A hospital specialist who has helped hundreds of patients with digestive disorders lost 4st after health checks following a bout of Covid revealed his weight had ballooned to 19st 5lb – making him obese.
Successfully fulfilling his 2021 New Year’s resolution to lose weight, 6ft 1in Simon Whiteoak, 40, completely overhauled his lifestyle and went from 19st 5lb to 15st 4lb.
Simon, who lives in Poole, Dorset, with his university lecturer wife Katie, 49, and their children Isabella, 13, Joseph, 12, Maximus, 10 and Florena, seven, said: “I used my weight to my advantage when talking to patients.
“If I had to tell them to lose weight, I’d say, ‘Look, I can sympathise.’
“Since I’ve lost the weight, I’ve been able to tell patients that it’s possible.’
Wearing a size XXXL and with a body mass index (BMI) used to gauge a healthy weight of 35.9 at his heaviest, compared to the NHS healthy range of 18.5 to 24.9, Simon was obese.
Going down to a far healthier BMI of 28.3, he now cycles 16 miles a day, coaches kids’ football and feels he spends far more quality time with his family.
He said: “The weight came on slowly over 20 years.
“I stopped playing rugby when I had the children and my eating wasn’t great.”
A consultant gastroenterologist at The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, he is well aware of the medical implications of obesity, yet he pushed his own weight problem to the back of his mind.
He said: “I never really thought about it. It’s not something that really bothered me a huge amount.”
All that changed in spring 2020 when he caught Covid through his hospital work.
He said: “I didn’t get too ill, but I noticed I was very tired afterwards and, of course, I was overweight.”
Lunch: Pre-packed sandwiches
Dinner: Home cooked meal, but large portions
Snacks: Cake, cheese, ham and salami
Seeing how unwell some of the heavier patients in the hospital were becoming, Simon decided to have his heart checked by a colleague in late 2020.
Fortunately, he was healthy, but he was weighed for the first time in years as part of the investigations.
Discovering he was edging towards 20st came as a shock.
“I was surprised,” he confessed.
Used to skipping breakfast, drinking coffee through the day and snacking on cake slices and pre-packed sandwiches for lunch, he was not eating healthily.
He said: “I’d come in from work and just eat. Anything in the house I’d pick at.”
So, in January 2021, Simon made a New Year’s resolution to change.
He started by increasing his exercise – walking the NHS’ recommended 10,000 steps a day and cycling the eight miles to and from the hospital each day.
“We’ve now got rid of our second car and I try to walk or cycle wherever I can,” he said.
Rather than surviving on coffee, he started getting up earlier and having porridge or toast for breakfast.
For lunch, he began having salads, which he had prepared in advance at home and taken to work.
And in the evenings, he would cook a healthy, often fish-based dinner for the family.
Breakfast: Porridge or toast
Lunch: Home-made salad
Dinner: Fish-based home cooked meal.
Snacks: Fruit, olives, pickles
He cut out unhealthy snacks, opting for fruit if he was hungry between meals, instead of picking at cheese, ham and salami.
He also began weighing himself daily.
“I like to compete with myself and watch the numbers on the scales fall,” he said.
But the real motivation for becoming healthier was his family.
He said: “It wasn’t so much about my weight. but more about general health and being more active with my kids.”
Now wearing a size large in clothes, he is keen to maintain his weight and his healthy lifestyle.
And he admits to really enjoying receiving positive comments about his transformation from colleagues and long-term patients.
“Patients have come back to me and been shocked, saying, ‘You’ve lost loads of weight.'” he said.
“Friends and colleagues in the hospital have noticed too.
‘I’ve even recruited a couple of people to a healthier lifestyle.
‘I was definitely unfit before, but now I can run around the football pitch for an hour with the kids. I feel like I can do so much more.”
Professionally, he also feels that getting fit and losing weight has given him a new perspective.
He said: “If patients don’t know me, I won’t bring up the fact I’ve lost weight.
“I’m not sure an overweight person necessarily wants to hear how successful I’ve been.
“But I can honestly say to patients that it is possible to lose the weight now. And it’s had immediate outcomes in terms of how I feel.
“I feel genuinely different in myself. Psychologically, it’s nice to know I’ve achieved this and I sleep better and have more energy.
“The main message I would give to anyone wanting to lose weight is that, if you’ve never tried to do it before, it may actually be less daunting than you think.”