Phil Kayes, 47, had been warned by doctors that his size was putting such a strain on his health he would be lucky to reach the age of 40.
He weighed 520.5 pounds at his biggest — but has now managed to cut to an impressive 226 pounds in just three years.
Kayes said he was spurred into action after his mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He then embarked on his weight loss journey, during which met partner Nicole Mulholland.
Kayes said he had previously resigned himself to “dying alone” — but credits his slim size with helping him find love.
The civil servant, from Co. Down, Northern Ireland, also believes his weight loss may have saved his life after he caught COVID-19.
He added that his survival was a “timely reminder” how important his health is.
Kayes was helped in his dramatic transformation by Slimming World, who recently crowned him their “Greatest Loser 2020.”
Despite its name, the competition celebrates the person with the highest weight loss among all the brand’s members.
Kayes said: “I was always bigger than my peers. I remember at school being called out by my PE teacher for being too big to play football.
“The weight really started to pile on though when I started university.
“My size meant that my life became increasingly insular and I made up a variety of excuses not to go out.
“I’d avoid gatherings like parties and weddings because I just felt so uncomfortable. I knew I wouldn’t fit into a plane seat so I never traveled, even though I really wanted to.
“Apart from my job as a civil servant, I didn’t really do anything except hide away and eat. It was a very lonely time.”
At his heaviest Kayes suffered a string of other health issues including pressure on his knees and sleep apnea.
His shirt size was a huge XXXXXXXXL, with a 68-inch waist.
But his main worry was that should he die in his sleep, his heavy body couldn’t be removed as he lived on the third floor of his parents’ house.
Kayes then realized he had to do something about his weight when his mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
He said: “Mom was facing her fourth cancer battle which sadly turned out to be her last.
“The news sort of spurred me into action and I knew this time I had to try and be as healthy as I could – not just for her but for me as well.
“I was also worried that if my mom did pass away, I wouldn’t be able to be one of her pallbearers, which was heartbreaking.
“She died in October 2017, by which point I’d lost [70 pounds]. I know she’d be really proud if she could see me now — more than [294 pounds] lighter.”
Kayes has become much more active since losing all the weight — and has started cycling again after a near three-decade absence from the activity.
He said: “Years of being overweight really took its toll on my knees and I used to take medication daily to manage the pain.
“I will still need a knee replacement at some stage, but I have certainly delayed the inevitable and made the operation itself more likely to be successful.
“When I was [518 pounds], my doctor told me it was too risky for me to have surgery because calculating the anesthetic needed for someone my size was so tricky.
“Now I’ve started cycling again, I can walk without getting out of breath and I also enjoy yoga.
“It’s a completely different life to the one I had before – one that is full of opportunities, friends and adventures.”
Kayes also credits his weight loss with helping him to meet partner Nicole, who he found on an online dating app.
He said: “By far the best thing that has happened to me since losing weight is meeting Nicole.
“When I was bigger I couldn’t imagine ever finding love and felt resigned to dying alone.
“Since meeting we’ve moved in together, swam in the Mediterranean Sea, been on a walking tour of Berlin and I’ve learned to drive.
“There are lots more adventures we want to tick off the list and for the first time in a long time, I’m excited about the future.”
Before Kayes lost weight, he would follow a meal:
- Breakfast — sausage roll or a sausage bap with cheese and ketchup. Full fat latte or cappuccino with added sugar.
- Lunch — tinned soup with 3-4 rounds of white bread, large bag of crisps and a chocolate bar or chips with cheese and lots of sauce.
- Dinner — large supermarket pizza, crisps and chocolate or a takeaway.
- Evening — multipack crisps, jumbo bar of chocolate, family bag of sweets, doughnuts, biscuits.
Now, he’s much more conscientious about his eating.
- Breakfast — bran flakes or reduced-sugar muesli with fat-free yogurt and frozen berries. Americano coffee with skimmed milk.
- Mid-morning — fruit.
- Lunch — leftovers from a home-cooked meal the night before or a pasta dish and some fruit.
- Dinner — chicken or salmon with Slimming World chips or potatoes with lots of fresh veg from the allotment.
- Evening — a Slimming World Hi-Fi bar.