A couple whose weight ballooned to a combined 40 stone during the course of their relationship shed 15 stone together – and now weigh less than they did when they first met in their 20s.
Phil and Fran Jones knew they had to take drastic action after Mr Jones’ favourite snack nearly killed him. He had just eaten a Chinese takeaway in July 2012 when he collapsed.
He was rushed to accident and emergency and doctors told him a diet of takeaways, chips and pints had left him with fatty liver disease.
He faced heart attacks and was told he would not see his 50th birthday unless he lost weight.
But now the couple weigh less then they did when they first got together – and said despite having celebrated 18 years of marriage, it is like they are dating again.
Referring to the warning from doctors, Mr Jones admitted: “It wasn’t a complete shock.
“Closer than ever”
“I’d been told by every doctor I needed to lose weight or I’d be very ill. But being given a time scared me.”
He added: “We’re closer than ever.”
When he collapsed he weighed 23 stone 13 pounds, having been 16 stone when he started dating Mrs Jones in 1993.
She weighed 16 stone and was a size 24, having been a slim size ten when she started dating him.
Mrs Jones, now 40, said: “We had settled down and were happy.
“But with that we got lazy with our food. And it made us put on weight.”
Pints, bacon sandwiches and chips
She said they loved pints in the pub after work, bacon sandwiches for breakfast and chips and pizza. Mrs Jones said she was too embarrassed to go swimming and even got stuck in the slide at an adventure theme park. She was also called a “fat cow” by a stranger in the street.
So they decided to lose weight – and within two years had slimmed to smaller than their original sizes. When the doctor saw Mr Jones again he swore with surprise.
Mrs Jones now weighs 10 stone 10 pounds and wears a size ten. Mr Jones weighs 13 stone nine pounds.
They lost weight through a combination of cycling, inspired by the Olympics and their hero Chris Hoy, and healthy eating.
They have even competed in the 54-mile London to Brighton cycle ride. Mrs Jones said: “Our lives have totally changed.
“We’re happier and more confident. I hadn’t been on a bike for years and found it really hard. But I was determined to keep going.
“Losing weight has been a team effort. The support we’ve given each other has been a team effort. I’m fitter now than I was at 20.
“Our relationship has improved too. It feels now like how it did when we first got together. Over the years the weight piled on.”
She said they had tried to shed pounds before. “We were aware of our weight,” she said. “We felt self-conscious. We tried to lose it by drinking healthy shakes and going to slimming classes for a few weeks. But no diet seemed to work for us. We would quickly give up and go back to our old ways.
“Phil and I were both overweight and knew we needed to lose it. But I loved Phil regardless of how he looked and he told me all the time I was pretty and how much he loved me. So we never talked about our weight.”
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The couple cherished the time they spent with Mr Jones' children from a previous relationship. But the extra weight meant they often could not keep up with the children’s games.
Mrs Jones, a housing officer, said: “I hated taking them swimming because I looked fat in my swimsuit.
“When I got on the trampoline I worried people were laughing and thinking I’d burst it.
“I even got stuck on a shoot at an adventure park once and was mortified.”
Chinese takeaway almost killed Phil
Two years ago, Phil started getting indigestion after every meal and occasional stomach pains. One weekend, after a Chinese takeaway, he ended up on the floor, writhing in agony.
Mrs Jones said: “We were upset and realised we had lose weight this time. There was no alternative. It was lose weight, or die.”
But before they began, one other factor played a key role in spurring them on.
In recent years neither of them had done much exercise. Yet they were both massive football, rugby and athletics fans.
So the couple, who celebrated their 18th wedding anniversary last October, joined a slimming class and changed their diet.
“We stopped eating takeaways and snacking and ate smaller portions,” Mrs Jones said. “We wanted to lose weight every week so we stayed focussed. We planned exactly what we were going to eat each day.”
In June 2013, Mr Jones took up cycling while she hit the gym. She said: “The more weight that came off, the more classes I wanted to try out.
“I’d started out in baggy tees and joggers, but began to wear Lycra. People said they got tired just reading my Facebook statuses because I was always writing about the gym and classes I was attending.
“Our lives have totally changed.”