`Being overweight is just like any other illness'

COLIN CHRISTIE weighed 271/2 stone when Dr Iain Broom asked him if he wanted to join the Xenical research programme in Aberdeen. Within a year, he had lost five stone and is now hoping that a second course of the drug might cut another three or four. "Like everybody else who is overweight, I had made various efforts," he said. "None of them ever lasted beyond the end of the time when you finish starving yourself to death.

"This one is quite different. I finished the project last November and my weight has stayed down." Mr Christie, 55, said he was on the verge of serious problems when he started the course. He had taken early retirement from his job as a deputy headteacher on health grounds. "There were obvious problems ahead if something hadn't been done quite quickly," he said.

He is critical of those who dismiss the obesity problem. "Even when I was in my twenties and playing lots of sport I weighed 161/2 stone. I'm never going to be matchstick man," he said. "It's an illness like any other illness. If there are millions of people who are obese that is an epidemic and needs attention paid to it."