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Belfast man Tom Johnston shed half his body weight

Determined teen Tom 'happy in his own skin' after dropping 13 stone

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 01/02/2016

Tom after his weight loss
Tom after his weight loss
Tom holding up one of his old T-shirts
Tom before his weight loss

A 19-year-old Belfast man is celebrating after losing nearly half of his body weight in just 10 months.

Tom Johnston said that he is now at last "comfortable in his own skin" after shedding 13 stone 2lb from his former 27 stone and 5lb frame since last March.

He has swapped wearing size 5XL T-shirts with 54 inch waist trousers for large-sized men's shirts and tops with 36 inch waist trousers.

Once fearful of going out in public because of the looks and hurtful comments his size would attract, Tom says he feels much more confident on a night out with his friends.

And the Slimming World member is now hitting the gym as he hopes to build up more muscle as he makes his weight loss permanent.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I still weigh around 14 stone and 3lb. At six feet and two inches tall, I understand that I might just have a big frame and may never be like a tall skinny male model, no matter what weight I lose.

"I might just have that frame that I will look more like a rugby player. That's alright as long as I'm happy and healthy and feel really comfortable in my own skin."

The teenager also quit his bland and boring unhealthy calorie-laden diet for curries with added vegetables and making healthier choices. He gradually built his fitness up again by walking his dog Ollie.

The Belfast Metropolitan student said that while he has always been a large child, his weight problem worsened when he broke his leg playing football four years ago.

"When I was in Year 11 I broke my leg and because of my weight - I would have been wearing clothes 3XL even then - I couldn't go on crutches and had to use a wheelchair for quite a long time as it was a difficult break. My weight really went south at this time as I wasn't doing any exercise but my calorie intake was the same, if not more."

Tom Johnston (19) from Belfast with his Slimming World consultant Ashleigh Shaw.
Tom Johnston (19) from Belfast with his Slimming World consultant Ashleigh Shaw.

Tom finally decided to attend Braniel Church Slimming World club in east Belfast run by consultant Ashleigh Shaw at the end of March 2015.

His mother Brenda and sister Claire went there and had successfully lost weight.

He lost 9lb in the first week and steadily lost every week after that.

Tom recalled: "There wasn't one thing that made me join because at the end of the day, it's really down to the person and their choices, as no one else can really make you do it.

"But it was more that my emotional health was not good as I did not feel good or comfortable when I was out in public with my friends.

"I would have a fear at what could happen if someone would have a go at me because of my size.

"I would notice people looking at me and this was enough to make me uncomfortable. Sometimes I would go home and comfort eat which was exactly what I shouldn't have done."

Tom said that at times - even when the comments were not made maliciously - being referred to as 'big man' played on his confidence and self-esteem.

"I don't agree that it's up to the parents to say no to their kids at eating the wrong stuff as children now have access to their own money and can buy what they want. Kids need to be educated to what a healthy lifestyle is for them and what's not," he said.

Slimming World consultant Ashleigh Shaw congratulated Tom and said: "This is a fabulous achievement for a man of such young age, and Tom proves that nothing is impossible with a willing ear.

"As Tom was so young, I didn't know how he would find Slimming World, but he grew in confidence every week. As my youngest slimmer out of 190 members, he was well supported and looked after by all of the rest of the members.

"He's an absolute star who continued to shine every week."

Ashleigh runs two Slimming World clubs in east Belfast at Gilnahirk Baptist Church and Braniel Church both meeting at 5.30pm and 7.30pm every Wednesday and Thursday respectively.

Belfast Telegraph

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