Chichester slimmer Simon Lee was given the chance to meet an England international footballer after reaching the semi-finals of a Man of the Year competition.
Simon was one of three slimmers from West Sussex among 32 semi-finalists in the competition to find the UK and Ireland’s top male slimmers.
Simon, 49, slimmed from 20st 4½lbs to 12st 13½lbs with the Bognor Regis Slimming World group and was congratulated by former Coventry, Aston Villa and Leicester City star Dion.
He said: “Of course I was worried that as a man I’d stand out like a sore thumb when I first joined. It wasn’t like that at all though – everyone was really supportive and welcoming.
“All the hints, tips and recipes you pick up in group are really helpful, too. You soon come to realise that everyone is in that room for the same reason.
“I was a bit hesitant to tell my friends I was going to a slimming group in the beginning, by the time they noticed that I was losing weight I had no problem singing Slimming World’s praises, though.
“When I first started losing weight, I had no idea I’d end up at the semi-finals of a national competition. I’ve been overwhelmed by the stories of the other finalists and meeting Dion made it all the better as I’ve got a great story to tell my mates now.”
The other West Sussex semi-finalists were Andrew Turner, 42, from Horsham, who slimmed from 28st 9lbs to 15st 4lbs, and Andrew Newson, 52, from Crawley, who went from 22st 5½lbs to 13st 8lbs.
Dion, who now presents daytime TV show Homes under the Hammer, said he was blown away by the achievements of the men he met at the competition.
“Health and fitness formed a huge part of my career as a footballer, so I know how much effort and dedication it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” he added.
“It was a pleasure to meet Andrew, Simon and Andrew and hear all about their weight loss. They’ve taken a really big and important step – a step which a lot of men would find too daunting.
“I think many people would be guilty of thinking that going to a slimming club isn’t very macho. It takes a lot to recognise that you have a weight problem and then be brave enough to do something about it – they’re all top men in my book.”
Andrew Turner and Andrew Newson reached the final ten of the competition and the title went to Danny Crosby from Altrincham.
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