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Steven Downey
Steven Downey
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Five stone lighter — I feel like a new person

WHEN Steven Downey recently bought a new suit for his aunt Julie’s wedding, he felt like a new man.

“Before, when I weighed over 20 stone, I had to buy a suit for a special occasion; it was an ordeal,” explains the 27-year-old, from Marlborough near Douglas.

Steven is well pleased with his purchase, two sizes smaller now that he is nearly five stone lighter.

“My new suit fits like a glove,” he says. “The waistcoat is snug and smart. I wouldn’t have thought that when I was so heavy.”

Now the trendy young man, who works in the hospitality trade, is looking dapper. He lost 4 stone 10lbs with the help of Slimming World. And he feels a whole lot happier.

“Losing that much weight has changed my whole outlook on life,” says Steven. “I have much more confidence and I have much more energy. I was using food as a comfort. I didn’t really notice the weight going on. I was always training and playing soccer and GAA growing up. I was in all the teams. I had a big appetite, but I used to run the effects of it off.”

Even though Steven was a big baby, he was thin as a youngster.

“My mum is a great cook,” says Steven. “My brother, sister, and I had proper dinners. We always had good, home cooked food.”

When he left home to go to college, things changed.

“I started drinking,” says Steven. “The beer wasn’t long putting a belly on me. I didn’t eat healthily then. I ate a lot of hot chicken rolls, loads of sausage rolls, washed down with energy drinks. I didn’t realise the harm all those calories were doing.

“I moved into digs with pals and we lived on a lot of convenience foods.

“We used vending machines for snacks and we spent our evenings off pinting.”

Steven’s lifestyle caught up with him.

“I started to notice how the extra weight was affecting me. I got out of breath quickly when I was going from A to B. I’d have to stop for a few minutes and go again. The enjoyment I got from socialising stopped.”

He didn’t stop playing sports.

“I kept training. I noticed I had a bit of a belly and my clothes were size 2XL,” says Steven.

“When I went home, my family noticed that I had piled on the weight.”

Someone was on hand to offer advice.

“Aunt Julie was going to Slimming World and she suggested I go along to a class and give it a go,” says Steven. “When she told me about the plan, and all the unlimited ‘free foods’ that you could eat and still lose weight, I was sold. I thought, why not try it out?”

Steven went along to Slimming World at Garryduff Sports Centre. Even though he was the only male, he didn’t mind.

“That was on January 19 this year,” says Steven. “I was the only fella and I did feel a bit nervous. Everybody was so welcoming and they all made me feel included in the group. Barbara, the leader, was most encouraging. When I listened to the plan it made sense.

“I wasn’t giving up any foods, but instead incorporated them into a better, healthy food plan. You are allowed 20 ‘sins’ a day. So if you craved some chocolate for instance; you could have it without doing any damage. A Yorkie bar is 11 ‘sins’.

“Some hidden sugars and preservatives in food could add up to double that amount without anyone realising it. The plan is all about being aware of what you are eating.”

Was Steven surprised that he weighed in at 20-stone plus?

“It was crazy,” he says. “I was delighted to lose 6lbs the first week. Everyone in the class was delighted for me. Before I knew it I had lost one stone in three weeks, just by making some healthy, sensible changes to my meals every day. Slimming World doesn’t call the plan a diet,” adds Steven. “Diet suggests being deprived of something. I wasn’t deprived of anything.

“The different choices and option of food swaps makes life very easy. The Slimming World eating plan makes it easy to lose weight.”

Steven had his people in his corner, including his mum and aunt Julie.

“I brought my own dinners to work,” he says. “Mum made them for me. Then, when people got to know that I was intent on losing the weight, the chef at work, in Vienna Woods, made me veggie stir-frys if I forgot to bring my dinner with me. The manager told me to help myself to the salad bar if I wanted. He said I was an inspiration to others.”

What was Steven’s biggest downfall when he weighed 20-stone plus?

“Bread was a biggie for me,” he says. “I’d like nothing better than a big thick toastie after a few drinks. Cutting down on bread was a big challenge for me.”

Steven changed his drink of choice too.

“I drink gin and slimline tonic now. Beer is really high in calories, which I didn’t realise back then.”

He realised also that he had to stay focused.

“When I went on holidays to Salou with my family, I lost 3lbs,” says Steven. “I ate cold meats and filled up at the salad bar. I used to think salads was rabbit food. But I like it now.”

How has life changed for him, now that he is just 3lbs off his target weight?

“My confidence has increased no end,” says Steven. “I used to have low self-esteem. And I used to get fed up. Now I don’t. I get more attention. My work uniform fits me comfortably. People come up to me in the street and they comment on how amazing I look. I’ve got hundreds of ’likes’ on my Facebook page, from people that I don’t even know!”

His peers are proud of him too.

“I was voted Man of the Year back in May at Slimming World,” says Steven.

It is great too that his risk of contracting diabetes is significantly reduced now.

“I was high-risk for diabetes,” says Steven. “There is a history of the disease on my dad’s side of the family. My grandad died suddenly. It is good for my younger brother, Shane, to see the consequence of bad habits. He sees me as a role model.”

Steven has found new friends at Slimming World and he has found a new love of exercise.

“I really enjoy spinning classes at my gym in Douglas twice a week,” says Steven.

“I play 7 a side soccer Wednesdays and Thursdays.”

He is losing no time in enjoying his new slim, silhouette.

“Aunt Julie’s wedding in October will be fabulous,” says Steven. “All my cousins are slim-Jims. I wasn’t before. Now I am.”

His cousins won’t be the only ones surprised at the slim, trim Steven Downey.

“Recently, I met another Aunt from Dublin. She said; where is the rest of you gone?”

To find a Slimming World group near you call: 01-6569696. Classes at Garryduff Sports Centre Thursday, 9.30am, 5.30pm, 7.30pm. At Carrigtwohill Community Centre, Wednesday, 9.30am, 11.30am.

*******

Emma Murphy and family.
Emma Murphy and family.

SLIMMING WORLD GAVE ME A HAPPY AND HEALTHY PREGNANCY

When young Mum Emma Murphy was rostered for work placement, she cried when a size 22 pants were too tight on her.

“I needed navy trousers for my uniform and I had a lot of problems trying to get a pair that fitted me,” says Emma. “In the end I had to resort to a stretch pair of trousers that I got in M&S,” adds the 32-year-old, who is a mother of three and who works as a nurse.

“The first morning of my placement, I had to undo the last button of the size 22 pants; they were so tight that I could hardly breathe.”

The young mother wanted to treat herself to a fabulous pair of jeans for Christmas.

“That Christmas of 2012 was my first Christmas after the birth of my daughter, Molly, the previous June, I was really looking forward to getting a nice pair of jeans for the festive season,” says Emma.

“But I failed miserably. I was totally fed-up. I ended up buying a size 22 pair of jeans, the same size as the elastic waist work pants.

“A few weeks later, my aunt Carol who runs Slimming World classes persuaded me to join her club in Dungarvan. The first time stepping on the scales was horrific I never thought I would tip the scales at over 17 stone.”

And she never thought that on baby number three she would continue with her slimming class and gain only 15lb during her pregnancy.

“It was fantastic that I could still attend the classes and eat healthily and have some treats to help the cravings too.” says Emma.

“For the first time I wasn’t high risk and didn’t have to attend the high risk clinic. I was more mobile during my pregnancy I had loads more energy.

“And the threat of diabetes faded away because I wasn’t grossly overweight any more.”

During Molly and Jack’s pregnancies, Emma was overweight, listless and tired. Her weight posed a risk to her health too.

“My weight was a problem with my first two pregnancies,” says Emma.

Weight never bothered her before. Her pregnancies posed more of a problem when she was diagnosed with POCS, Polycystic ovaries. Emma underwent ovarian drilling in order to conceive.

When she was expecting Molly, aged five, Emma was doing her final nursing exams and she put on two and a half stone.

“I ate all round me because of the stress,” says Emma. “I used to comfort eat. I piled on the weight but it didn’t bother me. I had tried half-heartedly to lose a bit of weight before my wedding. Joe said he loved me just as I was!”

Emma was content.

However, the enormity of being a size 22 in her twenties did bother Emma enough to do something about her weight problem. And Aunt Carol was on hand for expert advice.

“Carol is like an older sister to me,” says Emma. “She suggested that I come to her classes and join Slimming World. I never thought when I stepped on the scales for the first time that I would weigh in at a horrific 17- stone plus.”

Emma meant business: “I was enthusiastic and I was thrilled when I shed a stone and a half. Joe and I had decided to try for another baby. Surprisingly, I found it easier than the first time to get pregnant.

She didn’t want to see the scales going the wrong way, even though she was pregnant with Jack.

“But by the time I was 12 weeks pregnant and I had my first appointment at the hospital I had gained half of the weight that I had lost.”

Emma got disappointing news.

“I was told my next appointment would be in the high-risk clinic due to my high BMI,” says Emma. “I cried all the way home. I went back to comfort eating. I didn’t watch what I ate; I ate what I wanted. I didn’t bother weighing in at Slimming World. I tried to watch my diet so that I wouldn’t have to go to the high risk clinic. But my heart wasn’t in it.”

Emma re-joined Slimming World a few months after Jack was born. She weighed in above 16 and a half stones.

“He was born in April,” says Emma. “I was breast feeding and I went back to the club in July.

“I had a few up and down weeks — actually, a lot of up and down weeks. I never really got on top of it. I lost a stone and then I gained a stone.”

Aunt Carol stepped in again.

Emma Murphy and family
Emma Murphy and family

“She said I needed to re-educate and re-train my appetite,” says Emma. “Carol had opened a club in Youghal. It seemed a good place to start with renewed energy and support. I felt that I could get back on track with Carol’s encouragement.”

Emma had no inkling that baby number three had other ideas.

“Carol encouraged me to stick with it,” says Emma. “There was no reason to pile on the weight in this pregnancy, if I ate healthily. And I could indulge in some ‘sins’ too!

“I had one major-scale victory,” says Emma with a smile. “This time I didn’t have to attend the high-risk clinic. It was a huge confidence booster. My pregnancy overall was easier and more comfortable than the previous two. I had energy for Molly and Jack.

“Joe was delighted to eat more fruit and vegetables! I was still eating what I wanted but now making more healthy choices. It was good for me and for my growing baby.”

Why does Emma feel she succeeded third time round?

“The plan was easy to follow,” she says. “And I could have some healthy extras which was great. It meant that I could still have cheese on toast in the evenings which was a big craving for me. My weight was monitored, but no targets were set in the group. The support and encouragement from Carol and the group helped me on the weeks that I saw a gain and felt disheartened,” says Emma.

“In my previous two pregnancies, I needed to be tested for gestational diabetes three times because my sugar levels were so high. But this time around I just had to have the routine test and everything was perfect. That was hugely motivational. I saw less doctors; I had less hospital visits. I was making better food choices for my growing baby.”

And Emma had an easier labour with Lucy, who arrived on April 12, 2017.

“I was much more mobile during labour,” she says. “I put on a grand total of 15lb during Lucy’s pregnancy.

“At my heaviest, I was 17 and a half stone. In May I was down to 12 stone and I’m still on course to reach my target weight. ”

“I had attended the group the week before Lucy was born.”

The scales were kind: “I weighed just 15lbs above my starting weight. When Lucy was four days old I went back to class. I had lost 9lbs and Lucy got to meet some of her ‘Aunties and ‘Uncles’. Slimming World gave me a happy and healthy pregnancy.”

Emma didn’t look back.

“The following week I lost another 6lb. I continue to stay on my plan now while breast-feeding and running around after three kids.

“Slimming World gave me a better appreciation for food and my whole family now eats their meals.”

“I have regained my energy for walking and Irish dancing,” says Emma. “That’s great. Our eating habits have totally changed.”

When Emma returns to work in January, she won’t be wearing a size 22 pants that is too tight: “Before Lucy, I could get into a size 16 pair of jeans,” says Emma. “I can fit into a size 12 now.”

Auntie Carol, Slimming World Consultant, is justifiably proud of her niece. She has a new role now — as godmother to Lucy.

Slimming World runs in Youghal Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.