'I lost weight and kicked my 50-cup-a-day coffee habit with NHS help'
WHEN Shaun Townsend was at his 27-stone heaviest he ate just one meal a day and kept himself going on up to 50 cups of sugary coffee.
Caffeine-junkie Shaun also used to have several litres of energy drinks a day because the lack of food made him desperate for a sugar rush.
But he was largely unaware of just how unhealthy his diet was.
It was only after he was struck one day by just how unfit he was that Shaun went looking for professional help.
Now, after months of practical advice and emotional support from the NHS, he has turned his life around.
He is no longer considering radical weight-loss surgery, has lost nearly seven stone, and says he feels "brilliant".
The 42-year-old, of Preston Avenue, Alfreton, said: "People used to call me a big lad and for years it didn't bother me.
"A few years ago, I did start feeling depressed about my weight but I thought the weight would just go."
Then, about eight months ago, Shaun felt breathless after he had walked halfway up a flight of stairs.
At that point, he realised he had to lose weight.
So he approached his GP about shedding some of his 27st and nine pounds.
Shaun said: "I was only eating one meal a day, at night. Mainly I'd go to the chippy, or have a pizza.
"During the day I drank lots of coffee. I'd have up to 50 cups with two sugars in every mug. And I'd have a couple of those big bottles of energy drinks."
Shaun's doctor initially sent him to a nutritionist, who gave him advice such as encouraging him to have regular meals.
Then, following a second visit to his GP, Shaun was offered a place on an NHS programme for people who are so overweight they are likely to have their lives cut short by obesity-related illnesses.
The scheme is designed to help patients try every possible alternative to weight-loss surgery.
This includes diet and exercise advice as well as psychological help.
Shaun saw a psychologist who talked to him about the emotional reasons behind his unhealthy lifestyle.
Shaun said: "We talked about my life, right from when I was growing up.
"I realised that a lot of the problem with my weight went back to when I was young. I lost my grandad when I was seven and I'd always spent a lot of time with him.
"I saw the psychologist twice, for 45 minutes each time and then she said she didn't need to see me again unless I needed her.
"I felt better for getting things out."
Shaun said that, along with problems in childhood, he also gained weight due to spending most of his adult life working nightshifts as a forklift truck driver.
This led to his irregular eating habits and also meant he was sitting down rather than exercising.
He has also faced difficult emotional times during his adult life, including a divorce several years ago which he described as "a nightmare".
After seeing the mental health specialist, Shaun was assigned a support worker who he continues to see once every three or four weeks.
She makes him keep a diary of everything he eats and drinks and then she looks at it to see if he is going wrong.
But, because Shaun has been committed to losing weight from the start, he has remained in his support worker's good books.
He said: "She's always pleased with me.
"I'm mainly eating tuna, chicken, fruit and vegetables and I only have five coffees a day now, with sweeteners not sugar. Now I walk into town to buy fresh food, and that gets me out of the house a lot more.
"And I go to the gym everyday, I'm swimming and going on the treadmill, the exercise bike, the rowing machine."
As a result, Shaun now weighs just under 21st and is aiming to get down to 15st.
And, after having been out of work for several years, he is hoping to get a new job doing something which will keep him active.
And his altered lifestyle has paid dividends for his family, which includes his children Carl, 23, Kelly, 21, and Jack, 18.
He is now able to help rugby-playing Jack train for his matches by throwing a ball around with him.
And his girlfriend Sarah, whose surname is also Townsend, has lost two-and-a-half stone since Christmas thanks to enjoying healthier food with Shaun.
The 24-year-old, who lives with Shaun, said she had noticed a big change in him. She said: "He talks more than he used to, he's happy.
"And he wants to do more, so if I say I'm going to do the hoovering then he'll offer to do it.
"I was a bit sceptical about the idea that the NHS could help him but at the same time I knew that he was the type of person who achieves things he sets his mind to.
"And I'm eating properly now too, whereas before I'd hardly eat one week and then binge-eat the next."
It seems the key to Shaun's success has been his on-going determination to radically overhaul his lifestyle and keep it that way.
He said: "I set my mind to it straightaway and that was it.
"They were talking about me having surgery to fit a gastric band around my stomach to help me lose weight but I've decided I don't need it because I'm losing so much.
"I'm feeling brilliant."