 13lbs/321lbs/146kg
Current weight: 15st 4lbs/214lbs/97kg
Weight loss: 7st 9lbs/107lbs/49kg
Starting waist measurement: 46″
Starting clothes size: XXXL
Current waist measurement: 36″
Current clothes size: L
Date joined Slimming World: January 2015
Starting weight: 20st 11½lbs/291½lbs/132kg
Current weight: 13st 11lbs/193lbs/87kg
Weight loss: 7st ½lb/98½lbs/45kg
Starting dress size: 26
Current dress size: 16
Date joined Slimming World: January 2015
Breakfast: P – a cup of coffee with sugar, A – large bowl of cereal or four slices of white toast
Lunch: P – bacon and egg sandwich, crisps, chocolate bar and sugary fizzy drink, A – large meat salad, crisps and chocolate bar
Dinner: Both – pasta dish made with jarred sauces or takeaway pizza or kebab
Snacks: Both – crisps, biscuits, chocolate bars.
Breakfast: grilled lean bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes and an egg fried in a pan sprayed with low calorie cooking spray
Mid-morning: a couple of pieces of fruit or high-fibre cereal bar and fat-free yogurt
Lunch: baked potato topped with tuna with salad on the side
Dinner: homemade spaghetti bolognese
Evening snacks: homemade Slimming World-style potato wedges (cooked in the oven with low calorie cooking spray), glass of wine or lager.