Marking Alcohol Awareness Week (16-22nd November), Ian tells us his story.
Ian Gascoyne, 39, from Chesterfield, has lost 10st 4lbs and feels like this year, more than any other, he’s ‘dodged a bullet’ by turning his health around and cutting down on his alcohol intake
“In February 2019, weighing over 22 stone, I felt physically and mentally broken, at rock bottom and I knew I had to make a change. With my 40th birthday approaching, I wanted to be the very best version of me and while I was excited about a family holiday booked to Euro Disney, I didn’t want to find I was unable to go on any of the rides.
I started gaining weight from the age of 20 – all I cared about was going out drinking, eating junk food and work. I was in constant pain, even tying my shoelaces was a struggle and would leave me short of breath. I wasn’t sleeping and would often wake up through the night as I’d stopped breathing. I went to the GP and was told I had a cholesterol spot on my eye. After hearing this I didn’t want to go back and face the music, so I carried on with a self-destructive lifestyle of takeaways, sugary drinks and too much alcohol.
I wouldn’t have said I drank in excess before I lost weight but now I realise I didn’t consider the calories I was having when downing pints of lager, or cider. I would never touch a full-fat cola beforehand thinking it was full of sugar but then I would happily down a pint without even thinking about it. I would go on to eat more than I intended to, for me that often meant takeaway pizza.
Ian Gascoyne: “With the support of my group, I felt had all the tools I needed to get through lockdown. Listening to the Slimming World podcast was a great help for extra motivation and comfort too.”
I’d tried all sorts to lose weight: shakes and fad diets. I’d smash it for two weeks then give up as I got bored. My job as an insulation salesperson meant a lot of driving through the day, visiting builders’ merchants and grabbing what I could to eat to keep me going. I would often start the day with no breakfast then feel ravenous by 9.30am and have an energy drink and a bacon butty.
I’m lucky that I live near my family and my mum and sister could both see how unhappy I was. For once, I decided to listen to them and when they asked me yet again to join them at their Slimming World group, I surprised them by saying yes, OK I’ll come. I just thought, I’ve got nothing to lose and although I was scared and embarrassed, I knew I needed help.
I remember feeling intimidated when I walked through the doors of the group and I was surprised there were quite a few men there which made me feel better. The group was so welcoming and I was surprised at how easy it was to adapt to Slimming World’s healthy eating plan, I never once went hungry. In fact, the more I ate, the more weight I lost. Over 12 months I lost 10 stone! At times I felt a little embarrassed winning the group’s awards every week, everyone was so supportive though and proud of my progress. I’ve made good friends and met people I would never meet in any other walk of life.
I’d never attempted to cook anything myself before and I was the kind of person who’d set the toaster on fire. Now I’m gradually becoming more confident in the kitchen and my partner is so pleased I don’t always have to rely on her so much. My favourite meal to cook is a big breakfast with bacon (with the fat cut off), eggs, beans and mushrooms.
Initially I gave up drinking for three months then I went on holiday and introduced it again, but this time with more thought. I can still enjoy a drink and maintain my weight as now I choose lighter beers or I’ll have a Bacardi or vodka and diet coke. I also make sure I have healthier snacks available for those post drinking munchies. Watermelon is my favourite and pickled onions are my go-to savoury snack.
I’ve gone from a 44-inch waist to a 32-inch waist and when I visit the builders’ merchants now I get a lot of comments and questions as to how I’ve lost the weight. I know a couple of blokes did start watching what they were eating and drinking and I probably did inspire them. I plan my day’s food now and take salad bags with me or I’ll come home for a cooked lunch. I also make sure I have breakfast!
The support I’ve received at the group makes me feel as if I have the tools and motivation for a better, healthier life. My Consultant is so good at motivating people, she can have the group going from tears to howling with laughter. She understands the challenges I’ve faced and empathises, she gets what it is like and she enjoys a drink too. Anyone thinking about joining needs to stop thinking and just do it.
Since that day when I said yes to my mum and sister, I see a lot more of my family which is fantastic. My sister says she feels as if she’s got her brother back. I used to shy away before as I was so ashamed of myself, I felt I looked a mess. I can take my son swimming now without feeling self-conscious and I even go on the water slides without feeling like I will get stuck or break them.
I’ve noticed too by not drinking all the time and keeping it as something for holidays and special occasions, I’m much more positive and have more energy. I used to be so lethargic and felt groggy after drinking the night before. I’m also much less anxious.
This year, more than any other, I feel as if I’ve dodged a major bullet by turning my health around – especially as the risk of being severely ill from COVID-19 increases if you’re overweight. If I’d caught that I know it would have wiped me out, I had such trouble breathing anyhow, even going up the stairs. Now I can run up the stairs! I know now if you look after yourself, everything else falls into place.”
Breakfast – nothing
Mid-day – flapjack, couple of energy drinks, cappuccino
Dinner – pre-packed sandwich, crisps, chocolate bar and energy drink
Evening meal – pizza and chips
Two pints of lager, cider or stout
Breakfast – Weetabix with fruit
Snack – fruit (apple or banana)
Dinner – Subway salad
Snack – fruit
Evening meal – steak salad or slimming world meal
Bacardi or vodka and diet cola
Snack – watermelon / Hifi bar
source: SW official press
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