A teenager from Cockermouth has a new-found spring in his step after losing almost five stones.

Josh Hempton, 17, lost 4st 11.5lbs, reached the final of Slimming World’s Young Slimmer of the Year 2020 competition and even met Olympian and Strictly Come Dancing winner Louis Smith MBE.

Josh joined the Cockermouth Slimming World group to feel more comfortable with his size.

He said: “I knew my weight was an issue, and I was starting to become increasingly unhappy. I would feel uncomfortable in my clothes and I’d started to make excuses not to go out with my friends because I often felt self-conscious.

“I was encouraged to join my local Slimming World group by my dad and Emma, my SENCO at school. I must admit I was nervous at the thought of joining at first because I thought that people might judge me for being overweight at such a young age.

“I soon realised how wrong I was though. Everyone at my group is amazing and they’ve all been so supportive of me – no matter what their age.

“My friends and family are really proud of what I’ve achieved – and I’m feeling quite proud of myself too, actually. I am doing things now that before I lost weight I didn’t think were possible, I’ve started walking and I feel so much better for it.”

Josh began following Slimming World’s flexible healthy eating programme, known as ‘food optimising’. He said: “I can still eat all my favourite foods like burgers, chips, curries and chocolate – I’ve just learnt how to prepare and cook them in a healthier way now.

“I feel as though I’ll be able to keep up this healthy way of life forever – which is something I never thought I would say.”

Since that first group, Josh has slimmed from 15st 10lbs to 10st 12.5lbs and as a result of his incredible achievement, his fellow members in the Cockermouth group voted for him to represent them in the Young Slimmer of the Year 2020 finals, which were held at Slimming World’s head office in Derbyshire in early March.

Josh made it to the final 25 out of all the 16- to 21-year-olds who attend Slimming World across the UK and Ireland.

The competition recognises the enormous achievements of young people in making long-term lifestyle changes to become fitter, healthier and happier.

He met gymnast Louis Smith at the finals, who said Josh’s transformation is remarkable.

Louis said: “Health and fitness has always been important to me, especially when I was competing professionally at a young age. I understand that sometimes it can be difficult to make healthy choices. The changes that Josh has made to turn his life around are nothing short of remarkable.

“It just goes to show that with the right support and mindset, anything is possible.

“Everyone I met and all the stories I heard were really inspiring. The one thing that stuck with me, though, was just how fondly they’ve spoken of their consultants and fellow group members, and how their support has played a big part in helping them achieve their dreams.”

Lisa Muir, who runs the Cockermouth Slimming World group that Josh attends, said: “I’m so proud of Josh. What he’s achieved is so much more than just losing weight.

“I’ve had the pleasure of watching Josh grow in confidence each week. Joining Slimming World has given him the knowledge and skills to make healthy choices and develop new active habits that will stand him in good stead for the rest of his life. I know he has a brighter future ahead of him now.

“Since our Young Slimmer of the Year competition took place, Slimming World made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend groups in order to keep its members safe and well during the ongoing pandemic. However, I’m keeping my members supported via a virtual group which is just as welcoming and a lot of fun.”

Anyone that would like to find out more about Slimming World or joining Lisa’s virtual group can contact her on 07488 377589.

Slimming World’s Young Slimmer of the Year 2020 will be announced later this month.