Weighing almost 33 stone and unable to walk more than a few hundred yards, Chris Mardlin felt a prisoner in his own body.
At just 25, he wanted to break free from the shackles of obesity to reclaim his life. So in 2014 he lost an incredible 14 stone in nine months – but it came at a price.
Chris was using fat-burning pills which he became hooked on. They gave him a high, but he suffered mood swings and heart problems.
As his health started to suffer, so did his relationship with childhood sweetheart Mary Bowler.
After realising his weight loss was not sustainable Chris came off the pills and the weight piled back on again. On a holiday to Butlins he put on 30lbs in just five days.
Now 27 he is working with the new Integrated Complex Obesity Service at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, to lose weight the right way and now weighs 28st.
I couldn’t walk to the bus stop near my house without having to stop and lean on a wallChris Mardlin
The trained chef says it has been a rollercoaster couple of years but he will never go back to the pills.
He says: ‘I’ve always struggled with my weight, and was 20 stone at the age of 13.
‘This rose to nearly 33 stone by the time I was 25.
‘I decided to change that in January 2014.
‘I dropped my calorie intake to about 1,600 calories a day, and I was spending hours in the gym most days.
‘I was also taking diet pills, spending up to £80 a month.
‘I wasn’t doing it in a sensible way and I became addicted to exercise, where once I’d been addicted to food.
‘If I did 50km on the exercise bike one day, I would force myself to go even further the next day.’
The weight fell off Chris, but he was suffering from side effects including heavy heart palpitations, a numb and dropping face during exercise, and inability to sleep in a healthy pattern, which he attributes to the diet pills.
And Mary, 24, noticed that he would stop breathing in his sleep.
Before his initial weight-loss Chris would consume up to 10,000 calories a day and binge on savoury foods, eating an entire loaf of bread a day, downing litres of fizzy drinks and spending almost £1,000 on takeaways in just one year.
Having suffered from depression and anxiety Chris looks back at his eating habits as a form of self-harm.
He ate for comfort but was so unhealthy at his heaviest that he only left his house in Sanderling Road, Milton, to get the weekly shop.
He says: ‘I couldn’t walk to the bus stop near my house without having to stop and lean on a wall.
‘I have a very addictive personality and seeing the scales drop so dramatically gave me a real boost.
‘My friends and family couldn’t believe the transformation, and I was amazed at how differently people treated me in day-to-day life.
‘It’s sad that people talk to you so differently depending on how you look.’
At his lowest weight, 6ft Chris was 18 stone 5lbs.
He said: ‘I was pleased I had lost the weight, and I was happier with how I looked, but I did struggle mentally.
‘I had done all of this work but my life was essentially still the same – I let my old patterns of thought creep back in overtime and started to lose belief in the end goal of my journey, eventually believing what I wanted was unattainable.’
From then on, he continued to gain weight, and by December 2015 he was back at his start weight of 33 stone.
While Chris was taking the tablets Mary noticed a difference in his personality.
She said: ‘I would know when he had taken them because he became very snappy. I tried them myself just once and didn’t like the feeling they gave me at all.
‘Chris realised they were not good for him and took the decision to stop. I’m much happier now that he is doing it the healthy way.’
Mary is also following Chris’ healthy eating plan and has lost two and a half stone in just a few weeks.
In the past Chris’ weigh affected his work too.
As a chef working in high-pressured kitchens he would skip healthy meals, put on more weight, and end up with having time off work feeling unwell.
Chris now eats regular, healthy meals.
‘I know that I can lose the weight again, but this time I want to do it the right way.
‘I will continue to exercise, but not to the obsessive extent I was previously, ensuring I set manageable goals.
‘I’m following a sensible diet, eating regular meals throughout the day.
‘I’ve already lost two-and-a-half stone, without the use of any products.
‘My ultimate goal, when I have lost the weight, is to find work in the fitness and nutrition industry.
‘I think that given my own experience, I would be in a really good position to help others who are struggling with similar issues.’
And he says he will never turn to fat burning pills to stay in shape again.
To see a video of Chris and Mary go to portsmouth.co.uk.
Dr Denise Thomas, head of nutrition and dietetics at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, and her Integrated Complex Obesity service (ICOS) are supporting Chris with his healthy weight loss.
The programme is based on physical wellbeing, psychology, diet and exercise management, getting to the root of the problem.
Dr Thomas said: ‘When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s tempting to want results as fast as possible.
‘But you are unlikely to maintain a healthy weight long-term after rapid weight loss.
‘The lifestyle Chris was living was not sustainable and it was having adverse effects on his body.
‘We do not encourage the use of weight-loss drugs.
‘The best choice is to make healthy changes to your diet and levels of physical activity which lead to a safe, steady rate of weight loss.
‘A safe rate of weight loss is between 1lb and 2lb a week.’
The programme means that patients receive medical, dietetic, psychological and exercise support for a period of six months.
After this period, patients will be referred on to specialist or surgical assessment, which may include bariatric surgery, or will be referred back to primary care with a personal treatment plan.
Chris says: ‘I wouldn’t rule surgery out, but it’s not in my plans at the moment.
‘ I know that I personally can achieve great results by exercising and eating well.’