A care home manager who ‘couldn’t look at himself in the mirror’ because he was so fat has lost 20 STONE in less than two years – by going swimming in a lake. Ashley Spendiff, 42, ballooned to a staggering 36 stone after gorging on five takeaways a week and needed two sets of scales to even weigh himself. At his heaviest, he was forced to wear XXXXXXXL t-shirts and had an enormous 58 inch waist. Ashley turned to comfort eating following the death of a friend and in a bid to mask his emotions because he believed people were mocking his gigantic size. But he was given the wake up call he needed when he was diagnosed with diabetes by his GP back in November 2021. At first, Ashley began to go on walks to help him to lose weight but he found it hard due to his size and would constantly be out of breath. In April last year, Ashley’s friend introduced him to open water swimming and through sheer exercise he has lost more than half his body weight in 16 months. Ashley now weighs a healthier 16 stone and has dropped an astonishing 22 inches off his waistline. He still attends two sessions every weekend at Colwick Country Park, in Nottingham, and at his peak was completing four two-hour sessions a week. Ashley, from East Bridgford, Notts., said: “Throughout my life my weight has always fluctuated and I have always tried to lose weight. “But I would get three weeks in and give up. “About 15 years ago I did go on the Cambridge diet where you only drink milkshakes and lost eight stone but afterwards I ballooned and doubled my weight and that’s how I got to 36 stone. “When I was diagnosed with diabetes that’s when I became determined to lose the weight as before then my size had never affected my health. “I knew that now it was, I had to do something about it. “My friend introduced me to open water swimming in April 2022 and I’ve never looked back. “Swimming took the weight I was carrying off my body compared to other exercising which meant I could do so much more. “In the summer last year I was doing two hour sessions up to four times a week and at the moment as it is winter I am still doing two sessions at the weekend. “At first, I was worried that too much of my body would be on show, but you could wear whatever you wanted as it was open water swimming, and this gave me more confidence. “The women that run the sessions were also so supportive and I found it really good for my mental health too. “It showed me that exercise could be fun and I started to look forward to it and have also tried paddle boarding now too. “I was in a very dark place before with my weight and I couldn’t look at myself in a mirror. “I would try to not make eye contact with people in the street as I know they would be judging me for my size, but now I feel confident.” Before losing the weight, Ashley felt he was stuck in a ‘vicious cycle’ of bad eating and needed to rewire his brain into making better lifestyle choices. Being a single man, he found he often got lonely and would turn to food for comfort and spent hours sat in a chair online gaming for someone to talk to. He would eat up to five takeaways a week and often filled up on crisps and chocolates from the local shop before work. Now, Ashley enjoys cooking and tries to stay clear of processed food and has incorporated more protein and fruit and veg into his diet. Alongside his swimming, Ashley now enjoys going on five-mile evening walks up to five times a week and does cardio workouts at the gym twice a week. He said he now spends ‘too much time’ looking at himself in the mirror. Ashley added: “Before work I would always grab chocolate and crisps and snacks from the convenience shop nearby and would eat a lot of takeaways. “I now enjoy cooking for myself which is not something I did before my weight loss. “When you live on your own its hard to keep yourself motivated but I just look at how far I have come now and I’m very proud. “I still have the odd takeaway but when I was losing the weight, I was very strict with myself and didn’t snack at all or have any fast food. “I probably spend too much time looking in the mirror now. “I replaced my comfort eating with exercise and positive things. “If you told me two years ago that I’d enjoy going to the gym I would’ve laughed. I find it easier to engage with people and strike up conversation in public. “When you are bigger there are so many things you have to think about that the average person doesn’t. “I had to buy all of my clothes online as shops didn’t have my size but now since my weight loss, I love shopping off the rack and going round charity shops to find clothes I like. “When I was 36 stone, I would always worry about work meetings and whether I would be able to sit in the chair. “I stopped going to the cinema as I felt I was too big to fit in the seat and I have never been abroad because I feared I wouldn’t fit in the plane seat. “Now I have lost the weight I don’t have to worry about these things and I am looking forward to booking a holiday abroad somewhere soon.” Ashley is now happy with how he looks with clothes on but still feels self-conscious about his body when getting undressed as his dramatic weight loss has left him with two to three stones worth of excess skin. Recently, he visited his GP to look into get the skin removed on the NHS but was told it was classed a cosmetic treatment and would need to undergo a private £35,000 operation to get it removed. Ashley has now set up a Just Giving page to help him raise the funds for his much-needed surgery. Anyone wishing to donate to Ashley’s fundraiser can do so at : DIET BEFORE: Breakfast: Sausage roll/ bacon cob Lunch: Order in a takeaway such as a kebab or chicken strips and chips. Dinner: Takeaway including pizza, burgers, kebabs and chips. Snack: Crisps, chocolates and cake throughout the day. DIET NOW: Breakfast: 2 Weetabix with milk Lunch: Chicken or tuna salad with a boiled egg Dinner: 2 pork medallions, veg and boiled potatoes. Snack: Fruit throughout the day.
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