A Family Affair: `He once ate a whole trifle'

Sean Paterson, 32, is a heavy goods driver living in North Lanarkshire. He is engaged to Ann Brown, 34, manageress of a photographic shop and they are looking forward to starting a family soon after their wedding. Encouraged by Ann, Sean has joined a weekly diet class which, initially, proved to put quite a strain on their relationship.
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Ann

It was my idea that Sean should go on a diet. When we met two years ago he weighed about 13 stone and that gradually increased to 17 stone. The problem was, he spent all day sitting in his cabin eating snacks, then came home for big dinners - I've seen him get through a whole packet of chocolate biscuits with one cup of tea. Then he'd get restless and want to eat something else. It had to stop. I was aware of the health risks and said to him last November, "Look, you've got to face up to this and do something about it. It's got to come off."

His appearance certainly hasn't changed how I feel about him - he's still Sean. But, yes, I would find him more attractive if he lost some weight. Image does come into it for both of us. Last year when we went on holiday he refused to take his T-shirt off and stayed in his track-suit bottoms all day. He just didn't feel comfortable in a pair of shorts.

So he agreed to go to a diet class, which lasted several weeks. Then he broke it; just before Christmas he got up at 4.30am, crept down to the fridge and ate a whole trifle, when he thought no one would catch him. Then the next day my daughter Stacy said, "Can I have some trifle?" and it wasn't there. Sean was laughing about it. He said he couldn't sleep while he knew it was still in the fridge. He just couldn't contain himself but as soon as he ate it, he felt really guilty.

When he did come off the diet, I have to admit it was a relief. His mood swings were phenomenal. He was so difficult to live with because he couldn't have what he wanted to eat. I really lived with the brunt of it; it was a test for the relationship. At one point I thought, "Are we both going to walk away from this?" It was terrible. He'd come home in the evening and I'd ask, "What do you want for dinner?" and he'd say, "Well, I can't have this or that", and be very crabby with me. I really began to think, "Is it worth it for three stone?" But for Sean's personal health I think it is. I'd get to the point where I had to lie about what I'd eaten during the day. I couldn't tell him if I'd had any chocolate because he'd get so angry.

A few weeks after his diet classes began, it got to the point where we were hardly speaking. So I sat him down and said, "This can't go on." He knew something had to change and admitted he hadn't been very nice to live with. After that I couldn't believe the change in him.

Before he went back on the diet in the new year, I said to him that I couldn't face the arguments and the fighting. I was 100 per cent behind him, but I couldn't put up with his attitude. To be fair to him, he has been completely different this time. Now we've worked out a proper daily eating plan and we both know exactly what he's eaten. So does Stacy, so we all know how much he can or can't eat.

It is hard, but it'll be worth it. We're getting married in June so that's one incentive.

Meeting other men at the diet class has been a great support for him. I think trying to lose weight is a lot harder for men. Women get a lot of support from their friends; the diets tend to be female-oriented. It's not as easy for men to talk about their anxieties when they're out drinking with their mates in the pub. Then they have to come up with good excuses if everyone's going for a curry afterwards. There's only one men-only diet club in this area and men travel more than 25 miles to get to it, so there is a demand.

Another reason we both want this to work is that we want to have a baby, and our doctor told us that being heavy can reduce the sperm count. Sean would love to be a dad. It's one of his major ambitions, which is the main reason he's determined to succeed this time.

Sean

There was really no choice: I knew I had to join a diet class. It was partly for health reasons but also because it was really depressing generally. I felt self-conscious when I went out; I was convinced people who saw me thought I was a slob.

had always told me she loves me the way I am, but we both agreed it was time to get trim. It's about self-respect really.

I find that feeling miserable about your weight is one of those things men don't admit to. I've come out openly and I wish other men would be more honest about it. Most of the guys at my diet club have been encouraged to go by wives and girlfriends. Others are there because they can't get girlfriends.

I feel, like a lot of the men, that nobody pays much attention to you when you're fat. I wouldn't say I lost my confidence because of my weight gain, but it certainly put a cloud over it. I'd think, "Can I bear to go for this job interview? Will they think I'm a fat couch potato?"

I didn't notice how bad I looked until last year; I caught sight of myself in the mirror and suddenly thought to myself, "You've got to be joking." And that's when I decided to do something about it.

Another reason is that and I really want to have a baby and I know we'd have a much better chance if I were slimmer.

I started eating a lot more when I became a lorry driver. You get lazy and eat through boredom - I'm definitely a chocoholic. I also loved those all-day breakfasts, chips and Scottish meat pies.

I wouldn't say my weight has affected the relationship, except for the fact that I was pretty miserable when I first started the diet. I did get very grumpy and it could be quite upsetting. I'm not a nice person when I have a craving for something. I ended up going to bed just to escape the temptation.

I knew I was going to break it when I went on holiday a few weeks after I started. I put on eight pounds in two months. Then I got back and thought, "Why waste it all, now I've put in so much effort?". So I was determined to go back after Christmas. It's still a struggle, and I really want to get down to 13 stone - I'm about 16-and-a-half stone now. One week back, and I've lost half a stone. I feel so much better - it's given me the confidence I need to carry on.

and Sean feature in `Fat Free', a documentary series about dieting and body image, on Thursdays at 8.30pm on BBC1.

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