Ashley Spendiff, a man who said he 'couldn't look at himself in the mirror' due to his large size has lost a whopping 20 stone in under two years by swimming in a lake.
The 42-year-old care home manager had reached a staggering weight of 36 stone after gorging on up to five takeaways a week and admitted that he needed two sets of scales to even weight himself.
At his heaviest point, Ashley had to wear XXXXXXXL t-shirts to fit around his 58 inch waist. Ashley says he turned to comfort eating following the death of a close friend and used food to mask his emotions, already feeling like he was being mocked for his huge size.
The turning point for Ashley was when he was diagnosed with diabetes in November 2021, which led to Ashley starting his fitness journey by going on walks - however, he found this difficult due to his size and would be constantly fighting for breath.
A friend of Ashley's introduced him to open water swimming in April last year and, through exercise alone, he has lost over half his bodyweight in just 16 months. Now a much healthier 16 stone, Ashley has managed to drop an impressive 22 inches off of his waistline.
Ashley attends two open water swimming sessions per weekend at his local park in Nottingham and was completing four two-hour swimming sessions per week at his peak.
Speaking on his journey, Ashley says: “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."
Ashley says that the buoyant effects of swimming helped to take the weight off his body making exercising much easier than if he was attempting it on land. Ashley's fitness journey didn't come without it's struggles as he admits: “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."
Ashley now feels much more confident looking in the mirror and says his eating habits have also improved, adding: “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."
The care home manager says that living on his own made it difficult to stay motivated, but he's incredibly proud of how far he has come on his weight loss mission so far.
He admits that he's quite shocked by his new way of life, saying: “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."
Ashley's previous diet consisted of things like bacon butties, kebabs, pizzas, burgers, chocolate and cake throughout the day. But now he's swapped the fatty foods for Weetabix, tuna salads, veg and boiled potatoes and fruit to snack on between meals.
Though Ashley is now happy with the way he looks with clothes on, he still feels self-conscious when undressed as the dramatic weight loss has resulted in two to three stone of excess skin. A GP assessed Ashley's excess skin and told him that in order to get it removed it would be considered a cosmetic procedure and therefore wouldn't be available on the NHS. To have the skin removed, he would need to have a private operation that could cost as much as £35,000.
Ashley has since set up a Just Giving page to help raise funds for his much-needed surgery.
Anyone wishing to donate to Ashley’s fundraiser can do so here.Featured Image Credit: SWNS