A BRIDGWATER man who moved to Somerset at the start of the pandemic has lost more than 13 stone and won a national slimming award.
Martin Woodsford weighed in at 27 stone when he was eating up to eight chocolate bars a day and binging on take-aways and junk food.
But now he has been crowned Mr Sleek UK by Slimming World after changing his life dramatically and is on a mission to help others too.
Martin, now an award-winning consultant, is passionate about helping others lose weight in Bridgwater and Burnham on Sea, and has 40,000 followers on Instagram.
Martin suffered years of abuse as a child and has suffered all his life with mental and physical health conditions including depression and diabetes.
He says he was “abused very badly” as a child and was taken into care at the age of 11.
He added: “Life seemed pointless, and I had nothing to live for – it was pretty grim to be honest. I constantly lived in fear and felt worthless.
Beaten with a belt
“I was beaten with a belt, kicked, and had cigarettes used on my bare skin. People have endured much worse than I did, but I truly believe that these bad times was something that I had to go through to make me a stronger person and has enabled me to empathise with others.”
Martin, who is originally from South Wales, said food was sparse as child until he was saved by a residential school for abused children and that it gave him a “lifeline of hope”.
“It was wonderful to have clean clothes and to sleep in a normal bed with sheets and a duvet instead of a threadbare mattress on a concrete floor with a folded teddy as a pillow and an old coat as my only warmth in the winter months on my bed.”
But Martin’s mental health suffered, having a dramatic impact on his weight and created a vicious cycle of self sabotage and self abuse.
He added: “I eventually left the school at around 21, and felt incredibly lonely. Sometimes I coped, but many times I didn’t, with no family network to reply on.”
“I felt lost and alone, unloved and as overweight as I had become, I tried to take control by starving myself and developed anorexia and bulimia. It gave me control and enabled me to cope. I was hospitalised after collapsing.
“I hit rock bottom and could see no way out of surviving. I came to terms with that I’d never be happy’
He was advised counselling and was prescribed medication. Throughout his 30s, Martin said his weight loss fluctuate along with his mental health, as he fought to be positive and take control.
‘Then something happened which made my weight spiral out of control, I developed Type 2 diabetes, which worsened each month being prescribed more medication.
“I had asthma, a heart condition and could hardly walk … I was a mess and the doctors told me I would die if I didn’t do something. I didn’t listen.
“My ex-partner became pregnant in 2004 with triplets with a horrific pregnancy. There were so many complications – including my son having a grade three brain bleed and brain swelling.
“It was rewarding because we had our beautiful babies but gut-wrenching because you couldn’t enjoy all the special things new parents are supposed to enjoy.
“I was binge eating to cope and but nothing, and no amount of chocolate could fill the void.
“I would have a full Indian take-away but would still eat stuff in my house like Twixes, Bounties and things like that. On average, I was eating between five and eight bars of chocolate a day as well as secret eating whenever I could.”
Martin’s relationship later came to an end and he came out as gay in his 40s.
“It was an awful time, but liberating at the same time,” he said.
“I felt I would be judged, but I had to do it and be true to myself. All my friends said they knew before I did, but I really didn’t.
“I had counselling a few years ago and the counsellor really helped me understand that I had suppressed being gay because of the abuse I had suffered earlier in my life and with the need to have that perfect family that everyone dreams about.
“I first came out to some very close friends and then some work colleagues on a training course where I felt I was in a natural environment.
“It really wasn’t as bad as I had thought – even though my heart was racing at 100 miles an hour.”
Dropping more than 13 stone
Martin joined Slimming World in 2014 and has since lost more than 13 stone – dropping from 27 stone to just over 14 stone.
He puts it down to cutting out junk food, eating more vegetables and cooking everything fresh.
Martin who has now completely reversed his diabetes and all his health conditions, added: “It’s not only changed my life, but given me a life I never thought possible or knew I wanted.”
Now Martin is helping others by running his own Slimming World Groups.
“All anyone wants is to feel appreciated, to feel confident and happy. It’s my mission to help as many people as I possibly can achieve their dreams too,” he said.
Martin’s runs Covid-safe groups every Monday morning and evening at Bridgwater Community Church on Eastover (Opposite Spice World) and in Burnham-on-Sea every Tuesday morning and evening at the Sea Cadets Hall on Cassis Close near the Bay Centre.
For more information call, text or whatsapp 0734 092 4031 or follow Martin on Instagram at mr_slimmingworld .