A Co Down man who weighed a whopping 37 stone has found a whole new quality of life after shedding more than half his body weight.
Phil Kayes, a civil servant from Bangor, was so embarrassed about his weight that he shut himself off from friends for decades.
Now since dropping an incredible 21 stone over the past three years, Phil has gone from never leaving the house to living life to the full.
The 47-year-old, who didn't travel in years because he was too big to fit in the seat of an airplane, now loves to visit new countries.
And after two decades of being single, he has also found new love with partner, Nicole Mulholland, a marketing executive who he met in November 2018.
Phil, whose inspirational weight loss journey has just earned him the title of Slimming World's Greatest Loser 2020, also recently came through Covid-19, dropping another stone in just two weeks because of the virus.
He is convinced had he not lost so much weight; it could have been a very different outcome. "I dread to think how my body would have responded," he says.
"I got the virus in March, just as the country locked down. I was knocked flat for two weeks and lost a stone.
"I lost my sense of smell and taste, although I had no dry cough. I was already at my target weight, but it was a bit of a bonus losing another stone."
Now a shadow of his former self, weighing 15 stone and six pounds, Phil has dropped from an 8XL to a size large on top and his waist has shrunk from 68 inches to 36.
For years he feared for his life because of the strain his weight was putting on his health.
Living on the third floor of his parents' house, he was also terrified that if he died in his sleep, the authorities would struggle to remove his body from the property.
At his heaviest, Phil suffered from a string of health issues, including pressure on his knees and sleep apnoea.
He admits he has struggled with his weight since childhood. "I was always bigger than my peers. I remember being called out at school by my PE teacher for being too big to play football," Phil says.
"The weight really started to pile on when I started university. I was always a fussy eater, but at university in the early 1990s the rubbish food was cheaper than the good food.
"There was lots of cheap beer in the students' union. I was drinking and eating peanuts then getting a burger or a kebab on the way home.
"My size meant that my life became increasingly insular and I made up a variety of excuses not to go out.
"My friends got married and had families, but I stayed at home and avoided going out 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 do anything except hide away and eat. It was a lonely time."
Phil realised he had to lose weight when his mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
"Mum was facing her fourth cancer battle, which sadly turned out to be her last," he explains.
"The news spurred me into action. I knew I had to try and be as healthy as I could, not just for her but for me too.
"I was also worried that if my mum did pass away, I wouldn't be able to be one of her pallbearers, which would have been heartbreaking.
"She died in October 2017, by which point I'd lost five stone. I know she'd be really proud if she could see me now, more than 21 stone lighter."
Phil was encouraged to join Slimming World in July 2017 by a friend who agreed to attend his local group with him. He went along worried he would be too heavy for the scales.
"The last time I'd weighed myself was at the hospital, where I had to stand on two sets of scales just to get a reading," the Bangor man recalls.
"My Slimming World consultant assured me there was nothing to worry about - and she was right. Everyone was so supportive and friendly. Although it was a shock to see the scales hit 37 stone, for the first time, thanks to her kindness and hearing about Slimming World's plan, I felt like I could do something about it."
Phil found the plan easy to follow as he could still eat hearty meals. "It was a lightbulb moment when I realised losing weight didn't mean starving yourself," he says.
"I was a bit vegetable-phobic when I joined, but now one of my favourite dishes is a Mediterranean vegetable pasta and I even tend to an allotment with a vegetable patch.
Phil also found checking in with the group each week invaluable and he has continued to attend virtual classes during lockdown.
Since more than halving his bodyweight, he has become much more active.
He has started cycling again after almost 30 years, is enjoying the freedom of travel and is in a serious relationship for the first time in many years.
"Years of being overweight really took its toll on my knees and I used to take medication daily to manage the pain," he says.
"I will still need a knee replacement, but I have delayed the inevitable and made the operation more likely to be successful.
"When I was 37 stone, my doctor told me surgery was too risky because calculating the anaesthetic needed for someone my size was so tricky.
"Now I've started cycling, I can walk without getting out of breath and I also enjoy yoga. It's a completely different life to the one I had before - one that is full of opportunities, friends and adventures. 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, been on a walking tour of Berlin and I've learned to drive. There are lots more adventures we want to tick off. For the first time in a long time, I'm excited about the future."
After the temporary suspension of its 19,000 community groups, Slimming World launched a virtual weight loss service to continue to support people to stay on track with healthy habits.
Phil has some advice for anyone struggling: "If I can do it, anyone can. It seemed to be insurmountable, but I am glad I did something about it before it was too late."
You can follow Phil on Instagram and Facebook @phil.kayes.sw
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 Chinese or Indian 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.
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.