A MAN from Laindon reached the finals of a national slimming contest.

Ryan Sargeant, 20, lost nearly four stone in two years.

He lacked confidence and decided someting needed to change, so signed up to Slimming World classes.

Mr Sargeant has gone from living off junk food and microwave meals to eating freshly-prepared meals.

When he joined Slimming World in March 2012 he weighed 16st 13.5lbs, but is now 13st 3lbs.

Mr Sargeant said: “I used to feel like I was different from my friends. I felt like I stood out because I was bigger and I couldn’t always do the same things, or wear the same clothes as them.

“It affected my confidence and I didn’t want to be like that for the rest of my life. I wanted to make changes and knew I needed help to do that’’ He met Olympic swimming sensation Rebecca Adlington after being shortlisted for the Young Slimmer of the Year 2014 accolade.

His name was put forward by friends he made at the Slimming World group at St Paul’s Methodist Church, in Ballards Walk, Laindon.

Mr Sargeant said: “When I joined the group I was really nervous, but everyone was friendly and helpful. It was much easier than I expected to start making healthy choices and I soon realised I didn’t need to make drastic changes.

“Small things like swapping white bread for wholemeal and cooking healthy meals, instead of buying junk food or just putting convenience foods in the microwave, made a big difference."

Lynn Coleridge, who runs the group, said: “Everyone is so proud of Ryan. The changes Ryan has made have given him the knowledge and skills to make healthy choices and new active habits that will stand him in good stead.

"Most of all, it’s given him the self-belief and confidence to achieve his dreams, and, hopefully, meeting Rebecca has inspired him even more.”

Southend Standard: Heavyweight – the old