A SUPER slimmer from Bradford has been named Low Moors’s Man of the Year 2020 after losing an incredible 7 stone – in the first ever virtual competition Slimming World has held in its 50-year history.

Since joining his Slimming World group in January 2019, Craig Berry has gone from 21st 4.5lbs to 14st 4lbs, proving that Slimming World works for men as well as women.

Members would usually vote for their group’s winner on a Saturday morning at their in-person Slimming World group – however this time around the nominations and celebrations were held online as part of the organisation’s new temporary virtual service.

Like many men, Craig initially thought that slimming clubs were aimed at women and assumed the focus would be on ‘diet’ food. However, he decided to give it a try as is weight was impacting on so many aspects of his life.

From struggling to find clothes to fit, to simple movements without feeling out of breath. Craig said: “Before I lost weight I was just existing, now I'm full of life and can do so much more.”

Craig was pleasantly surprised to find that the support provided by the group was practical and encouraging. He also enjoyed following Slimming World’s Food Optimising eating plan, which is based on the science of satiety and energy density, enabling him to enjoy generous portions of healthy food like lean meat, pasta, rice, eggs, potatoes, fruit and veg, to satisfy his appetite, so he didn’t have to go hungry.

He said: “Deep down I’d been unhappy with my weight for some time but it took me a long time to face up to it. And then when I did admit to myself that I wanted to lose weight I still didn’t want to ask for help. I’ve realised now though that far from being weak, asking for help takes strength of character and getting support to make changes has given me a sense of confidence that is benefitting every aspect of my life.

“It was nerve-wracking walking through those doors for the first time but everyone was so supportive.”

Slimming World introduced its new temporary virtual service in March, after announcing it was temporarily suspending its local groups in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Craig says the support and encouragement he’s continued to receive in his Slimming World virtual group has helped him stay on track with his weight loss.

He added: “I was sad to hear that my group had been suspended as I was worried about missing my routine of attending my weekly Slimming World group and nervous about holding on to the changes I’d made without it.

"So I was delighted when I found out Slimming World was going virtual – now I really enjoy attending my virtual group, it’s full of that same group spirit and laughter, and all the usual advice, like new recipe suggestions and ideas to boost our activity levels, that we’ve always received – only now from the comfort of my sofa.

"It’s been a real lifeline in helping me to hang on to those healthy habits I’ve built over the last 18 months and now I feel certain that – with the support of my group – I can manage my weight whatever life throws at me. I always come away feeling just as inspired and motivated to keep going each week, and love sharing new recipes and ideas with my friends in the group.

“One thing I’ve always loved about the Food Optimising plan is just how flexible it is. I love the variety of foods I can still enjoy such fakeaway kebab, chinese dishes or a roast dinner. Nothing is off limits – I can still enjoy a pint of beer!

"I’ve picked up loads more new recipes while attending my virtual group and have loved experimenting with dishes using ingredients I wouldn’t typically use such as risotto. So simple and easy to adapt and I’ve made a few different versions of this dish during lockdown."

As the weight came off, Craig found he had more energy and so he was eager to use it: “I always thought that physical activity would be the best way to lose weight, but when I was at my heaviest I just wasn’t fit enough to do it and I’ve since realised that I needed to do more than just move more.

“However, Slimming World’s Body Magic activity programme has helped me to become more active, and by breaking it down into chunks and starting small I’ve managed to build up my activity gradually.

"I started by walking more and as I got fitter, I started to push myself more, so now I walk to work everyday and I would usually walk to group each week too. Before lockdown I had signed up to my local gym, so I’m looking forward to get back to that when I can.

"I can honestly say I feel like a different man since losing weight. Now I feels much healthier, and more confident in myself."

Jo Firth, who runs the Low Moor Slimming World group says she’s incredibly proud of Craig: “He has done brilliantly and we’re all in awe of his transformation. And while so much has changed in the last few months his determination and motivation has remained the same – he’s a real inspiration to the group. Craig has become a whizz in the kitchen and every week the group loves to hear about what he’s cooking up. I couldn’t be prouder of everything Craig’s achieved!”

The national title winner for Slimming World’s Man of the Year 2020 competition will announced in the coming months. The overall winner will receive a £4,000 cash prize.

The Low Moor Slimming World group is held every Saturday morning, with various sessions available. Anyone interested in joining the group can call Jo on 07837 551811 or contact her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jofirthsw.