I was 14 and the biggest boy on the school bus. I was the only one wearing glasses too, so it made me an easy target. I couldn’t wait to get off this bus, and away from the bullies. I was miserable and knew just what would make me feel better: a giant tub of chocolate ice cream. ‘Good day at school, love?’ Mum asked when I burst in the front door.
‘It was OK,’ I lied. I couldn’t wait for her to leave the kitchen, so I could raid the fridge. And if that didn’t cheer me up I’d go to the shop down the road to spend all my pocket money on chocolate and candy. I had to sneak it into the house, though, as Mum was strict about sweets. She only fed me healthy food – fish, or chicken with vegetables and fruit. So she couldn’t understand why I had been putting on weight steadily since going to school. ‘It doesn’t make sense,’ she’d say, especially as she took me swimming three times a week as I’d been born with a hole in the heart.
Surgery hadn’t been available to fix it then and doctors had told Mum it would get smaller on its own, but would never close. ‘Keep him fit,’ they’d said. Exercise and staying slim would mean I wasn’t putting any extra strain on my heart. But as soon as I’d started school, I’d discovered school dinners and the tuck shop. I’d gobble down two spam fritters and chips, or roast dinners, and even go back for thirds of sticky toffee pudding with custard in the canteen every day. And at break time I’d blow all my pocket money on sherbet, strawberry laces, toffee and bars of chocolate and with every year I put on a stone. Mum was worried. ‘You need to be fit,’ she told me, ‘think about your heart.’ The doctors at my six-monthly check-ups echoed her. ‘Play sports,’ they’d say.
But I’d rather sit in front of the TV or play video games, and eat my way through bags of crisps, chocolate, and those delicious tubs of ice cream. Food was my best friend. If I was happy I’d eat. If I was miserable I’d eat. I was tall – 6ft 1 – and so had to get XXL American clothes online as they were the only ones big enough for me.
I’d achieved getting my dream job, so why couldn’t I lose weight too?
‘Come on you’ve got to lose some weight,’ my best friend John would say, but I refused to join him in games of football or rugby, and I hated running. I was a committed couch potato and simply loved junk food. For breakfast I would have a fried egg roll, then eat my packed lunch and cookies and chocolate at break time. For lunch, I’d buy some chips and sweets. I’d get a chocolate bar for afternoon break, and more candy for the bus ride home. Dinner would be something healthy Mum had made, but when she wasn’t looking I’d devour ice cream and biscuits.
It was a vicious cycle and I was consuming thousands of calories a day, but I didn’t care. Even when the doctor at my heart check-up warned me to lose weight, I wouldn’t listen. ‘If you carry on like this you might not make it to 30,’ he said, but I didn’t believe it was true. Food made me happy. Of course, girls didn’t look at me. While my friends started dating, I was the archetypal funny fat boy. I’d make everyone laugh, and eventually my personality was almost as big as my body. I studied hard to pursue my dream job: working on radio. Over the years I had friends who were girls, but none that ever looked at me twice unless it was to stare at my 23-and-a-half stone hulk. But at 21, I met Martha through my best friend, John. She was beautiful and thin. I didn’t think I stood a chance, so I did my usual ‘funny fat boy’ routine on her and we became friends.
We spent all our time together, and then she announced she was going travelling. ‘I’m in love with her,’ I realised, and decided I had to let her know somehow without embarrassing myself. On Valentine’s Day, I sent her a card with five question marks in it. She rang me and excitement surged through me. ‘Who do you think it is from?’ she asked.
‘I know but I will only tell you the day you’re going away,’ I said. It was self-protection. That way if she didn’t like me back, I wouldn’t have to see her for ages. ‘It’s me,’ I texted on the morning she was going. I was shaking when I read her reply. ‘Right, I’ll see you when I get back then,’ she wrote.
But I couldn’t wait for Martha to come home. I rushed to see her, knowing time was running out. ‘I like you,’ I told her, kissing her – and any girl – for the first time. ‘I’m here, waiting for you,’ I said.
My weight was never an issue between us, and now I’d left home I gorged on takeaways as well as candy and desserts. I became breathless when I walked upstairs, and would sweat just walking around the shops, but nothing would prise me away from my junk food. And then one day Martha sent me a text. ‘It’s over,’ she wrote. ‘I’ve met someone else.’
Devastated I ate even more. A couple of days later, I hauled myself out of bed and froze. There was a mirror against the wall and I caught sight of my reflection. ‘Look at the size you are,’ I reprimanded myself. ‘Who is ever going to love something that fat?’ And something clicked inside. I couldn’t go on like this. If I didn’t lose some weight I could die. And I didn’t want to be alone. So I made up my mind to change my life. I was working as a DJ and travelled all over the country to present programmes including Southern FM in Sussex, now called Heart FM South Coast. I’d achieved getting my dream job, so why couldn’t I lose weight too?
Out went all the junk food. I read that our stomachs are only as big as a fist, so we only need to eat little and often. Every two-and-a-half hours I ate – protein, vegetables and fruit. I joined a gym and did weights two times a week for 20 minutes. The weight fell off. I lost a stone the first month, then hired a personal trainer. I was sick the first time he trained me, but I kept going imagining becoming a hunk so Martha would want me back.
Soon I was doing High Intensity Interval Training where you do short bursts of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods. Over the next year I lost 10 stone and felt so much healthier. I could fit into trendy clothes. I looked better, and even got my eyes lasered so I could do away with the glasses, but the biggest change was inside. I felt so much more confident. I landed a job at Capital Radio, in London, and was suddenly noticing girls flirting with me. I didn’t know how to act. Sometimes I couldn’t believe they were looking at me, I was so used to being that fat boy.
Martha married the boy she’d left me for, but I didn’t mind anymore. I was dating for the first time and working hard on my radio show. Then one morning I had to meet a talent manager to discuss representing me and found myself talking to a gorgeous, slim woman. Rachel, 28, and I became friends, and then eventually I asked her out. We’re now married and blissfully happy.
I’ve shown her all my fat pictures but she can’t really believe it’s me. I’ve kept off all the weight, and now love sports. I’ve run the London marathon and go the gym most days. I’ve even taken a diploma to qualify as a personal trainer. I want to create an app and host a TV show to inspire others to get fit and healthy, after all if I can anyone can. I went from a chunk to what people now say is a hunk and have never had any problems with my heart since.
I’m lucky. If I hadn’t gone on a diet I might not be here now – instead I’m married to the woman of my dreams and under my stage name Roberto, I host the biggest commercial evening show on UK radio on Heart FM. I’ll never put on weight again. The only thing big about me now is my smile. ■
Breakfast: Fried egg roll
Lunch: Packed lunch (sandwiches, crisps and chocolate) plus chips or school dinner – two lots of roast, fish and chips or spam fritters, two desserts of toffee sponge with custard
Snack: Candy and chocolate bar
Dinner: Chinese takeaway, curry or pizza
Late night snack: Tub of ice cream
Drinks: Fizzy cola
Breakfast: Egg white omelette with one slice toast (no butter)
Snack: Handful nuts, or fruit
Lunch: Tuna salad
Dinner: Chicken and vegetables
Late night snack: Soup