I lost 13 stone – now I know the truth about obesity

As far back as I can remember, I was overweight. My parents were morbidly obese, just like three of my grandparents (my maternal grandmother was “only” obese – in other words, just fat). In my teenage years, I tried every diet going, and would sometimes lose weight, only to put it all on again. Eventually I concluded that so-called “normal” weight just wasn’t realistic for me. It would mean a life of permanent hunger.

I also decided such a life wasn’t necessary: excess weight was demonised without reason. I might be fat, but I didn’t smoke, drink, consume fast food or red meat. And I was physically fit. I decided to set other priorities in my life; I trained as a psychotherapist, got married and started renovating an old house.

At the age of 30, I tipped the scales at 150kg (23st 8lb). If asked, I told people I was comfortable with my weight and that my only wish, if anything, was to be a bit fitter. But at that same time, I was secretly visiting an obesity clinic as an outpatient and thinking about a stomach-stapling operation. I eventually decided not to have the operation, and buried myself even deeper in studies that showed that being overweight was not really harmful.

My doctor never mentioned my weight. Every time I went, my blood pressure was enormously high, but I dismissed it as “white coat hypertension”. I managed to ignore the fact that I was suffering frequent back pain and that I was having trouble sleeping, in part because of my heavy snoring.

This went on until, one day, I slipped while doing housework and injured my knee. I know now that I tore my cruciate ligament; but at the time my doctor said it was probably nothing to worry about and prescribed me ibuprofen. Then I had another accident while renovating our house. I walked with a limp for months, until it happened again.

After more than a year of pain and restricted mobility, I had a breakdown. I realised that, over the previous few years, my health had decreased while my weight had increased. And I knew that if I kept going this way, within a few years I would be unable to walk – while still in my early 30s. Something had to change.