So – by the time you read this the winner of the Slimming World 2018 Greatest Loser Awards will have been announced.
As you’ve probably noticed in my last few posts I’ve been somewhat vague about why I’ve been feeling a little sleepless and I can now reveal that this is one of the reasons.
Some months ago in mid February – just before I hit target – the possibility of me entering the competition was raised by my consultant Angie – and although I couldn’t really talk about it back then it was one of the things that helped to finally push me over the finish line to my goal weight after faffing about a bit in January.
When we first discussed the subject I had to lose just over half a stone to get to my target. This would also bring me comfortably into a weight range for my height that qualified.
As I neared this however the weight of every aspect of my journey became a lot to deal with and I was pretty emotional.
There were quite a few one to one chats, late night texts and and minor meltdowns on my part and several of these landed in Angie’s lap.
The emotions associated with the end of such a long journey are sometimes difficult to deal with even now – and at times they can be quite raw.
One evening after work (the week before I hit target) I even ended up pouring my heart out to my wonderful consultant over coffee at kitchen her table.
The woman is a legend.
She has been a ROCK throughout.
Honestly though – despite the amazing possibility of winning something so cool at the time it wasn’t what stressed me out. I was waaaay more focused on my own goal instead of a prize.
Being healthy and happy is all that has ever been important to me. Anything else was just gravy on top.
Initially it didn’t worry me that much at all because I’d also quickly realised that the Greatest Loser competition involved an element of chance – which made much of it totally out of my control.
There’s simply no way of knowing if you’ll even make it onto a short list. You can ‘stack the deck’ if you lose a large amount – but numbers are all relative.
They’re only large if in comparison they’re higher than someone else’s.
That’s something that you have no way of influencing, and to underline this random aspect of the award (when I Googled it) a few years ago a guy called Oliver Bales won.
He’d lost lost much more than me (25st!Link) proving that there’s always a worthy hero out there with willpower and a lot to lose.
So – 20st in my case might seem like quite a bit – but who knew for sure? To be a winner you’re totally dependant on what others have achieved nationally.
If it was 2016 I might still have had a nice day out though because back then if you’d lost enough weight to place you in the top 10 (a cause of justifiable pride – Slimming World looks after around 900,000 UK members) it meant that you were invited to Head Office to meet the team.
If you were lucky enough to get the (ahem) Golden Wonka Ticket you were also in with a chance of winning a prize for 1st, 2nd or 3rd.
Would I place in the 2018 top ten?
Would I in fact place at all?
Either way it seemed quite incredible to be considered for the top ten of anything – let to possibly get into one out of that many people.
Then on the 29th March the phone rang and it was Angie. She sounded excited.
Or excited? Was she excited?
I really couldn’t tell.
“So, I’ve heard from head office and this year things have changed a bit.’ She said.
“Oh yes?’ I replied, bracing myself.
‘Usually they have a top ten but this year it’s different. It’s only going to be the top three…’
I waited, still braced.
(author adds a dramatic pause for effect and invites the reader to imagine a drum roll)
‘…you’re in the final!!!! You’ve won either first, second or third!!!!‘
I couldn’t un-brace.
There’s not much that shuts me up – but I honestly don’t think I said anything of consequence at that point other than babble that I only recall as white noise.
Then the long wait began.
I told a few people that I was in the competition over the following weeks on the understanding that they kept it super secret but otherwise I was unable to let on to most people what was happening – and we were absolutely prohibited from allowing this info to appear in social media until closer to the time.
I quietly booked off the 5th June at work and got on with life…
Then (after what seemed like decades) on Monday the 4th of June the day finally arrived to travel.
Late in the evening myself, a good friend – and Angie (after doing back to back support sessions with her Monday groups) headed for a hotel in Derbyshire booked by Slimming World.
Here we’d enjoy a nice meal and a night (all expenses paid) away from home.
As you may expect – a trip that’s almost exclusively about losing weight will always have an appreciation of food in it.
When I started writing this I realised that the only thing my camera got pointed at while in the hotel was my dinner and my breakfast – which were both delicious and entirely on plan.
The top one is a really healthy and ridiculously tasty prawn and salmon curry with pilau rice.
Proving that nerves were taking over (see my last post if you don’t believe me) I neglected to photograph anything else until we got to the Slimming Wold HQ!
It turned out that the event was serving a dual purpose – and we were all the guests of honour at the unveiling of a new part of the complex – which is now in it’s third phase of development.
Unlike many geographically distributed corporations Slimming World prides itself on the fact that the organisation’s constituent parts are ALL in a single location. They design, support and distribute from one place in Derbyshire – and for the consultants who train there and staff on site it just got a whole lot prettier.
I quickly realised that a lot of the day was about other people taking photos of me and my fellow finalists rather then me pointing a lens at things.
Consequently I spent very little time (at least by my standards) taking pictures myself and missed a lot out that I really should have snapped.
I honestly couldn’t help myself though when I visited the toilet after the initial meet and greet and immediately whipped out my phone.
The loos looked like they had NEVER been used – and they were seriously FUNKY!
(Make sure you look closer at the song titles pics!)
For the occasion I’d decided to dress as smart as possible – and as such when we arrived the three of us joked that we all looked like we were attending a wedding.
As it happened the room that we were eventually ushered into looked very much like somewhere where we might attend one.
There were three tables (one for each finalist) with lovely dressed chairs and immaculate place settings.
There were also a lot of people sitting around them that were practically SW royalty. As well as containing many of the (very down to earth) head honchos from the organisation on mine there was also a a lovely lady called Tracy Topping.
I realised that she was the Greatest Loser in 2017 (link).
She was there to hand over the title to the new guy – and yes – it WAS a guy….
Just not this one.
I placed third (something I’m immensely proud of and happy with) and since we were introducing ourselves to the assembled guests in reverse order I was first up – but not before we got to hear from the 2017 woman of the year Fay Marshall (link).
She who gave us a flavour of how Slimming world had totally changed her life – and it’s clear that she meant what she said.
Fay is now effectively an ambassador for the company – and from what I could see she has been doing a wonderful job since becoming a very different person to her former self in a whole host of ways.
Truthfully it was really hard to hold back the emotions when it was my turn to occupy the front of the room with Angie.
Mostly because I didn’t know quite what or how to say regarding how grateful I was that I’d regained my life. I resorted to using my blog and stumbled through an impromptu speech of sorts.
In actuality I read out to everyone a segment of my non-scale victories page (link) and described – as best I could in around ten minutes – how much different my world had become after shedding 20 stone.
When I sat down at the table with my certificate and trophy I was still trembling.
Third place out of 900,000 people.
Who would have thought this would happen three short years ago when I was a heavy drinking man of 35 stone edging ever closer and closer to being measured for his coffin?
As the presentations went on and the other finalists shared their stories it became apparent that I wasn’t the only one who had made life altering and life affirming changes.
Second place had pipped me to the post by two and a half pounds, and first by an impressive eleven and a half pounds.
Between us the three greatest losers had lost a combined total of sixty one stone.
(I’m not going to go into detail about who the others are or how they got to where they did because it’s their story to tell. Today Slimming World will be sending out press releases regarding how special they are and will help them share their journeys with the world. I would however like to say a heartfelt ‘Right on brothers‘ to both. You did fantastic guys.)
Once the (rather emotional and heartfelt) presentations from them were over we started to eat – and this was one of those rare occasions where I didn’t have to worry about what I was consuming.
As you might expect the menu was entirely designed around the plan and even contained all the syn values on the presentation card!
If only ALL restaurants could be like this!!!
I had the beetroot salad for a starter, the chicken as a main and the cheesecake as a dessert – and the latter was soooooooo good that I ate it before I remembered to take a photo.
It was delicious!
Whilst I was hoovering this up others were taking some more snaps.
After the meal and a few more selfies (Angie is pictured above with the winner who’s now also become a consultant!) we were invited on a tour of their impressive new facilities and got to see all of the hard work that went on behind the scenes to make it possible for all of the consultants to manage their members.
It’s a really well oiled operation that still seems to have a very close family feel.
As well as having a fully equipped gym with personal trainer on site they also have a salon (open to the public) where the ladies can go and pamper themselves.
The staff seem well looked after by this employer and they’re enthusiastic when you ask them about the company they work for. Given that many of the people on their wall of historical handouts still work in the building it’s not hard to see why!
(on the right of the hair and beauty salon photo in a dark shirt next to the winner is the guy who came 2nd!)
All too soon the day was over and we headed home in the afternoon traffic to Warwick.
I have to say internet it was a wonderful day – and one that I’ll never forget. As I write I still have a smile on my face.
Although I already said it many times while I was there I cant thank everyone I met enough for making me feel so special and so welcome.
They’re a truly an amazing bunch!