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Sitting in his doctor's surgery for his regular diabetes check-up, John Batterbee breezily explained how he had his condition under control.

The only problem was that his tale of a healthy lifestyle was a pack of lies. One glance at John's medical notes by his doctor revealed a different picture. And as soon as John had finished talking, his GP looked at him intently.

What followed startled John to his core.

His doctor called him a liar, saying that if he was telling the truth then he would not still be suffering from type 2 diabetes.

As he listened, 21st John felt ashamed. But it was also the wake-up call thaTheneeded. More than three years on, the 5ft 10in dad-of-one has lost 6st 7lb and weighs 14st 5lb.

"It was a massive eye-opener and as I sat there I didn't know whether to laugh or cry," says John, 40, of Norwich, who is married to Sharon, 45, and has a 13-year-old son, Ethan.

"I felt embarrassed because the doctor knew I was lying, but it was also a relief to be given a big dose of reality. I remember how he listened to reality. I remember how he listened to me and began to snigger. He said, 'Mr Batterbee, I'm not calling you a liar, but you're a liar! You've described to me the perfect way to control diabetes but you're clearly overweight and not leading a healthy lifestyle. Do you want to slowly kill yourself or do you want me to help you get better?'"

John had type 2 diabetes, one of a raft of health worries he had developed along with high blood pressure and asleep disorder that can all be caused by obesity.

"I realised I needed to slim down or I'd end up dead," he says. "If I didn't do something I'd leave Ethan without a dad and Sharon without a husband."

Keeping his weight under control had been a lifelong problem for John, who runs his own cleaning business. As a child, he was the chubbiest lad in the class, which wasn't helped by the fact his dad worked for an ice cream firm.

In his early teens and 20s he became a keen bodybuilder, but he often relied on crash diets. He was down to 14st when he married Sharon in 1996, but by the time they had Ethan three years later, he had ballooned to 18st.

"When I first met Sharon I was very fit from all my bodybuilding but then my muscles turned to flab as I let it slip. We were happy and she never got on to me about my weight. But looking back, I think she became very worried when my size began affecting my health."

Setting up his business only compounded the problem as the early starts and long days meant he relied upon pasties, pies and crisps to give him a quick boost. "I would start my day with a big fry-up at a cafe and later munch on crisps or chocolate because I did busy days of physical work and thought I needed it. But the truth was I was eating far too much."

In late 2002 and weighing 18st, John was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He also began suffering from sleep apnoea, a condition that stops a sufferer breathing while they sleep.

"I was always tired and even fell asleep mid conversation. After it was diagnosed, I needed to wear an oxygen mask in bed, which made me look like Darth Vader."

Even John was shocked by the state of his own health.

"I was only in my 30s but I didn't have the energy to play with Ethan for long and everything was a huge effort," he says. "At my check-ups I'd see much older people in the waiting room and I felt ashamed. But I was in denial. I knew losing weight would help, but I told myself it wasn't that serious." In October 2009, John went for the diabetes check-up that had such a big impact on him.

"I was in a rush," says John. "I told the doctor a load of rubbish about what a healthy life I was supposedly leading."

The doctor confronted him and they discussed John's options. Having already researched gastric bypasses, he said he wanted one.

As it would be a few months before he would see experts to discuss the NHS procedure, he was advised to demonstrate he could control his eating by losing weight.

"Luckily, one of my customers was Hayley Hooper, a Slimming World consultant," says John. "She urged me to go to her class. She wasn't overweight and I assumed she didn't understand what it was like being fat. As soon as I found out she'd lost 4st, I knew she could help."

In January 2010, John went along alone to his first class. "It was daunting and I thought I would be humiliated. But I got the biggest welcome of my life and there were a couple of other blokes there too. I remember being told I was 20st 5lb. I was shocked."

He poured over the Slimming World leaflets, working out what he could and couldn't eat. Sharon, who was a good cook, was eager to help and he lost 22lb in his first month. His early success spurred him on.

"Often I tweaked things. I still started the day with a fry-up but the bacon was cooked on a griddle, the mushrooms dry-fried and I had a scrambled egg rather than a fried one.

"We threw out our deep-fat fryer and ate fewer takeaways. I had loads more fruit and vegetables. I'd crunch my way through a carrot. Sometimes I'd eat eight grapefruits during a week and fresh pineapples."

The weight fell off. Sharon, who lost several pounds as well, joked it was like having a new husband.

"One of my customers didn't recognise me when I was cleaning his windows. He thought I was a burglar. I had to take my cap off and prove it was me," he says. John's His health worries melted away too.

"I was still on the list to have a gastric bypass operation, but at my next appointment I'd lost 3st and by July 2010 I'd lost 5st. After talking to experts, I decided I didn't need the surgery."

John stopped wearing the oxygen mask at night, he didn't need his diabetes medication and his blood pressure also became normal.

"I had so much energy and my confidence grew too," he says.

John took up running and by February last year he had lost 7st and his weight was down to 13st 5lb. But after reaching his goal, he has stabilised at a more comfortable 14st 5lb.

"I really do feel like a different person. When I see old pictures of myself at my biggest I cringe at how huge I got," John says.

"My only regret is that when I was signed off at the diabetes clinic, I never had the chance to see the doctor who woke me up to face reality.

"I'd love to say thank you to the person who saved my life."

John's daily menu


BREAKFAST: A large fry-up at a cafe

SNACK: Bag of crisps

LUNCH: Cheese and tomato sandwiches and a side order of chips

SNACK: Crisps

EVENING MEAL: A large portion of spaghetti bolognese

SNACK: A late-night bowl of Weetabix


BREAKFAST: Porridge made with skimmed milk with blueberries and raspberries

SNACK: A banana and some grapes

LUNCH: Tuna sandwich with salad

SNACK: Raw carrots

EVENING MEAL: Home-made tomato sauce with extra lean mince cooked in low-fat spray with pasta

SNACK: A Slimming World hi-fi bar Then18st Now14st 5lb

a I had to wear an oxygen mask and looked like Darth Vader it I realised that I needed to slim down or I'd be dead


FOCUSED: Embracing a health regime

FAMILY: John, son Ethan and wife Sharon

OVERWEIGHT: John was 18st when Ethan was born

HEALTHIER: John feels like a new person

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 7, 2013
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