Dear Gary,

As I write this letter to you, my desperately ill, unhappy larger self, I’m looking out of the window at a neat and tidy garden fringed with stones, which I laid myself. Yesterday, Karen and I took our grandsons to a theme park and ran with them from one ride to the next. Can you imagine such a joyful, active life? Probably not. Sitting there in your hospital bed, with oxygen being fed into your body by a machine, you weren’t contemplating any kind of life. Instead you were staring death right in the face…

You’d been admitted to hospital just two days before Christmas. Your weight had crept on since your late 30s and was now more than 21st. Your sleep apnoea was causing your throat to close up during the night, which was stopping you from breathing.

It was the lowest point in your life. You’d only taken one mouthful of your Christmas dinner, when a porter came over and said: ‘We need to give you a heart scan right away.’ You learnt later that the lack of oxygen had caused your heart to enlarge.

You had insisted the family stay at home during this difficult time. You thought of the wife you’d loved for 38 years opening presents with your grandchildren, Rhys and Lucas. You were pleased they weren’t here with you – the last thing you wanted was to spoil their Christmas.

Karen and your son, Graham, had been so terrified four nights before, when you had to be treated by paramedics, unable to draw breath. When you were admitted, you were put straight onto a machine that helped you to breathe as they monitored the levels of oxygen in your blood.

You stayed in over Christmas for eight days before being released. From then on, you slept with a mask covering your face so that air could be pumped into your airways to keep them open at night.

Do you remember that awful photo taken in Madeira? You and Karen both stared in dismay at the image of two large people squeezed into a cable-car seat. You barely recognised them as that crazily-in-love young couple who married in 1978.

Time to change

The day you and Karen went food shopping and bumped into a friend changed your life. The conversation turned to weight, and he said, ‘And you know what I did? I joined Slimming World. Group’s a laugh – it’s not just for women, you know!’. He’d lost 3st 7lbs and said how much better he felt for it.

Karen ventured: ‘Would you join Slimming World with me?’ You grinned and nodded – if it had worked for him, then perhaps it could work for you.

At Slimming World, you found it was still fine to have the stews, chillies and gumbos that you and Karen loved so much, just cooked in a slightly different way.

You cut down on your drinking and, instead of snacking on crisps, you grazed on fruit and veg through the day. After a week you could barely believe it when your Consultant announced that you’d lost 12lbs! The following week you lost another 6½lbs and then carried on losing weight steadily.

Your life now

At work you’re racing around, the garden has never looked better and the sleep apnoea has improved. As for Karen, you wait until you see her. She’s been steadily shedding weight too, losing 3st 4lbs to take her frame to a trim 9st. She looks fantastic in the fitted lacy dresses that have replaced the looser clothes she wore to hide her figure.

You booked a holiday to Madeira and went back to the cable car to have the same photograph taken again. The two of you are unrecognisable! After you hit your target weight of 12st 3lbs, you held Karen in your arms and told her: ‘I’ve never stopped loving you for a second. You’ve been right there by my side. And seeing you now, it feels as though I’ve fallen in love with you all over again.’

Love from Gary x

Karen on Gary

I was 19 when I married Gary and from the moment we met I knew there would never be another man for me. That’s why it was terrifying that I came so close to losing him. He simply couldn’t breathe and I didn’t know whether he’d make it. A couple of our friends recommended Slimming World, so we were already considering it when we met Gary’s former colleague in a supermarket.

To see the transformation in both of us is wonderful. I’m really happy now, too. I was in denial about my weight; I’d wear loose clothes to hide my figure and pretend it didn’t bother me rather than tackle the problem head on. Now I feel like a whole new woman.

For Gary, it’s been truly life changing. He’s got a new lease of life – we laughed our heads off as the pair of us buttoned ourselves into one of his old XXXL shirts. I’m so incredibly proud of him for having the guts and determination to save his own life – and I know he did all of it for us; the family he loves so deeply.

*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.