If you’ve indulged heavily this Christmas and your New Year’s resolution to lose some weight is already in danger of being broken then take heart - a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
And that is exactly how Jon McNeil, a 22-stone health and safety manager started out when he joined an Ilkeston Slimming World group - by putting one foot forward.
During the course of a year Jon lost nearly seven stone and by Christmas was able to put on 34-inch jeans - for the first time in 40 years.
Jon said: “I had always led an active lifestyle, but as I went into my 50s I started to naturally slow down. I was feeling permanently run down without an ounce of energy.
“My work as a health and safety manager takes me all over the country with regular hotel stopovers and my diet generally consisted of takeaway food and a bottle of red to wash it down. Exercise was a thing that younger people did.
“I was feeling ill and knew that something was wrong. I felt like I was on a downward spiral and needed to do something about it before it was too late. I took myself off to the doctors to explain how I was feeling.”
And the news from Jon’s GP was not good - he was diagnosed with sleep apnoea and borderline diabetes.
“I knew I was at a crossroads in my life,” said Jon, “and that if I didn’t do something about it, then fate may well lend a hand.
“So my new year’s resolution was to join Slimming World from the first week in January 2016.
“Thursday evening arrived - the dreaded night to go to Slimming World. To say I was nervous is an understatement. I thought that everybody would be looking at me as the only male in the room and judging me for the person I had become.”
But, as it turned out this could not have been further from the truth.
Instead, he was welcomed by smiling group leader Julianne Bullock and introduced to the group with a round of applause. And his nerves soon disappeared as he realised that everybody else in the room was there for the same reason and, to his delight, he was not the only man there.
Jon set himself an interim target of losing two stone, with a final target of five stone. He began by discussing meal planning, food optimising, speed foods and favourite dishes with the group.
Jon said: “I came away from that first session energised, with a resolution that I can do this. I started to plan meals and batch cook, with chilli being a firm favourite.
“Breakfast was porridge made with half milk and half water. Lunches were fresh salads or a big bowl of fruit with fat free yoghurt.
“There is so much food to choose from. I never felt hungry but if I wanted a snack I reached for fruit instead of chocolate or a bag of crisps.”
Jon also cut down from a bottle of wine a night to a drink one night a week.”
He also started to walk with his partner Collette.
“The next week I stepped on the scales and had lost nine pounds,” said Jon. “To say that I was elated is an understatement.
“The weeks went on and the weight continued to come off at an average of around four pounds per week. By mid-July I had lost five stone and got to my target.
“This was a great personal achievement for me and the smile on my face showed it.”
By the end of 2016 Jon was delighted to be crowned Slimming World’s Mr Sleek by the group.
He added “Slimming World has not only changed my life, it has probably saved it.”
“Thank you, Jules, and thank you to the members of the 7pm Thursday Ilkeston group.
“Without you, this journey would have been much more difficult and a lot less enjoyable.”