Being too big to take my son on fair rides spurred me on to shed 10st
Dramatically losing almost 10st has transformed the life of dad Mark Rushmer. Kelly Tyler speaks to a changed man about fad diets, packet foods and keeping the weight off.
IT was after a trip to Skegness Pleasure Beach that Mark Rushmer decided he needed to diet – and this time stick to it.
His nine-year-old son, Morgan, had begged him to go on the white-knuckle fair rides but he was simply too big to fit in the seats.
The weekend, which should have been filled with laughter and excitement, was a miserable couple of days which Mark, who was classified as morbidly obese, spent thinking about how he could shed the pounds.
"We only get to go Skegness once a year," he says. "I've always managed to squeeze into the seats of the children's rides so I could go on them with Morgan but it was painful.
"Now he is nine years old, he wanted to go on the bigger rides that went upside down but I couldn't fit in them. It was horrible for him. Other dads were going on with their children but I couldn't."
So as soon as he returned from the trip last Easter, he turned on his laptop in the hope of finding a miracle way of losing weight.
Mark, 40, of Parkway, in Chellaston, says: "I began researching on the internet for local dieting groups.
"I've messed about with diets my whole life. Every new year's resolution would be to lose weight. I'd diet for a week or a fortnight and then always stop. Whether it be Weight Watchers or Slimming World, I'd always give in.
"Because I work long hours and I get home late, I never really had the time to do it or I wouldn't be bothered.
"I was touching 40 so I knew I had to do something. I knew of people around me who'd had heart attacks and diabetes and it scared me."
Mark, who works as a logistics manager, says that, as a young child, he was always "chubby".
"Then up until I was 22, I was quite slim," he adds. "But when I was 25, I started to get bigger. I'd been introduced to pubs, clubs and takeaways and I got even bigger over the next 15 years until I reached 25st, which was my heaviest."
His previous diet would include skipping breakfast, indulging in carbs and a lack of exercise.
"I'd get up at 4am and not eat anything until around 9am when I'd have a big breakfast with bacon, sausage, the works," he says.
"I never bothered making a packed lunch so I'd buy sandwiches, crisps, pop and chocolate. Then in the evenings I'd eat quite healthily but it would be carbohydrates like pasta and rice.
"I used to eat a lot of bread as well. I'd eat four to six slices of toast in one go."
On May 1 last year, he turned to the LighterLife weight loss management programme, a counselling service in Littleover, weighing in at 24st 12lb.
He undertook the Total programme, where ordinary food is replaced by four specially-formulated food packets per day alongside weekly counselling sessions to assess the psychological issues behind over-eating.
"There were packet soups, breakfast porridge, cereal bars, even shepherd's pie and chilli con carne, but you had to add water to it all," he says.
"The porridge was more like a hot milky drink. I'd still feel hungry so I'd drink seven litres of water a day to fill me up. The first two to three weeks were very very hard but I was determined to do it.
"If we went out for a meal, I'd substitute fish and chips for a black coffee. We even went on an all-inclusive holiday to Menorca in July and I stuck to the diet. I had no alcohol or ice-cream."
He later moved on to a diet where "proper" food was gradually introduced. Four months later, in September, he achieved his target weight of 16st.
He then took the dieting even further and dropped to 15st 2lb.
Now his daily routine includes eating a healthy, balanced diet.
"I'll have porridge, fruit and fibre or muesli for breakfast," he says. "Then fruity cous cous and a yoghurt for lunch and lots of green vegetables and chicken or protein in the evening.
"Now I only eat pasta or rice once a fortnight."
To celebrate his weight loss, he took his partner Caroline and son to Alton Towers.
"Morgan absolutely loved it," says Mark.
"He is extremely proud of me, telling everyone we meet what his dad has achieved. The sheer delight on Morgan's face was worth every second."
Now, when Mark looks in the mirror, he sees a new person staring back at him. His weekends are action-packed, with high-energy activities including sports, squash, horse riding and go-karting.
"We're so much more active now," he says. "Doing things together as a family unit has made a difference to Caroline and Morgan. We're much happier and closer.
"Life is all up for grabs now, Caroline and I have booked a flight in a helicopter and I'm finding that I want to try anything and everything.
"We've been horse-riding and I play more sports than I ever used to. I even join in with Morgan when he goes go-karting. We're pretty evenly matched, too, so often it's touch and go as to who wins.
Not only does Mark feel better, he now says he looks better, too.
"A few people have said I'm much cheekier now, I'm not 100% sure what they mean by that, but I have definitely noticed that my confidence has received a major boost.
"Now I feel good about myself, I've found that I stop worrying about what people think about me.
"I used to dread going shopping with Caroline as there was probably only one place where I could realistically buy clothes from but now there's no stopping me. It tends to be me dragging her around the shops, buying more clothes than I could ever possibly need."
He is confident the weight will stay off.
"I feel like there is no stopping me now I have achieved such a dramatic weight loss. There is no way I will go back to how I was," he says.
"I think I would attribute some of that to the support I received in the counselling group. Fortunately, we all had a great sense of humour and were there to help each other every step of the way. I would certainly recommend LighterLife to anyone."
Patricia Ashmore, counsellor at LighterLife, said: "Mark is a different person altogether.
"He was quite reserved and a little bit sceptical to begin with but now he has found his confidence.
"There is a lot of cheekiness and banter now.
"He has lost a considerable amount of weight and he has benefited from it."