Steve, 54 *
Steve used to be a lover of late night kebabs after closing time, large portion sizes at meal times and plenty of snacks in between times. It comes as no surprise to learn that with such extreme eating habits he piled on the pounds, his weight peaking at a hefty 26½ stone.
Businessman Steve, 54, runs an advertising company, Future Outdoor Media Ltd, and owns a 100-cab taxi business. ‘I’m 6 feet tall and I’ve always been heavily built. In my youth I played a lot of sport – football and basketball – so I kept very fit. When I was 30 I stopped playing sport, which is when my weight just ballooned.’
Steve’s weight didn’t really stop him from doing what he wanted, but it didn’t help him either. ‘I was out of breath all the time, had raging blood pressure, fluctuating heartbeat and chronic indigestion. Although I didn’t suffer from diabetes, I was certainly heading that way.’
At 6 foot and 26½ stone, Steve was a big man. ‘People used to stare at me, but they never said anything – they were probably intimidated by my size.’
Being tall and obese meant that Steve found it difficult to buy clothes to fit his huge frame. ‘When I went clothes shopping I had to try on every single thing. It was even harder to find anything once I’d moved into the treble-X clothing size. I’m not a crusader, but I’d hear people making comments about others who were big and I’d think – if only they knew how difficult it was finding clothes to fit.’
By chance, Steve noticed an article in a national newspaper about weight-loss surgery carried out by Professor David Kerrigan, now CEO of Phoenix Health. ‘I showed the piece to my friend, who then weighed 23 stone. He went and had it done. I watched his progress and then decided to try it myself.’
Steve is at pains to point out that it was not the sort of thing he’d do on a whim. He looked into it very carefully before deciding to book a consultation.
‘I was in a bit of a mess,’ he recalls. ‘I’d got to do something. Having the operation turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I didn’t discuss it with friends or family first as I’d already made up my own mind and I paid for it privately.’
Steve afterBefore deciding to follow the surgery option Steve had tried almost every diet imaginable, but like other people he found that the pounds lost soon piled back on again, and more besides. ‘If you’re 12 stone, it can be hard to get down to 11 stone, but if you’re the size I was, it’s even harder. I’m a strong character, though, and I never let it get me down.’
It was on 8 June 2005 that Steve underwent his procedure with Professor David Kerrigan. ‘There were five people booked in that day – I was 26½ stone and the smallest by far. There was a guy there who weighed 45 stone. As I was signing my consent form I told Professor Kerrigan that I almost felt a fraud sitting out there with all of them.’
The operation was a success and Steve took time out of work to convalesce. ‘I run my own business so I couldn’t afford to take too much time off.”
It is now six years since Steve had his operation. He has lost 12½ stone and his weight is now constant at 14 stone. ‘People don’t recognise me. My taxi contracts are renewed annually and sometimes I don’t see drivers from one year to the next. Sometimes they’ll walk past me, then do a double-take and come back and say “is that really you?”!’
Today there is almost nothing that Steve cannot do. ‘I used to wear tracksuit bottoms and rugby shirts because nothing else fitted me. Now I have a massive choice of clothing.
‘Before the op I suffered with back pain, my knees hurt and my legs ached. After mowing the lawn I’d be in agony – the physical exertion just wore me out. The best thing of all is getting my health back.’
What would Steve say to someone in the same position as he was five years ago? ‘Just go and extend your life. I really thought my days were numbered back then. I’d been to a lot of funerals of people who were around the same age as me. In a few years’ time I want to retire to Ibiza and I’m really looking forward to it. But there was a time when I didn’t think I’d be retiring anywhere.