I was always conscious of how people looked at me and my body,” admits Dylan Pena.
But that’s happily not the situation today. Earlier this year, the 14-year-old JCOSS pupil – who was bullied at school for being overweight – picked up a copy of the bestselling book, Lean In 15, by fitness guru Joe Wicks, and pledged to get healthy.
After following the diet and exercise regime, the Barnet schoolboy wowed his family and friends by shedding just under 3st. On a whim, he used Snapchat to send photographs of himself before and after his weight loss to his hero – and was shocked when Wicks – who is also known to his millions of fans as “The Body Coach”– replied and invited him to meet in person.
“He said: ‘That’s amazing, you’re my hero. I’ve got to meet you.’ I was shocked, but so happy,” says Dylan.
Following their meeting, while Wicks was on a shoot for Men’s Health magazine, the 31-year-old fitness coach shared a photograph of the pair on social media – and within hours had reached a phenomenal 30,000 likes.
Commenting underneath the picture, Wicks wrote: “Today I met this awesome 14-year-old dude called Dylan who picked up my #Leanin15 book after his mum was given it as a gift… I’m so happy my book has helped him on his journey to being healthy and confident. I truly believe that in order to change the health of the nation we need to start them young and encourage our kids to learn about nutrition… Double tap if you’ve been inspired by Dylan.”
Speaking to Jewish News, Wicks added: “I’ve been blown away by Dylan’s determination and what he’s achieved. His story is so inspiring – he’s so motivated and has done a phenomenal job at losing weight. He is the absolute definition of a lean winner!”
Proud mum Harriett described her son’s achievement as “admirable”, adding his weight loss had “changed his whole life”.
The Finchley Reform Synagogue member said: “He’s educated himself for the rest of his life. I believe he will never be overweight again and he now loves fitting into skinny jeans and trying on small tops and jackets.
“Dylan has learnt very early on that eating healthy and keeping fit is an amazing way to live.”
The active teenager, who plays Sunday football for a team in the Watford Friendly League, continues to work out every day, has cut junk food out of his diet and prepares healthy lunches to take to school with him.
“One hundred percent it works,” adds Dylan. “Before I found Lean In 15, I had looked at other diets, which were low carb so you would lack energy, or no sugar, meaning you couldn’t treat yourself. But this was different. Joe’s philosophy is if you work hard, you can have treats.”
Harriett adds: “His confidence is overwhelming compared to what it was and he’s all round a much better kid.
“He was obviously upset about his weight, but now he’s a very happy boy and just generally content with life.”