Life on the road for long distance tanker driver Wayne Cooke was one long feast of fast food and high calorie snacks.
But as his weight ballooned to more than 28st his blood pressure climbed – to the point where he knew his job was at risk.
And so the 50-year-old from Mirfield decided enough was enough.
“I was determined to lose weight,” he says.
He began a self-imposed diet, losing just under 2st. And when his doctor asked if he needed help and would he be willing to have weight loss surgery he chose instead to be referred to a Weight Watchers group.
Today Wayne is nearly 13st lighter than he once was, his blood pressure has returned to normal and he’s fitter and more active than he’s been for years. He’s lost 12 inches from his waistline and dropped five clothing sizes. He has a new life – one that is an inspiration to all would-be slimmers.
His journey to renewed health began in earnest in May 2016 when he joined a 12-week Weight Watchers programme funded by the NHS.
At the time he weighed 26st 11lbs. He didn’t expect to succeed, but knew where he was going wrong.
As he explains: “Lots of my workmates thought it would be nearly impossible to achieve any loss at all with the job we did. As a lorry driver it’s not easy eating well on the road. You end up in greasy spoons.
“I was very inactive and just ate rubbish. I made terrible choices – burgers, pizzas and takeaways. I’d be stopping at garages and buying maxi packs of crisps on special offer, two for one. I’m a Yorkshireman, so I can’t resist a bargain.”
And even at home he was overindulging.
He said: “Portion size was also a problem for me, particularly when my mum cooked for me. Now I’m eating a third of what she normally gave me.”
Wayne was also concerned that the fact he has to take testosterone on a daily basis following treatment for testicular cancer would hamper his efforts.
But the 12-week programme worked and Wayne did start losing weight – enough to inspire him to continue.
He found a class at Gomersal, run by Jill Butterworth, that meets on a Saturday morning when he’s home from his weekly travels. While he’d been anxious about attending - he says “I expected lots of ladies and only me” - he soon felt comfortable.
Essentially, weight loss organisations teach the basics of healthy and balanced eating.
Wayne broke his fast food habit and started buying ‘healthy choice’ ready meals and salads. While on the road he lives in his cab, but has a fridge and microwave oven that he can use to heat up food.
He no longer eats crisps and has given up his self-confessed binge drinking at weekends. His mini fridge is stocked with almond milk to have with breakfast cereal and he buys fruit instead of chocolate bars and sweets.
Wayne has also acquired an exercise habit and now walks about four miles a day. His job takes him to far flung corners of the UK, from the south coast to the north of Scotland, and he enjoys exploring his surroundings when he makes overnight stopovers, particularly in the summer months. The week I spoke to him he was travelling to Manchester and then on to Dumfries.
Of his new found love of walking he says: “When I did my first walk I couldn’t really do a mile, but now on a weekend I might do six or seven. It’s a walk in the park, literally.”
Like many super slimmers Wayne says he needed motivation to change his lifestyle.
For him it was discovering that his blood pressure was reaching the point where there was a risk of him losing his HGV licence.
“This was the shock factor,” he explains, “I love my job and didn’t want to lose it. But I also wanted to be healthier for myself.”
These days Wayne says he still marvels at his weight loss.
“I have to keep pinching myself,” he said. “I was carrying around the weight of an actual person.
“I’ve had people who know me walk straight past in the street. I’ve said ‘hello’ and they say ‘is that you’. It feels amazing.”
While in his largest days he had to buy XXXXXL clothing from online suppliers, Wayne is now able to shop for a standard Large in High Street shops. His weight loss journey is not quite over as he wants to get down to 14 stones which he feels would be about right for his 6ft frame, but he’s confident he can do it.
“It’s not been easy,” he says. “In fact, it’s been very hard but I’m very determined. A lot of people say I’m inspirational, but I’m just doing this to be healthier.”
Wayne’s Weight Watchers coach Jill says he is a popular member of the group.
She added: “He’s always first to class. I remember the first time he walked in he looked completely different to how he looks now. It’s been a dramatic transformation; he’s done really well.
“It can be difficult for men because they think that the class will be all women, but when they do join we find they are very determined – perhaps because it was so difficult for them to join. I’ve had one man in a class who said he’s stood outside five times before getting the courage to walk through the door.”
Jill believes successful slimmers will always have a trigger factor – often health-related.
She added: “We don’t class our eating plans as a diet, it’s an holistic approach, about changing your mindset. It’s about good health.”