An obese man who shed an impressive 21 stone has credited his dramatic weight loss with helping him to beat the coronavirus – and finally find love.
Phil Kayes, 47, from Co. Down, Northern Ireland, weighed 37 stone 2lbs at his heaviest and was warned by doctors that because his size was putting such a strain on his health, he would be lucky to reach the age of 40.
But following his mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis before her death in 2017, Phil was spurred into action and is now just 15 stone 6lbs after three years of dieting.
Phil, who resigned himself to ‘dying alone’, believes his remarkable weight loss helped him find love with his partner Nicole Mulholland and also saved his life after he apparently caught COVID-19 during the pandemic.
Phil Kayes (pictured right, recently), 47, from Co. Down, Northern Ireland, weighed 37 stone 2½lbs at his heaviest (pictured left) and was warned by doctors that his size was putting such a strain on his health, he would be lucky to reach the age of 40
The civil servant said that his survival was a ‘timely reminder’ of how important his health is.
Phil was helped in his dramatic transformation by Slimming World, who recently crowned him their ‘Greatest Loser 2020’.
The competition celebrates the person with the highest weight loss among all the brand’s members.
Phil said: ‘I was always bigger than my peers. I remember at school being called out by my PE teacher for being too big to play football.
But following his mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis, Phil was spurred into action and is now just 15 stone 6lbs after three years of dieting. He believes his remarkable weight loss helped him find love with his partner Nicole Mulholland (pictured together)
‘The weight really started to pile on though when I started university.’
He explained: ‘My size meant that my life became increasingly insular and I made up a variety of excuses not to go out.
‘I’d avoid gatherings like parties and weddings because I just felt so uncomfortable. I knew I wouldn’t fit into a plane seat so I never travelled, even though I really wanted to.
‘Apart from my job as a civil servant, I didn’t really do anything except hide away and eat. It was a very lonely time.’
Phil (seen at the start of his weight loss journey) was helped in his dramatic transformation by Slimming World, who recently crowned him their ‘Greatest Loser 2020’
At his heaviest Phil suffered a string of other health issues including pressure on his knees and sleep apnoea. His shirt size was a huge XXXXXXXXL, with a 68in waist.
But his main worry was that if he should die in his sleep, his heavy body would be difficult to remove because he lived on the third floor of his parents’ house.
Phil’s diet before and after his weight loss
Breakfast – sausage roll or a sausage bap with cheese and ketchup. Full fat latte or cappuccino with added sugar.
Lunch – tinned soup with 3-4 rounds of white bread, large bag of crisps and a chocolate bar or chips with cheese and lots of sauce.
Dinner – large supermarket pizza, crisps and chocolate or a takeaway.
Evening – multipack crisps, jumbo bar of chocolate, family bag of sweets, doughnuts, biscuits.
Breakfast – bran flakes or reduced-sugar muesli with fat-free yogurt and frozen berries. Americano coffee with skimmed milk.
Mid-morning – fruit.
Lunch – Leftovers from a home-cooked meal the night before or a pasta dish and some fruit.
Dinner – chicken or salmon with Slimming World chips or potatoes with lots of fresh veg from the allotment.
Evening – a Slimming World Hi-Fi bar.
Phil realised he had to do something about his weight when his mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
He said: ‘Mum was facing her fourth cancer battle which sadly turned out to be her last.
‘The news sort of spurred me into action and I knew this time I had to try and be as healthy as I could – not just for her but for me as well.
‘I was also worried that if my mum did pass away, I wouldn’t be able to be one of her pallbearers, which was heartbreaking.’
Phil was encouraged to join Slimming World in July 2017 by a friend who agreed to attend his local group with him.
He said: ‘I was, of course, nervous on that first night but it really helped to have my friend Laura beside me. I even contacted the consultant in advance to check the scales would be able to weigh me.’
Phil soon got to grips with an eating plan, which enabled him to lose weight while enjoying a wide variety of foods. It includes lean meat, potatoes, pasta, fruit and vegetables.
He said: ‘In the past I’d been referred to dieticians and dabbled with intermittent fasting and restricting my portions.
‘I would lose weight initially but I could never stick to it because I was hungry most of the time.’
He said his new diet allowed him to satisfy his appetite with healthy meals, revealing: ‘It felt like a bit of a lightbulb moment when I realised losing weight didn’t have to mean starving yourself.
‘I was a bit vegetable-phobic when I first joined but now one of my favourite dishes is a Mediterranean vegetable pasta – and I even tend to an allotment with a veggie patch.’
‘The group environment really helped me too because for the first time I was surrounded by people who knew how it felt to struggle with their weight.’
Phil quickly began to lose weight but his world was rocked by tragedy when his mother died.
Phil (above) also thinks his thinner size could have helped him beat what he thought was coronavirus. He said that, while it was unpleasant and he was knocked off his feet, he’s not sure he would have survived if he hadn’t lost weight
He explained: ‘She died in October 2017, by which point I’d lost 5st. I know she’d be really proud if she could see me now – more than 21st lighter.’
Phil has become much more active since losing all the weight – and has started cycling again after a near three-decade absence from the activity.
He said: ‘Years of being overweight really took its toll on my knees and I used to take medication daily to manage the pain.
‘I will still need a knee replacement at some stage, but I have certainly delayed the inevitable and made the operation itself more likely to be successful.
‘When I was 37st, my doctor told me it was too risky for me to have surgery because calculating the anaesthetic needed for someone my size was so tricky.
‘Now I’ve started cycling again, I can walk without getting out of breath and I also enjoy yoga.
Phil said his formerly lonely life has been transformed by his weight loss, and now feels it is ‘full of opportunity and adventures’
‘It’s a completely different life to the one I had before – one that is full of opportunities, friends and adventures.’
Phil also credits his weight loss with helping him to meet partner Nicole, who he found on an online dating app.
He said: ‘By far the best thing that has happened to me since losing weight is meeting Nicole. When I was bigger I couldn’t imagine ever finding love and felt resigned to dying alone.
‘Since meeting we’ve moved in together, swam in the Mediterranean Sea, been on a walking tour of Berlin and I’ve learned to drive.
‘There are lots more adventures we want to tick off the list and for the first time in a long time, I’m excited about the future.’
Phil also thinks his thinner size could have helped him beat what he thought was coronavirus. He said that, while the illness was unpleasant and he was knocked off his feet, he’s not sure he would have survived if he hadn’t lost weight.
He added: ‘I dread to think how my body would have responded. It was a timely reminder of how important my health is.’