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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Tony’s now a winner in his life-long battle of the bulge

Larger than life West Cumbrian councillor Tony Markley is literally half the man he used to be.

The 58-year-old has lost an incredible 15 stones through a combination of will power and surgery.

Tony, of Blitterlees near Silloth, who is one of Cumbria’s best-known politicians, says his weight has been a lifelong battle.

In his role as county council highways spokesman he managed major projects like rebuilding bridges that were washed away in the 2009 floods.

But managing his own weight always seemed to be a bridge too far.

Struggling to walk past a biscuit tin was one reason why Tony ballooned to 31 stone.

Struggling to walk at all even became a problem. He recalls: “Walking up the stairs was difficult. Walking any distance was difficult. I said: ‘This is getting too much’.”

Tony today weighs 15st 10lbs. In the past two years he has lost 15st 6lbs.

He says he has lost pounds over the years but always put the weight back on again.However, last November the plight of a young Abbeytown boy became the catalyst that he needed.

He says: “I had been looking at a gastric bypass but had to prove that I was motivated.

“Young Noah Wall has spina bifida and Silloth Rotary and the Conservative group were raising money for him.

“We had a pie and pea supper and I decided to go on a sponsored diet.

“I lost 30lb between October and Christmas and raised £2,600. That was the start of it.”

He says he decided on drastic surgery because this time there was no going back – he wanted to lose weight and keep it off.

The operation was carried out at Sunderland Royal Hospital in April.

He says: “I am told that my stomach was the size of a melon and now it is the size of a prune! I can’t eat much. I can’t even manage a sachet of porridge, but the great thing is that I am not hungry.

“I probably didn’t realise just how big an operation it was until the night before when I sat on the bed with the doctor. He said: ‘You do realise this is a major operation?’ “I said: ‘Well, it’s keyhole surgery.’ He said: ‘Yes – but it’s seven keyholes.’

“I didn’t eat a fantastic amount of stuff,” he says of life before the operation. “I ate the wrong stuff. I used to eat a lot of junk food, eating on the hoof. The lifestyle I have, you can’t work it off.”

He says that since the surgery he is somewhat grumpier.

The mayor of Silloth, who also represents the Solway Coast on Cumbria County Council, adds: “I don’t think that is due to the weight loss so much as recovering from the operation. I had been told it was major but I don’t think I realised how major.

“Since the op I have also faced an election in which the Conservatives lost the administration so, appropriately, I am now a shadow councillor!”

Tony and his family run Carrs Coaches, whose vehicles transport children to school, and in the middle of everything else going on in his life he had to tender for all the school routes again.

Tony says he never let his weight hold him back. He played rugby at school and ran a successful haulage business for 30 years.

He also successfully managed a third business, a storage and property company.

But he says: “I was under a dietician when I was at school. I played rugby for the school – it never held me back. Well, in the latter years it did. My knees were going. I was diabetic. I had problems to do with my kidneys, internal stuff.

“I’d tried to lose weight numerous times, and did so, but I’d always put it back on again.”

Tony and wife Denise have three children and five grandchildren, and he says his family and friends have been hugely supportive.

He adds: “Denise supports me in whatever I want. She didn’t push me even though she knew losing weight was the right thing to do – but it had to be right for me.”

Tony’s transformation has been captured by ITV3 documentary series Weight Loss Ward, which is due to be shown early next year.

Tony used to wear trousers with a 64-inch waist. Those he buys now are 20 inches smaller. He has given bags of old clothes to charity shops and kept just a few, as a reminder of how he used to be.

“I’ve lost two bags of fertiliser,” he grins. “Or four bags of potatoes. Or two bags of coal. Imagine carrying that around all day?

“My movement is a lot better. My aches and pains are a lot better. I was on 19 pills a day. Now it’s five, and a lot of that is vitamins.

“One thing I have found though – I’m cold. I do feel the cold now.”

Other changes include not having strangers stare at him or, occasionally, offer insults.

He says: “Since I grew up I’ve always been called ‘fatty’. You’ve got to laugh it off. Some folk would look at you. But I would challenge them, saying; ‘what are you looking at, pal?’”

If they’re looking now it’s for a different reason.

He adds: “I was in Marks & Spencer the other day. A person walked past me twice. She said; ‘Tony, is that you?’”

Is it, though? Can this really be the Tony Markley who will take part in Silloth’s half-marathon next August?

He explains: “I’m a Rotarian. They’ve got me coaxed into entering as part of a relay. I just hope it’s a small leg.”

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