IT was when his doctor described him as a ‘stroke waiting to happen’ that Derry paramedic Robert Gillespie finally decided tackle his weight problem.
At 17 and a half stone, he was classified as morbidly obese and his weight was starting to have a serious impact on his life and health.
“At the time I was suffering physically through respiratory and circulatory problems,” Robert recalls.
“I had extremely high blood pressure and was suffering from sleep apnoea which was being made worse by my weight.
“I was referred by my own doctor to Dr Kelly and his respiratory team at Altnagelvin.
“But I felt it was important that I took responsibility for my own health in conjunction with the medical care being provided.”
Just under two years ago Robert decided to join the Slimming World class in Galliagh and he has just been awarded his five stone weight loss award.
“It is the group aspect of it which makes all the difference – it’s so much harder trying to do these things on your own.
“Being weighed every week is another incentive to keep going but it’s also knowing you have the support there when you need it.”
For Robert the successful formula to losing weight is simple: “If you are sitting down and leading sedentary lifestyle while eating whatever you want and sending out for a bacon bap at ten o’clock, you are going to put on weight.
“These days I eat a lot of pasta, rice and potatoes but also a lot of fruit and veg, which was something new.
“It’s basically a balanced and healthy diet but sticking to it was made so much easier by having the support of everyone at the Slimming World class.”
And Robert does not intend to let all the good work go to waste now.
“I’m going to be joining the gym shortly but I’m making sure I’m going with someone else,” he says.
“Just like the class, it’s so much easier to stick at it if you have someone there to help you along the way and give you the support that you need.”
At the age of 52 Robert, who works for the Ambulance Service based at Altnagelvin, has turned his life around.
“My respiratory problems have improved significantly, Dr Kelly no longer needs to see me and my circulatory problems have disappeared,” he says.
“Prior to Slimming World my blood pressure was extremely high.
“I was described by my clinician as a ‘stroke waiting to happen’, my body mass index placed me firmly in the morbidly obese range.
“Today my BMI falls within the healthy range and my blood pressure is within the normal range.
“There’s no doubt that it has changed my life.”