A 24-year-old Portsmouth man says he feels ‘normal’ for the first time in his life after his amazing weight loss.
Oliver said he had been bullied about his weight - which at his heaviest reached nearly 39 stone - throughout his school and university life.
He said he was unable to stand for long periods without being in pain, had high blood pressure and could not fit on seats on public transport and in lecture theatres at university.
After being inspired by a friend’s weight loss on social media, Mr Bales turned to Slimming World, which has now crowned him its Greatest Loser 2016.
How did his diet change? Oliver’s before and after menus
He said his weight became a significant problem as he reached his teenage years.
“While I have some amazing memories from my childhood, I sometimes look back and wish I could have the chance to re-do it,” he said.
“I used to feel like people were always comparing me to other children my age, and feeling like ‘the fat, ugly one’ made me angry and upset.
“I missed out on a lot, too - I always used to ‘forget’ my PE kit because I hated getting changed in front of the other pupils.
“As time went on, I got bigger and that’s when the bullying started.”
Oliver, who lost weight at the Fareham/Titchfield group run by Colette May-Matthews. said he descended into depression when he went to university to study business studies.
He said: “I didn’t get the experience of university life I’d hoped. I was too big to take part in activities, and I couldn’t fit in the seats in some lecture halls so I’d have to sit at a separate table away from everyone else, which was mortifying.
“I’d assumed university would be a mature environment and I’d be safe from bullies, but things were worse than in my home town. I felt so ashamed and broke down.”
Oliver, who would spend most days lying in bed, eating and watching television, said he was inspired to lose weight after he feared he would not be around to see his niece and two nephews grow up and also after suffering embarrassing situations such as cracking the family bath when he stood in it to have a shower.
After seeing his friend’s success with Slimming World, Mr Bales joined his local group and worked with consultant Colette May-Matthews to reduce his weight which at its highest was 38st 13.5lb.
Oliver, who is half-Filipino, said: “I was completely shocked that cooking something the Slimming World way could taste so delicious - better than before, in fact - and, coming from an Asian background, I am a complete lover of rice so I was over the moon to know I could eat rice and still lose weight.
“I can honestly say I have never felt hungry.
“My Slimming World consultant Colette is so passionate about the plan that I knew, right from the first week, that it could work for me.
“Seeing her every week with a smile on her face and knowing she and the other members in my group are always there for support when I need it has helped me to get to where I am today - and I know they’ll help me to stay at my target weight, too.”
Oliver, originally from Ipswich, Suffolk, lost a total of 25st and 0.5lb taking him to 13st 13lb and he has gone from wearing size 6XL clothes with a 64in waist to an M with a 34in waist and has also dropped down two shoe sizes.
Since losing weight, he has enjoyed becoming more active and is now a regular gym-goer. He also goes swimming and running and has ambitions to run a marathon, do a triathlon and learn to scuba dive.
Oliver, who has recently started a new job as an on-board host for Rail Gourmet/South West Trains, said: “Everyone tells me I look amazing, which is a great feeling.
“As I’ve shrunk, my confidence levels have soared and I’m so much happier and much more ambitious. I used to be so shy and quiet but that’s completely vanished now and I’ve made new friends and reconnected with old ones.
“Being overweight has affected by entire life - until now. I finally know what it’s like not to feel like an outcast, to be able to walk down the street without people laughing, pointing or calling you names, to not take up two seats on a train, to not be in constant pain.
“Thanks to Slimming World I feel normal for the first time in my life and my only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner.
“I hope my story will inspire other people to know that it’s never too late to get support and, even if they don’t know it, there is help just around the corner. My advice to anyone wanting to make a change is ‘Close your eyes and jump’.”