Here at Amazing Losers, we often try to answer the question of why that first step is the hardest to take. We’ve had a lot of different answers over the course of the series so far, but it really all boils down to the same thing: fear of failure. Whenever you set out to achieve anything, there’s always a little voice telling you that it’s safer to maintain the status quo – after all, if you don’t try, you can’t fail.

As a weight loss community that really believes in (and has seen firsthand the power of) group support, we’re always thrilled to finally engage with MAN v FAT members who’ve been around for a while, quietly taking things in, and so it was with this week’s Amazing Loser Neil, who’s been lurking around the forum as ‘rspiskets’ for a while now, but only recently as an active member.

Naturally we couldn’t wait to ask him what he took from the forum, why he finally decided to get involved and why it didn’t happen sooner. Turns out it’s the same problem – once you share your target with your support group, you run the risk of failing in public. So, if you’re reading this and you’ve never used our forum, or if you’re a member and you haven’t said hi, Neil has some advice for you…

  • Name: Neil Gambell (ask him anything on Talk)
  • Location: Gillingham, Kent
  • Job: NHS Accountant
  • Height: 6’1″ (185cm)
  • Age: 47
  • Highest weight: 329lbs (149kg)
  • Lowest weight: 181lbs (82kg)
  • Plan: I tried a few but the one that got me where I am today is Slimming World with more than a passing eye on calories in/out to temper the ‘eat as much as you like’

How did you get to the position where you needed to lose that weight?

I have been obese from a very young age. When I was 6 years old, the doctor advised my mum to feed me up. He retired shortly after and by the time I was 17 years old I was 17 stone. I still feel I have case for medical negligence!

Various diets failed and life got in the way and, despite peaking at 23 and a half stone, I spent much of the last 2-3 years at or around 21 stone.

What negative experiences did you have of being overweight?

The psychological issues of being overweight are the hardest to look back on. I spent my whole life kidding myself that everything was fine. I convinced myself that it was normal to be the way I was despite how desperately unhappy it made me and how scared I was that my health was on a knife edge.

I am not a religious person however I recall many a promise to any god that may be listening that if I could live to the next major milestone in my sons life then I would be a better person. I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes a few months shy of my 40th birthday and that drove me to try to lose weight – I did but soon slipped back into old habits and ‘settled’ at my comfortable weight of 21 stone.

What made you decide to change?

Despite various attempts at dieting, it all seemed like too much work and an impossible task so I’d effectively resigned myself to the fact that I’d be forever fat and, if I was really lucky, I may live slightly longer than the average fat bloke. The big difference this time was it was only supposed to be for a couple of weeks and anybody can do that, right?

In March, my other half had been dropping hints about going to Slimming World since Xmas and, despite trying to convince her to go with a friend or go alone, I ended up saying I’d go with her for a week or two, just to get her through the door. I was worried it would be full of menopausal women and I’d be the only guy there, however to my surprise the group leader was a man and there were a healthy number of men at group. Once through the door, and with a healthy weight loss in the early couple of weeks, the hard part was done and it was just a case of going along to support my partner and seeing where it took me.

What made it different from the times before?

In a similar vein to the badges and groups in MAN v FAT, the regular certificates for each half stone lost and the support of the group kept me motivated – that and the fact that I was regularly getting better results than the other half! I had several Slimmer of the Month awards, Man of the Year, Mr Sleek and a fridge covered with reminders of my journey. Motivation is everything.

How did you do it?

When I told my Diabetes nurse that I had joined Slimming World, she told me that it was the perfect diet for a diabetic in fact, in her opinion, it was the perfect diet for everybody. I followed the plan to the letter but worried about some of the portion sizes you were allowed and the sheer volume I was now eating.

I read a lot of MAN v FAT posts re nutrition and calorie counting and, as well as following the Plan, recorded everything on MyFintnessPal too. I think the combination of the two sources of information has made my decision making much easier – Slimming World with the ‘what’ and MvF for the ‘how’.

What did you eat over the course of an average day?

Before, my typical day would start with skipping breakfast, a couple of bags of crisps early on, maybe a samosa or a baguette from the sandwich van late morning then a trip to the chippy at lunch time before a full dinner with the family followed by crisps or biscuits later on in the evening.

Now, I have porridge for breakfast, a piece of fruit mid-morning, a salad with chicken for lunch and, in the evening, I normally cook a Slimming World friendly meal – lots of veg with a low fat protein and some carbs followed by a yoghurt. I don’t feel anything is off the menu so there are still a smattering of treats throughout the week.

How was the journey? Straightforward or were there a few plateaus along the way?

The journey has been fairly rapid – I’d lost a little before I joined Slimming World but since then I achieved 6 stone in 36 weeks. Things have slowed down over the last month as I near my target weight but I accept that it is now just a ‘war of nutrition’ (see what I did there?) and I’ll get there eventually – I’m not on a diet after all, just eating better.

How has life changed now you’ve lost the weight?

Wow, how hasn’t it changed? Headline news is that I’m no longer classed as diabetic – despite being told that once you are diagnosed there is no going back, I’ve been advised my stats are that of a healthy young bloke and there are no longer any signs of my Diabetes and will be removed from the register if my next appointment shows the same.

I’m enjoying sport and exercise like never before. I recently completed a duathlon event – 2.5k run, 10K bike, 2.5k run and was thrilled to complete it in 57 minutes. I’ve signed up for a half-marathon next year to keep me motivated – a year ago I wouldn’t have run 50 yards for a bus without a defibrillator near by.

I can shop for clothes in shops I never could before and buy trousers with a 12″ smaller waist.

Who helped you the most and who got in the way?

My partner Jane has been my biggest support as she keeps me on my toes. My Slimming World leader Martyn is also a huge inspiration and, of course many of the members of MAN v FAT who posted inspirational, educational or downright funny contributions when I needed them the most.

Like many others, I experienced the ‘you’ve gone too far’, ‘you look ill’, etc. comments from friends and family but, again, having read how to deal with this on MvF, I took them with a pinch of salt.

What was your experience of MAN v FAT and how did you come across it?

I found MvF early in my journey when I Googled some advice and stumbled across a forum posting and was instantly aware that it was a really valuable community so I signed up and lurked until very recently, visiting on an almost daily basis to garner as much inspiration and information as I could.

I took a great deal of comfort from those members who started at a similar weight to me and were further in their journey than I was. I had a lot of questions about the changes in my health and body and many of these issues would pop up at the opportune time to put my mind at rest. I enjoyed the fact that, despite not knowing these people if I passed them in the street, I could share in their successes and was genuinely pleased when someone achieved a hard fought goal.

What kept you from posting in the forum yourself for so long?

That’s a difficult question to answer without sounding daft. I really didn’t want to put my head above the parapet in case I jinxed myself. I was having successes and sharing with all and sundry in my home and work life however it felt that putting something in black and white (or pixels) could somehow get me ‘noticed’ and it would jeopardise my journey. It was only once I felt comfortable that it was only a matter of time to reach my goal that I bit the bullet and posted my Newcomer post.

I feel a lot more involved since I became an active user and I find I am visiting the site two to three times a day. There are so many ways to be inspired and to inspire others in this community of genuinely like-minded brothers that I wish I had been more involved much earlier. If you are lurking, take that first step and become a part of this incredible group of guys who want nothing more than to support each other to the goals they all share.

What surprised you about losing weight?

My levels of fitness and what my body is capable of doing – I’m genuinely shocked at how much punishment it takes at the gym or out running. On the negative side, I’m no longer a human radiator and feel the cold like never before. Likewise, my built in cushion has now gone and I find most chairs to be hard and uncomfortable now I have a bony spine and backside. I have had three to four wholesale wardrobe changes so cost of clothes wasn’t something I factored in at the start.

If you could go back to the person you were at your heaviest, what would you say to him?

I’m not sure he would listen but I would tell him that it’s not about a diet, it doesn’t have to be a lifetime of denying yourself food, just 6 months of eating reasonably will make a world of difference and, at that point, his life would improve in every way he dreams of and the rest of the journey will fall into place gradually.

You’re Prime Minister for the day, what one law do you bring in to help others who are obese?

I think it needs to start early and schools need to mandate a sport at least 3 times a week from 5-18. For those of us that are over 18, I’d legislate that every council must provide 5 miles of off-road cycle paths every year for 5 years and gym memberships be subsidised. That’s more than one thing, but hey, I’m PM for the day so who’s gonna tell me off?

What three things do other fat men need to know about losing weight?

Firstly, like I said above, it’s not a diet – don’t look on it as a short term fix.

Secondly, up the exercise as soon as you are able, start with walking if necessary, but don’t ‘eat’ those calories that MFP says you burnt.

Lastly, buy a jumper. A thick woolly jumper. And a hat and some gloves.

Our thanks to Neil and don’t forget – as with all our Amazing Losers and their weight loss before and after stories, you can find him on Talk and ask him anything you like! 

If you want to make a change to your life right now – then simply sign up for one of our free 30 day online weight programmes, the only thing you’ve got to lose is fat…