A teenager from Northern Ireland whose weight left him suffering with anxiety and feeling depressed says he’s finally comfortable in his own skin after losing half his body weight and being named Slimming World’s Young Slimmer of the Year.
At his heaviest 19-year-old Tom Johnston felt so low that he was forced to drop out of his sixth-form studies. Now, since losing 14st 5lbs, he’s gone back to college and says he feels like his life has begun again.
Tom, who lives in Belfast with his parents and sister, says: “My weight robbed me of having the same experiences as other people my age. Now I’m like any other 19-year-old – and that feels great.”
The student’s weight increased dramatically after he broke his leg playing football aged 15 and was confined to a wheelchair. As he got bigger, Tom’s weight affected his confidence: “I suffered from anxiety and low mood and my weight was a big contributor to that. I couldn’t enjoy things like my friends did and I was scared to go out because I worried what people might think or say about me because of my size.”
He tried losing weight by eating healthily but found it difficult to stick to any diets he followed. In contrast, Tom’s mum Brenda, 51, and sister Claire, 23, had joined a Slimming World group and been losing weight successfully.
Tom says: “In all honesty, I worried their group would be like an episode of the Golden Girls – I thought I’d be the only guy and wouldn’t fit in – so I didn’t really want to go with them. Then one day I realised how sick I was of looking in the mirror and seeing someone who I wasn’t happy with, so I bit the bullet. Before I went through the doors I felt as if I was walking into a lion’s den, but I can honestly say the people in the group are some of the nicest I have ever met in my life and every week we have great craic. It was the best thing I ever did.”
He began following Slimming World’s Food Optimising eating plan and says he now eats a much wider variety of foods, including cooking up his favourite homemade curries and rice. Tom’s also joined a gym, started riding a bike and enjoys walking his Jack Russell cross, Ollie.
After joining Slimming World in March 2015, Tom dropped from 27st 5lbs to his target weight of 13st in 13 months and has gone from a 54-inch to a 36-inch waist.
And he says what he’s lost in weight, he’s gained in confidence: “The group really motivated me and, as I lost weight, my mental wellbeing started to get better. I had the confidence to go back to college and I’ve just finished my AS exams. For years I didn’t like to think about the future because I worried I’d be overweight and unhappy for the rest of my life. Now I’d like to go to university and I know I’ll be able to get a better job because I’m in a better place.
“I’m comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life so I feel like I’ve got a chance to start again and I want to grab every opportunity – even those things other people my age might take for granted, like riding a bike or going out to a club with my friends – with both hands. I feel like these rites of passage eluded me in life and now, thanks to Slimming World, I’m ready to go out and seize the day.”
Slimming World Consultant Ashleigh Shaw, who runs the Braniel group that Tom attends in Belfast, says: “I’ve watched Tom’s life change dramatically over the past 15 months and there have been so many firsts for him – he’s joined a gym, started riding a bike, been out clubbing and started his studies again. He’s a young man with a very bright future now and I feel honoured to have played a part in his journey.” –ends –
Name: Tom Johnston
Height: 6ft 2in/1.88m
Starting weight: 27st 5lbs/383lbs/174kg
Current weight: 13st/182lbs/83kg
Weight loss: 14st 5lbs/201lbs/91kg
Starting waist measurement: 54in/137cm
Current waist measurement: 36in/91.5cm
Date joined Slimming World: 26/03/2015
Date reached target weight: 14/04/2016
Group: Tom lost weight at the Braniel group in Belfast run by Consultant Ashleigh Shaw.
Breakfast: nothing, then a packet of crisps mid-morning
Lunch: breaded chicken goujons and chips
Dinner: BBQ spare ribs, fried rice and more chips
Snacks: chocolate bars, crisps.
Breakfast: All-bran with semi-skimmed milk and chopped fresh fruit
Lunch: hearty chicken salad or a ham and mushroom omelette with salad
Dinner: homemade chilli con carne with brown rice
Snacks: fresh fruit, fat-free yogurts, small bag of crisps, small chocolate bar.
Fact box: Men and obesity
- Men are more likely to be overweight than women and to carry weight around the waist – which is dangerous for health
- While overweight men see physical activity as the most socially acceptable way to lose weight, many say they struggle to do this in reality
- Losing weight improves men’s health, fitness, confidence and body image
- Men lose more weight than women at Slimming World – 5.7% body weight in 12 weeks compared to 4.3%
- 40,000 men attend Slimming World groups across the UK and Ireland – an average of three per group.*
*Statistics taken from Slimming World’s The Machobesity Report, available here.