A student nurse who cut junk food from his diet after seeing overweight patients with Covid lost so much weight his own father didn't recognise him.

Rhys Perry, 35, had been a yo-yo dieter since the age of 17, when he had started putting weight on.

He struggled with emotional eating and had felt self-conscious next to his three tall and slim brothers.

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After losing more than 8st, Rhys is now 14st 12lb and has transformed his health - and appearance.

"When my dad didn’t recognise me in the supermarket it was the funniest thing ever," he said.

“I walked towards him and, obviously, the masks do have an impact, but it wasn’t until I was right next to him that he realised who I was!”

Rhys decided to finally take the plunge and lose weight after seeing overweight patients admitted to hospital with Covid.

He found it sad and realised he would be in the same situation if he did not lose weight.

Rhys had all of the 'bad habits' including binge eating, emotional eating and stress eating.

When he realised he was pre-diabetic he had a bit of a wake up call but it was seeing the Covid patients that gave him the push he needed.

“Now I feel happier, my mood is better. I’m more positive and confident in myself", he said.

Rhys lost more than 8st
Rhys before and after losing 8st

Rhys, a former primary school teacher, weighed 23st 3lb and wore a size XXXL T-shirt at his biggest.

Since joining My WW- formerly known as Weight Watchers - in June 2020, he has lost 8st 5lb and wears a size L.

Rhys qualified as a primary teacher in his 20s and says the job was bad for his eating habits. He would skip meals and then sit and graze on carbs and junk food, particularly when he felt overwhelmed by work.

When he was overwhelmed by work he would eat.

Rhys’ Diet Before:

Rhys changed career in 2019, swopping marking for ward rounds and scrubs.

“When I started nurse training I’d given up. I thought I would always be that size,” he confessed.

“I couldn’t wear what I wanted to. I was unhappy, but I couldn’t admit it to myself.

“Then we had lectures on diabetes and had to do a test on ourselves and I was pre-diabetic Type 2.”

Feeling overwhelmed – as no diet had ever worked before – at first, Rhys avoided confronting his weight.

“I knew I was at risk, but when my test said I needed to see a GP even that wasn’t enough,” he said.

Finally, what tipped him over the edge was seeing overweight patients in their very early 60s during the early wave of the pandemic, who were completely bedbound on hospital wards, needing full care.

“Thinking, ‘That is going to be me’ horrified me,” he said.

“On top of that, I’d do 12-hour shifts as a nurse and get home from the ward and my joints would be in agony from standing all day with the pressure of my weight.”

At the top of Pen Y Fan, in South Wales

So, in June 2020, after seeing adverts for the My WW app with TV star Curtis Pritchard, Rhys decided to take the plunge – settling on the Green plan.

Based on a points system, My WW asks users to record everything they eat, similar to calorie counting.

Rhys said: “I’m so grateful I found My WW. It’s all on the app on my phone.

“Mindset is a big part of it and it’s helped me unravel my eating issues.

“It’s total flexibility and total control at the same time. It’s based on science and prescribed by the NHS to help reverse Type 2 diabetes.”

Focusing on reframing his eating habits, Rhys found the structure helped him to cope with challenges.

“The world seemed to be in chaos, but the one thing I could anchor myself on was that I could control what I was eating,” he said. “I just carried on and suddenly 12 months had gone by.

“In June 2021 I did my transformation photo and I’d lost 8st 5lb.”

Rhys lost weight
Rhys lost so much weight his dad did not recognise him in the supermarket

Rhys is still aiming to lose another stone to a stone and a half, but he is thrilled with his results so far.

He said: “I just ate what I know is good and healthy to lose weight and I base my life around that now.

“You can’t take care of other people if you don’t take care of yourself and nursing is notorious for poor eating habits.

“I don’t think of it as a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.”

Reactions from friends and family have also spurred him on.

He said: “Because of lockdown, people haven’t seen me in 12 months, so they were blown away.

“Everyone’s amazed. They’ve been so pleased and proud. People even say I look younger.

“It’s nice when people ask how I did it, as I feel like I’m giving something back.”

Best of all, Rhys has completely reversed his prediabetes.

“It’s just such a relief,” he said. “Now, I’m looking to the future. I have even dipped my toe into the dating world.”

He is also delighted to be able to take up new hobbies, including running and mountain climbing – and is hoping to fulfil his dream of visiting Egypt in September 2022 to see the pyramids as his present to himself for graduating as a nurse, in March next year.

“My WW does focus on movement and I’ve really taken that to heart,” he said.

“I did the Couch to 5K programme, despite not being a natural runner. I run 5K three times a week now, as well as doing power yoga, workouts at home and walking Alfie.

“I really love walking and I’m planning on climbing the Blorange, the Skirrid and the Sugar Loaf – three other mountains in South Wales.

“I feel like I’ve got control of my life and I can go out and do things. I climbed Pen Y Fan with friends recently and I wasn’t at the top needing an oxygen mask – it’s a new lease of life.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt but never thought I could cope with the heat.

“I think there was always a thin person inside me – even at my biggest – and he just needed to be let out.”

Rhys Diet Now:

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