Irish Tom (19) who once weighed 27 stone wins top Slimming World award: 'I didn't think about the future because I worried I'd be unhappy forever'
A teenager who shed more than 14 stone has said he is finally happy in his own skin.
At his heaviest, Tom Johnston, 19, from Belfast, who tipped the scales at 27st 5lb, suffered anxiety and depression and was forced to drop out of school.
But after losing almost half his body weight, 14st 5lb, in 13 months he has dropped from a 54in (137cm) waist to 36in (91cm), returned to college and feels like he has a new lease of life.
"My weight robbed me of having the same experiences as other people my age.
"Now I'm like any other 19-year-old and that feels great," said Tom, who has been crowned Slimming World's Young Slimmer of the Year.
The student's weight increased dramatically after he broke his leg playing football aged 15 and was confined to a wheelchair.
But as Tom's waistline expanded, his confidence ebbed.
He added: "I suffered from anxiety and low mood and my weight was a big contributor to that.
"I couldn't enjoy things like my friends did and I was scared to go out because I worried what people might think or say about me because of my size."
Repeated attempts to lose weight failed and he found it difficult to stick to diets.
It was not until he joined his mother Brenda, 51, and sister Claire, 23, at Slimming World that the weight stayed off.
"In all honesty, I worried their group would be like an episode of the Golden Girls - I thought I'd be the only guy and wouldn't fit in - so I didn't really want to go with them," said Tom.
"Then one day I realised how sick I was of looking in the mirror and seeing someone who I wasn't happy with, so I bit the bullet."
"The group really motivated me and, as I lost weight, my mental well-being started to get better. I had the confidence to go back to college and I've just finished my AS exams.
"For years I didn't like to think about the future because I worried I'd be overweight and unhappy for the rest of my life. Now I'd like to go to university and I know I'll be able to get a better job because I'm in a better place.
"I'm comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life so I feel like I've got a chance to start again and I want to grab every opportunity - even those things other people my age might take for granted, like riding a bike or going out to a club with my friends - with both hands.
"I feel like these rites of passage eluded me in life and now, thanks to Slimming World, I'm ready to go out and seize the day."
Slimming World Consultant Ashleigh Shaw, who runs the Braniel group that Tom attends in east Belfast, said: "I've watched Tom's life change dramatically over the past 15 months and there have been so many firsts for him - he's joined a gym, started riding a bike, been out clubbing and started his studies again.
"He's a young man with a very bright future now and I feel honoured to have played a part in his journey."