Why I had to go on TV to lose weight

Tom and Chris get started on the challenge together.

Words by Chris, volunteer on Lose Weight and Get Fit with Tom Kerridge.

The rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis changed everything. It was the catalyst for my weight gain. I’ve always been what you might call a ‘big chap’, but through a diet I’d lost eight stone and was feeling better than ever. I’d even been running two miles every day to my job as a community police officer in Gloucester. Yet every day I was waking up in pain and my joints were becoming stiff. At first I put it down to pushing myself too hard, but then the pain became impossible to ignore. I went to the GP and was diagnosed. My diet and healthier lifestyle came to a stop.

I used the diagnosis as an excuse to avoid exercise, and slipped into old eating habits – absent-mindedly eating a packet of biscuits while watching TV in the evening, or, of course, crisps. They were my weakness. I could eat packets at a time without even realising. And with my motivation having disappeared, over the next two years the weight piled back on.

Why I thought TV would help

I’d heard Tom Kerridge was going to be filming a show in his home town of Gloucester and was looking for people to take part. The idea was that he and 11 locals would take on a challenge to regain control of their weight, and get fitter and healthier in the process.

Quite a few people told me, ‘I think you could do this’, which was a bit of a back-handed compliment! On the one hand they were saying they thought I’d rise to the challenge, but on the other they were saying ‘you need a bit of help and we think you should do it.’

So, I applied. I knew it was the right thing to do, I’m 41 and my weight was becoming an issue. I liked the idea of the programme, Lose Weight and Get Fit with Tom Kerridge. It wasn’t going to offer a quick-fix diet that was unsustainable. It was going to focus on making good choices and creating an eating plan I could stick to for life. The fitness element would find exercises I’d enjoy and be able to maintain.

I wanted to see what I could achieve. I knew if I was taking part in a TV show, I wouldn’t be able to back out and say, ‘oh well I’m having a bad week I’m not going to do it’.

‘I’d never been so nervous’

On the first day on set I felt the nerves of not knowing what was going to happen. My main concern was the diet. I was the world’s fussiest eater. In fact, I was so fussy that friends and colleagues would take the mick out of me for it. So I was really concerned about what kind of food I was going to have to eat. Little did I know that would be the least of my problems…

Chris’ family meet Tom when filming Lose Weight and Get Fit with Tom Kerridge.

Meeting ‘The Terminator’ and my start weight

In episode one you see us all stepping onto a machine that analyses our weight and fat. We nicknamed it ‘The Terminator’, the whole machine was horrendous. It effectively felt like it was telling you off!

We all knew we were overweight and unfit, but to actually see it and then for the machine to highlight that you were high risk for all sorts of problems was a shock. The number staring back at me was 120kg – more than 18½ stone. But the weight wasn’t the only issue.

Because of my job, where I’m out on patrol often, I do a lot of walking, so I’d thought I was medically quite fit. But that machine showed me the harsh reality. It might as well have said 'no you’re not, what are you on about? You’re in a dream world!’.

I was told I was at high risk because of the amount of fat around my organs. The ridiculous thing is, my daughter had a metabolic condition when younger which led to her having a liver transplant, so I’m aware of how important organ donation is. Now, here I was telling myself ‘crikey, if I carry on like this, I’ll end up reliant on other people to keep my life going’. It really was quite alarming.

Taking on the challenge of eating differently

Tom Kerridge's steak tacos from Lose Weight and Get Fit.

I was one of those people who if I hadn’t tasted it before, I wasn’t going to try it. But that wasn’t an option. Tom served up his dishes, and with the cameras all around I had to give them a go. When I did, the tastes were unbelievable. I was a bit gutted! I’d missed out on all these flavours for years.

The first thing I tried was a steak taco, which had guacamole in it. I would never even think about eating avocado before. It was green, it was horrible and I hated the texture. But after taking a bite, I realised what a difference it made to the dish!

My diet before was pretty bad. Breakfast would be either a high-sugar cereal or a bacon sandwich. Lunch would be something I could grab quickly. I’d probably buy a sandwich – but it didn’t stop there – I’d pick up crisps and a sausage roll, and of course a chocolate bar and fizzy drink. For dinner, if I was at home I’d probably have something from the chippie up the road, and if I was at work it’d be from the nearby kebab van.

Now it’s completely different – I think the kebab van has put in a couple of missing person reports because I haven’t been there in so long!

I became a lot more aware of what I was eating and the big difference now is that I plan my meals. For breakfast, I’ll have a shake, porridge or low-calorie cereal. For lunch, I’ll bring a low-calorie soup into work and have it with a brown roll. And in the evening, I’ll have a healthy home-cooked meal or, if I’m at work, we’ll all plan together what we’re going to eat.

How weight-loss has impacted my relationships

One of the biggest changes is I’m now in the kitchen a lot more. Previously I hadn’t cooked for my family. My poor wife, we’d been married for 10 years and I’d never cooked her a meal, but everything’s different now.

She used to hate me always asking ‘what’s for tea?’. Now I’ll say, ‘I’m thinking of doing this for tea’, and it takes pressure off her.

It’s good for my children to see too. My daughter in particular has been inspired and is getting into healthier food – she’ll put requests in for Tom’s recipes, especially the curry and steak tacos. It’s so rewarding to know I’m being a healthy influence.

As for my son, he’s seven, and with the weight I’ve lost it means I can play a lot more with him. I feel like the whole family’s getting positives from it.

My colleagues have been so supportive too. I tend to work with the same people on shift and they’ve got involved and make suggestions for what we should try – they’re helping me to keep on the straight and narrow!

Chris and the other contributors from Lose Weight and Get Fit, with Adam and Tom.

Focusing on my fitness levels

Because of my arthritis, I needed to focus on low-impact exercise. Personal trainer on the show, Adam Peacock, introduced us to resistance bands and a fitness programme, which helped. I do the exercises in the garden when I get cravings for snacks! We did lots of activities – I enjoyed a class where you were dancing like you were in a club! It didn’t take long for my confidence to grow.

Creating a support group

I’ve made good friends from the programme. We’ve got a group chat and, even though the cameras have stopped rolling, we’re still giving a lot of support to each other.

We regularly meet and play squash and we still message each other daily. We keep each other updated with our activities – if I try something new and enjoy it, I see if anyone wants to come to the next one.

The result!

Chris lost a lot of weight on the show and has continued to lose it since the cameras stopped rolling.

You’ll have seen me steadily losing weight and getting fitter on the show. By the fourth week I’d lost 3kg, and just a few weeks later I’d lost a whole lot more. How much? You’ll have to tune in to find out!

And that was just the start. I’ve maintained the regime and embraced it. And I’ve lost lots more weight. As a result, my arthritis – while something I still have to manage – is better, as weighing less means there’s less strain on my joints.

It’s improved all areas of my life and I’ve made new friends in the process. I know I can keep going and keep achieving.