Last spring, after fielding questions at the despatch box in the House of Commons, the welfare minister Will Quince sat down to review his recorded performance, something he hadn’t done in a long time.
He was horrified by what he saw — not because there were fluffed lines, or he had failed to master his brief as the minister responsible for the Universal Credit benefit. Instead it was his large form and the extra chin taking hold, on top of the double one he already had, which made him wince.
‘I knew I was carrying far too much weight — I was getting out of breath with minimal effort,’ says Will. ‘And seeing how I looked, I knew I had to act.’
Will, 38, who has been the MP for Colchester in Essex since 2015, decided to make a rare trip to his bathroom scales.
Welfare minister Will Quince, 38, who has been the MP for Colchester in Essex since 2015, decided to make a rare trip to his bathroom scales last Spring and was horrified by what he saw
‘I was just over 18 st 7 lb,’ he says. ‘Far too big, as I’m just under 6 ft. I had to do something about it.’
The extra motivation came in March 2020, soon after his despatch box performance.
‘What really spooked me was seeing the Prime Minister, who was a similar weight to me, so seriously ill with Covid,’ says Will.
‘He made it clear when he came out of hospital that his excessive weight was a factor [Boris, who is 5 ft 9 in, was 17 st 7 lb]. It was a sobering moment so I knew I had to do something about it.
Will Quince MP shows off his slimmed down figure after losing six stone since the start of the pandemic
Will said his transformation has been truly life-changing as he sleeps better and has ‘tons more energy’
‘Although I suffered no obvious health issues, I was certainly storing some up, and I was a terrible snorer.’
Yet in just eight months Will transformed his health and stopped snoring. Having drastically cut his calorie intake, and taken up a strict fitness regime, he’s shed almost 6 st, and now weighs 12 st 13 lb.
… and here are my 5 diet rules
1. Take each day at a time and set yourself small goals. For example, cut down on how much you eat, and phase out (rather than instantly eliminate) the things that are bad for you.
2. Build treats into your routine, so you have an incentive to keep you going. I allow myself a sliver of cheese each day and three small chunks of chocolate. Just don’t finish the bar. Indulge yourself with a glass of wine at the weekend. But never finish the bottle.
3. Don’t worry about falling off the wagon if you’ve eliminated alcohol from your diet. Just get back on it and stick at it.
4. Take regular exercise: I run 10km every day. Make exercise part of your daily routine.
5. One of the most important Quince rules: losing weight is a marathon not a sprint. Do not expect overnight success. It’s taken me a year to get to where I am and I still have a stone to lose.
‘If you’d have told me a year ago that I would be almost 6 st lighter by the New Year and running 10 km in under an hour, I would have laughed out loud,’ says Will, who has two daughters, aged eight and four, with his wife, Elinor, 38, a primary school teacher.
‘I am fitter and feel healthier, I sleep better and I have tons more energy.’
His transformation has been truly life-changing. For this isn’t an issue that arose because of Will’s hectic life as an MP — he has struggled with his weight since he was a pupil at Windsor Boys’ School, Berkshire.
At his heaviest — before he entered Parliament — he weighed 20 st. The most he had ever shifted was 3 st long ago.
‘I ate too much, it’s as simple as that,’ he says. ‘I used to love tucking into a burger and chips or spaghetti bolognese. I would always eat too much of the pasta and, of course, clear the last slices of garlic bread off the plate.’
His other weakness was red wine. ‘I’ve always liked a glass in the evening — more like a bottle at weekends,’ he says.
At one point Tom Watson, the former deputy Labour leader, offered to help Will lose weight.
Tom, who wrote the diet book Downsizing: How I Lost 8 Stone, Reversed My Diabetes And Regained My Health, was 22 st before he slimmed down. Having given up his Commons seat at the last election, he is now planning to retrain as a personal trainer.
Will says: ‘I haven’t read Tom’s book, but about three years ago he sought me out to try to encourage me to lose weight. I have always got on well with him, but despite his words of encouragement over the years, I wasn’t in the right place at the time — you have to really want to lose weight to achieve it.
‘If I hadn’t had to look at myself on the screen, and had I not been confronted by the serious threat that Covid poses if you are obese, I might still not be in the right frame of mind.
Will was ‘just over 18 st 7 lb,’ he says. ‘Far too big, as I’m just under 6 ft. I had to do something about it.’ Pictured before his weight loss
‘I would encourage everyone who has been fighting the fat for years to stop putting off getting themselves in shape. Now is the time to take action.’
Will decided not to seek medical help, and tried simple, old-fashioned calorie-counting instead: ‘I limited myself to 1,500 calories a day, having worked out this would enable me to shift the pounds.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson seen running with his personal trainer during the pandemic
He studied labels and searched the internet to find out the sugar, salt and calorie content of everything he ate. ‘Elinor says I became a calorie bore,’ he adds.
He filled himself up with vegetables — and she helped to keep an eye on his portion sizes.
The first couple of weeks were the hardest, he says, but adds he found the best way to resist the allure of a takeaway or whole bar of chocolate was to build little treats into his diet.
‘I have a little sliver of cheese every day and three squares of dark chocolate,’ he says.
‘They give me something to look forward to, and boost my morale.’
Will also overhauled his lifestyle and started exercising. When he travelled to his constituency office, he cycled the four miles from his home, and also took up jogging.
Having started running a few hundred metres, he is now covering 10 km every day.
His efforts have paid off. When he was 20st, his body mass index (BMI) was 38.5 (officially ‘obese’). It’s now 24.5 and falls within the ‘healthy’ range (18.5 to 24.9).
Will now runs 10 km every day. Here he is pictured out in Colchester before his weight loss
The dramatic weight-loss has played havoc with his wardrobe. ‘Only last night I sorted out six bags of clothes to go to charity shops,’ he says. He has gone from a 46 in chest to 38 in, and his waist is down from 38 in to 34 in.
This has not gone unnoticed in Downing Street. ‘I bumped into Boris Johnson recently, and he said I was looking great, adding: ‘You must tell me your secret’,’ says Will proudly.
Will’s wife and daughters are thrilled with the new-look MP. He says: ‘One day my eight-year-old gave me a cuddle and pointed out that, for the first time, she could hug me and her hands met — it gave me a real boost!’
Will has got another stone to lose but fears the biggest challenge will be keeping the weight off.
‘I know I will always have to watch what I eat,’ he says. ‘But if I keep running, and stick to my 1,500 calories a day, I’ll be OK.’