A TEACHER who was motivated to lose weight by his impending 30th birthday is celebrating losing nearly half his body weight and winning a national slimming competition.
James Pepper, from Market Deeping, had been overweight since he was 15 and promised himself he would not spend the next 15 years continuing to feel unhappy with his size.
Now he has lost 10st 6lb and been named Slimming World’s Man of the Year 2012
He said: “I’ve had people I know walk past me in the street. They’re always really apologetic but I actually take it as a huge compliment.”
While James’ transformation has taken just over a year, he says he gained the weight very gradually.
“At 15 I was just a little bit overweight but I didn’t do anything about it and I got bigger and bigger,” he said.
“Whenever I felt unhappy, whether it was about my weight or something else, I’d cheer myself up by buying something nice to eat like a cake or a pie.
“It carried on like that for the next 15 years. I always knew I needed to do something about my weight but I didn’t know what, so I’d put it to the back of my mind.”
But when a friend asked James how he was planning to celebrate his 30th birthday he knew he could not hide from it any longer.
He said: “That was the trigger because I realised then that I’d been unhappy with my size for half of my life. I asked my colleague Caroline, who had lost a lot of weight, about the Slimming World group she went to and agreed to go with her. She was delighted because she got a free week for bringing along a new member.”
In June 2011 James joined the Deeping St James Slimming World group, run by Cheryl Hall.
He said: “I was really nervous because I had the impression there’d be lots of women – and to be fair there was, but they were all really welcoming and friendly. Everyone’s so supportive and I really enjoy sharing ideas and recipes.
“Even talking about what someone else is struggling with or planning for their week ahead helps you as you pick up new ideas.”
When James returned to his school, Arthur Mellows Village College, Glinton, in September after the summer holidays almost 5st lighter, he was greeted by cheers from his pupils because of the enormous change.
By his birthday in October James had lost nearly 6st and since then he has shed another more than 4st.
He says the biggest change is learning to plan his meals.
“I never used to think about what I’d have for dinner until I was on my way home, which means I’d pick up a takeaway or grab something quick and easy – and usually unhealthy – from the supermarket,” he said.
“Since joining Slimming World I enjoy cooking meals from scratch. My favourite is homemade burgers and potato wedges with salad.
“Food isn’t my comfort blanket anymore either, although I do have an emergency Curly Wurly in my classroom – but so far I’m one of the few teachers who hasn’t broken it out.”
James also started to become more active, walking more and even going swimming for the first time in 12 years. It has had a huge impact on school life too.
James added: “As a geography teacher I go on lots of trips. I used to huff and puff my way up mountains, following the kids while someone else led, but now I’m first off the bus and charging up the hill.
“The kids at school have been really supportive and asked lots of questions, someone even asked if they could write a magazine article on me for their coursework which was very flattering.
“I think it’s important to be honest with them and I always say I wish I’d done something at their age, but at least I can say I finally got fit at 30.”
Name: James Pepper
Starting weight: 23st 12lb
Current weight: 13st 6lb
Weight loss: 10st 6lb
Waist before: 52in
Waist now: 36in
Breakfast: Piece of fruit
Lunch: Filled baguette and a small dessert
Dinner: Pizza and chips and a cake
Snacks: Crisps, biscuits
Breakfast: Mullerlight yogurt and a banana
Mid-morning: An apple
Lunch: A big salad followed by a sugar-free jelly pot
Mid-afternoon: A pear
Dinner: Chicken breast wrapped in bacon, a jacket potato topped with cheese and vegetables
Evening: 2 Alpen Light bars and some fruit
Treats: A slice of homemade cake or some Green and Black’s Dark Chocolate.