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Because overeating is so closely linked with one’s emotional state, it’s easy to see how seeking the approval of others can lead to poor eating choices. For this week’s Amazing Loser Mark, acknowledging the influence of friends and family on his eating habits not only helped him to recognise how he reached his highest weight, but also which relationships in his life were having a negative effect on his chances of reaching his lowest weight…

  • Name: Mark Hannigan (ask him anything on Talk)
  • Location: Peebles 
  • Job: Weight loss consultant (facebook.com/TheHannigans)
  • Height: 5’10” (178cm) 
  • Age: 41 
  • Highest weight: 300lbs (136kg) 
  • Lowest weight: 174lbs (78.9kg) 
  • Plan: Cambridge Weight Plan

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How did you get to the position where you needed to lose that weight?

Oddly enough, I got to my biggest because I took pride in how easy I found food challenges.

When I was a teenager my stepdad, whose approval I’d been desperately seeking, made a flippant remark to a friend of his about how much I could eat. It was the first time I’d ever heard him talk of me with obvious pride.

Sadly, as I gained weight it was having the opposite effect and I’d forgotten over the years why I loved taking on food challenges.

After all I was just ‘Big Mark’ to everyone and I was big boned, wasn’t I…

What negative experiences did you have of being overweight?

I developed obstructive sleep apnoea, type 2 diabetes and hypertension. I also had pretty much every symptom of metabolic syndrome going. Inflammation in the form of major skin problems and abscesses constantly.

Apart from that I always felt tired and ill. My hospital records are three folders thick!

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What made you decide to change?

I was in a road traffic accident where I lost consciousness behind the wheel, due to a coughing fit raising my blood pressure, which resulted in my brain shutting down momentarily.

“I committed myself to doing whatever it takes”

The DVLA revoked my driving licence because of the incident and when I asked how to fix that, they explained I could appeal the decision as long as I met the medical criteria. The criteria included being a non-smoker or in smoking cessation (I smoked 40 a day) and I needed to have a BMI under 30 (my BMI was 43). It was a wake up call to me.

What made it different from the times before? 

Finally realising and admitting to myself that I was killing myself with my lifestyle, taking ownership instead of blaming everything and everyone else.

How did you do it?

I found out about the Cambridge Weight Plan and followed the plan 100%, committing myself to do whatever it takes.

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What did you eat over the course of an average day?

Before, I would start my day with a 4 slice bacon sandwich at 06:30 hrs and then leave for work at 07:00. On my way to work I’d go to the McDonald’s drive through and buy a breakfast wrap with a large latte.

My wife always made me a healthy meat and salad sandwich on wholemeal bread for lunch but I’d have that by 10 am and so at lunchtime I’d go to a Greggs bakers and buy two chicken bakes and a fudge donut with another latte.

mark_h_before2My job involved a lot of driving all over Scotland, so to keep my energy levels up I’d stop at service stations and grab a few cans of Monster energy drinks and usually two bags of McCoy’s crisps and a king size Cadbury’s Boost and Double Decker.

When I got home my wife would have a coffee made for me and I’d dunk a triple packet of custard creams in it whilst I waited on the homemade lasagne that was cooking. My portion would have fed three adults.

Later we’d sit down to watch TV with a family bag of Doritos each – and dip – and finally a 500g bar of Cadbury chocolate… even writing this and reading it back is a huge shock to me! It’s no wonder I was so huge.

Cambridge Weight Plan was a total meal replacement plan where I had four products a day. The great thing about them was that it was simple to follow – the products provide 100% of the daily recommended amount of vitamins and minerals as well as protein to spare lean body mass. My average weight loss was 5-6 lbs/week which kept me motivated.

Now I’ve been maintaining my 9 stone weight loss for 14 months, following a healthy eating plan which is low carb. A typical day for me now involves planning meals and calculating my macros to suit. My wife and I eat absolutely no processed foods and live on steak, chicken, salmon, sardines, eggs etc with healthy fats coming from olives, avocado, nuts etc and lots of leafy greens. It’s such a huge change but everything is delicious and home cooked from fresh produce.

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How was the journey? Straight-forward or were there a few plateaus along the way?

It was honestly the easiest thing I’ve ever tried. Losing 9 stone in only 7 months and never looked back since.

How has life changed now you’ve lost the weight?

If you’d told me at the end of 2014 I’d be 9 stone lighter and become a weight loss consultant I’d have laughed at you. I’m 41 years old and for the first time in my adult life I’m healthier and happier than I ever thought possible. Most importantly, my diabetes has been reversed. I no longer suffer from sleep apnoea or even snore, my blood pressure and all my blood lipids are perfect and I have the energy of a teenager again! .

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Who helped you the most and who got in the way?

My wife without a doubt helped me the most by standing by me and sharing this journey with me. She also lost 6 st 2 lbs. It amazed me how many friends and family got in the way, at first I took offence at how many people felt it was OK to give their opinion of my weight loss and how bad it was and it honestly bothered me but we realised that those who had a problem with our success were the ones who also struggled with weight issues and were living by their excuses still. They just weren’t ready for their journey.

After a while I started asking ‘If you’d just met me for the first time in your life, would you consider me underweight or unhealthy?’
 
Every time the reply was ‘no’ then I’d say ‘you’re just used to me being big, time to get used to seeing me healthier and fitter. ‘
 

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What surprised you about losing weight?

The biggest surprise was that I’m actually a medium build instead of 3XL!

If you could go back to the person you were at your heaviest – what would you say to him?

Thank you, he’s my hero for making the decision to change and grow into a happier, healthier and fitter man. To become a better husband and dad and to want to help others instead of living with a huge chip on my shoulder.

You’re Prime Minister for the day, what one law do you bring in to help others who are obese?

That’s a tough one! As much as I’d love to ban sugar and fine food production companies for constantly lying to consumers I believe I’d make it a legal requirement to improve education in healthy eating and nutrition. Sadly most people in the modern world don’t even know the difference between a protein and a carbohydrate.

What three things do other fat men need to know about losing weight?

  1. It’s only as difficult as you think and believe it’ll be, so sort out the mindset.
  2. It’s the best decision you’ll ever make.
  3. And it improves the libido more than you could imagine. 

There are many negative beliefs about Cambridge Weight Plan and so many call it a shake diet. However it’s actually a very effective way to lose weight in a healthy way by offering different options for each individual, from total meal replacement to 5 steps including traditional healthy foods as well as some nutritionally balanced shakes, soups, chocolate and yoghurt coated bars, pasta and rice meals etc. The wide variety of options makes it suitable for so many lifestyles. We also provide fully medically-backed protocols for clients with numerous health conditions and even decide on suitable steps according to medication. For 32 years this plan has proven to successfully help people lose weight in a healthy way but gets a bad rap because people regain when they return to old unhealthy eating habits.

Many ask me the best way to lose weight and as much as I’m grateful for how successful my weight loss has been with this plan my first answer to that question will always be ‘whatever plan works for you’.

I only hope to inspire as well as help others to make those amazing positive changes in their lifestyle as I can testify to how amazing life is when you have your health and a brighter future.

 Our thanks to Mark and don’t forget – as with all our Amazing Losers and their weight loss before and after stories, you can find him on Talk and ask him anything you like! 

If you want to make a change to your life right now – then simply sign up for one of our free 30 day online weight programmes, the only thing you’ve got to lose is fat…