A man who quit his job to care for his mother with dementia has lost over five stone amid fears he could become too unhealthy to look after her – and despite her illness, he says “even she’s noticed the change”.
Gordon Palmer, 53, a former IT client manager, lives in Crystal Palace, south London, and thinks looking after his mum, May, 89, caused him to stress eat.
Gordon gained around two stone in lockdown alone, rising to 22st 7lb in May 2021, but after a 16-month journey he had dropped to 17st 2lb towards the end of last year.
Since he has lost weight, Gordon has had to buy a whole new wardrobe, and his friends and family cannot believe how much he has changed.
The most rewarding compliment for Gordon came from his mum, who he lives with and has looked after for the last six years full-time.
“My mum has dementia but even she’s noticed the change in me,” he said.
“That was a pleasure to hear. Mum, 80% of the time, doesn’t know who I am. So at this moment in time, I am like her brother or uncle or a parent.
“So she recognised me as me, and there was a compliment attached, and that’s a special moment for me.”
Gordon explained he got to his heaviest weight: “I’d put mum to bed at night and overfill on comfort foods, even though I wasn’t hungry. This became even more common during lockdown when I had nothing else to do and would eat out of boredom.”
He added: “I decided to weigh myself and had the shock of my life. Imagining my future, I could see that I’d have an increased risk of health-related problems the way my weight was headed. I also knew that I couldn’t afford to be ill whilst looking after mum.
“I knew I had to take action because of that – fear is a great motivator.”
Gordon says his weight had increased slowly over the past 20 years.
Breakfast – two cups of coffee with two sugars each and hazelnut milk, cereal with sugar
Lunch – dim sum
Snacks – biscuits
Dinner – pork or chicken pasta with vegetables
Snacks - candy, a large bag of crisps, and a bowl of sweetened cereal
“I was always overweight as a child but I trimmed down when I went to university and was an average weight until my mid-30s but that has eroded over time,” he said.
“I’ve found that I’m a stress eater and I have a compulsive eating issue, so my weight has gradually crept up every year.”
But Gordon says things came to a head after his weight spiked during the Covid lockdowns.
He said: “I gained about 25-30lb in that period and that pushed me over the edge to a point where I knew I needed to do something.
“I was worried about my mum, there’s nobody else to care for her if I’m not here or incapacitated. She would have to go into a care home.
“She relies on me for full-time care, so I needed to make sure I was healthy for her.”
He added: “When mum comes out of her Alzheimer’s fog, and she is clear, which happens about once a week, where she’s herself for 20 minutes, I don’t cry when I’m with her.
“When I see who she was come back and then disappear again, that’s like the painful part. But I also tell myself to kind of download that into my memory bank.”
Stepping on the scales in May 2021, Gordon weighed in at 22st 7lb.
He said: “Becoming a carer for my mum was a very stressful situation. My life isn’t my own anymore, I’m on call 24/7 and even just getting out of the house by myself is something I have to plan and coordinate with other people.
“It’s not simple, I can’t just go out for a run, and while I tried other weight loss programmes, they didn’t help with my stress eating.
“I knew it was going to take time. Losing weight is neither a sprint nor a marathon, it’s an entire lifestyle shift.”
Discovering the Noom weight loss app, which promotes mindful eating, Gordon began to drop the weight.
He said: “Learning about the psychology behind eating was a big part of my weight loss.
“You have to have a healthy mind in order to have a healthy body and maintain your weight.”
He added: “I stopped binge eating in the evenings and started portion controlling my meals.”
In October 2022, 16 months after he started his journey, Gordon weighed in at 17st 2lb, losing 5st 5lb.
He said: “I’ve been on a flat trajectory since then as I went on a cruise in Italy and we’ve just had Christmas. Chinese New Year is coming up but after that I’m going to get back on track.”
She added: “It’s not about punishing yourself, it’s about enjoying life and having a healthy mental attitude.
“I eat a lot healthier now, I used to have a lot of meat but now my diet is around 70 percent vegetables and 30 percent meat, and I will sometimes replace the meat with tofu.”
Gordon’s friends and family have also noticed a difference.
Breakfast – two cups of coffee with one and a half teaspoon of sugar in the first one and sweetener in the second with hazelnut milk, mashed banana on one slice of wholemeal seeded toast with half a teaspoon of honey
Lunch – warm salad with sliced chicken breast, olive oil, lighter than light mayo and mild mustard
Dinner – stir-fried minced turkey, in tomato sauce with wholewheat noodles and a side of steamed vegetables
Snacks – fruit, controlled portion of sweets or sugar free jelly with mango chunks
“My mate visited me just before Christmas and she said it was the best she’d seen me in years, which is just great to hear,” Gordon said.
“I’m back to a weight now that I last weighed about 12 or 13 years ago, so it’s nice to know I’m heading in the right direction.
“My mum has dementia but even she’s noticed the change in me.”
And Gordon says he has had to buy a whole new wardrobe after his clothes became too big for him.
He said: “Everything became too baggy, especially trousers so I’ve been buying new items.
“I ended up with four and a half bin bags full of clothes for charity that were too big for me.”
He added: “It’s a nice reminder of the progress I’ve made so far.”
Now, Gordon is feeling positive about the future.
He said: “My mum needs to maintain her weight or ideally increase a bit, whereas I still have more to lose, so we have two people in the house with opposite goals but I’m managing them both well now.”
He added: “I am now more optimistic about the future, both mentally and physically.
“Friends tell me how well I look and the compliments I receive is an added bonus to the positive reinforcement that comes from within my own heart and head.
“It gives me peace of mind to know that I’m healthier for my mum’s sake.
“I feel happier and more focused on myself than I have in a very long time.”