An obese man has shed a whopping 21 STONE which has helped him beat coronavirus – and find love.
Phil Kayes, 47, had been 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 2½lbs 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.
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 Co. 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 was helped in his dramatic transformation by Slimming World, who recently crowned him their ‘Greatest Loser 2020’.
Despite its name, the competition celebrates the person with the highest weight loss among all the brand’s members.
Phil said: “I was always bigger than my peers. I remember at school being called out by my PE teacher for being too big to play football.
“The weight really started to pile on though when I started university.
“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.
His shirt size was a huge XXXXXXXXL, with a 68in waist.
But his main worry was that should he die in his sleep and that heavy 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.
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.”
Phil has become much more active since losing all the weight – and has started cycling again after a near three-decade absence from the activity.
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 credits his weight loss with helping him to meet partner Nicole, who he found on an online dating app.
He said: “By far the best thing that has happened to me since losing weight is meeting Nicole.
“When I was bigger I couldn’t imagine ever finding love and felt resigned to dying alone.
“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.
“There are lots more adventures we want to tick off the list and for the first time in a long time, I’m excited about the future.”
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.
He added: “I dread to think how my body would have responded. It was a timely reminder of how important my health is.”
Phil was encouraged to join Slimming World in July 2017 by a friend who agreed to attend his local group with him.
He said: “I was, of course, nervous on that first night but it really helped to have my friend Laura beside me.
“I even contacted the consultant in advance to check the scales would be able to weigh me.
“The last time I’d weighed myself was at the hospital, where I had to stand on two sets of scales just to get a reading.
“My consultant assured me that there was nothing to worry about and she was right.
“Everyone was so supportive and friendly and although it was a shock to see the scales hit 37st, for the first time, I felt like I could do something about it.”
Phil soon got to grips with a branded eating plan, which enabled him to lose weight while enjoying a wide variety of foods.
It includes lean meat, potatoes, pasta, fruit and vegetables.
He said: “In the past I’d been referred to dieticians and dabbled with intermittent fasting and restricting my portions.
“I would lose weight initially but I could never stick to it because I was hungry most of the time.
“What was so different about Slimming World was that I could still eat hearty meals to satisfy my appetite while losing weight.
“It felt like a bit of a lightbulb moment when I realised losing weight didn’t have to mean starving yourself.
“I was a bit vegetable-phobic when I first joined but now one of my favourite dishes is a Mediterranean vegetable pasta – and I even tend to an allotment with a veggie patch!
“The group environment really helped me too because for the first time I was surrounded by people who knew how it felt to struggle with their weight.
“Checking in with everyone each week has been invaluable and I have learned so much from everyone.
“I attend virtually now that we’re in lockdown, which is really great and helps keep me on track. I couldn’t be without them.”
Phil attends the Bangor Slimming World group.
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 yogurt 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.