A CARE worker shed a huge 15 stone to be crowned Slimming World's Man of the Year – after he missed out on visiting the Great Wall of China because he was so unfit.
Ben Muscroft, 42, went from 27st 8lbs to an impressive 12st after joining the weight-loss group in March 2015 – when he realised that life had become a daily struggle and he was being held back in many ways.
And he even managed to blitz all his body fat without giving up some of his favourite dishes including creamy chicken and baked beans.
He said: “Before I lost weight life was just hard. I couldn’t walk for more than five minutes, I always felt out of breath and I just had no get-up-and-go.
"I had knee problems which made me scared to walk long distances because I worried it would just completely give out under the strain of my weight.
“I couldn’t even roll over in bed. It’s such an everyday thing for most people but if I wanted to change position to get more comfortable, I actually had to get up and move to the other side of the bed."
And a trip to China to visit his brother showed Ben, a care worker, just how serious his weight problem had become.
He added: “Just getting to China was a bit of a battle. I had to ask for a seatbelt extension in front of the entire plane which wasn’t the greatest of starts.
"Then the tray table wouldn’t lie flat so I had to eat my meals at a strange angle. It wasn’t a pleasant way to spend 20 hours.
“Then when we got to China, my size meant I missed out of certain activities. We visited the Great Wall of China, but I was too unfit to walk any of it, which I really regret. I also became something of a talking point because many people had never seen anyone my size before – so the looks and stares were plentiful.
“I knew something had to change. My dad and sister were Slimming World members, so they encouraged me to join a group with them and I reluctantly went along. From that moment on my whole life changed for the better.”
Ben admitted that one of the best things about his weight-loss journey was the fact that he didn't have to give up any of his favourite foods, he just had to learn to cook and prepare them in a different way.
He said: “To be honest when my Consultant told me about all the foods I could eat while losing weight I thought it was too good to be true! I gave it my all though and in the first week I lost 10½lbs while enjoying meals like creamy coriander and mint chicken, which is my dad’s speciality."
On top of allowing Ben to lose half of his body weight, Slimming World has also helped him to find love with his girlfriend, Karen Parker, 52 – who he met in a slimming class.
And the pair are now looking forward to seeing the world together, including returning to China half the weight he was before.
He added: "What was different about Slimming World was that I was surrounded by like-minded people who were all on the same journey.
"I met someone special too – my girlfriend, Karen. At the size I was I’d grown used to the idea that I’d never find anyone who wanted to be with me. My Slimming World group didn’t just change my life, it gave me a life I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have.
"Next year I’m planning on returning to China with Karen so that she can meet my brother and I know this trip will be full of amazing memories. We’ve got our whole future ahead of us and I can’t wait to see what’s in store.”
Ben's weight loss has also helped spark a new passion for exercise, and he has even started running half-marathons.
He said: "When you weigh more than 27st even the simplest tasks really take it out of you. I couldn’t walk the short distance to Hillsborough Football Stadium without getting out of breath.
"I started building up my walking and then started running, which I really enjoyed. In fact, I ran my first half marathon in 1 hour 50 minutes, which I was really proud of. I also enjoy boxing and yoga – it’s just become part of my life now.
“Joining Slimming World is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and the only thing I regret is that I didn’t do it 20 years sooner. It’s not just the health benefits – it’s freeing yourself from all of the things that used to hold you back. I’d advise anyone who is struggling with their weight to go along to Slimming World. Just do it."
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