A SUPER slimmer who shed more than nine stone has credited his weight loss with helping him beat coronavirus.

Graham Bleakley, 58, was struck down with the virus last year while working at a care home.

But he believes his new svelte look and healthy lifestyle helped him overcome the illness and is aiding his recovery.

Graham, from Kelvedon, joined the Tiptree branch of Slimming World in 2018.

He weighed 22 stone two pounds but since then he has swapped to healthy meals and taken up running to help him shed an incredible nine stone and 7lbs.

Graham, who was diagnosed with diabetes in 2002, said being overweight impacted so many aspects of his life including simple tasks like breathing.

He said: “I was diagnosed with type two diabetes in October 2002, and the doctor told me my weight impacted my condition as well as having high cholesterol, blood pressure and putting additional pressure on my joints.

“Being overweight impacted on so many aspects of my life, not being able to do simple everyday tasks without feeling out of breath.

“I always felt like I was lacking energy, and like I was on a slippery slope to gaining more and more weight – I did not really see a way out.”

Graham described his weightloss as ‘“life-changing” after he went from a 52 inch to a 32 inch waist and went on to no longer need his diabetes medication or visit the clinic every few months.

He said: “Thanks to the changes I’ve made my health has improved dramatically and I no longer need to take injections for diabetes or attend the diabetic clinic on a quarterly basis.

“The feel-good factor is so life changing, I never imagined I would be running and food optimising and I honestly really enjoy it.”

Graham now regularly walks or runs 5 to 10km and believes his healthy lifestyle has helped him beat Covid.

In July Public Health England estimated that having a BMI of 35 to 40 could increase a person’s chances of dying from Covid-19 by 40 per cent, while a BMI greater than 40 could increase the risk by 90 per cent.

Graham said: “In Late November I contracted Covid working in a care home.

“Although I have no proof whatsoever, I am convinced the healthy eating and my current fitness played an important part in aiding my gradual recovery.

Graham said he now looks back on Covid and remembers why he lost the weight.

He said: “I am itching to get running again, but one step at a time with five-mile walks.

“Whilst walking, I get a lot of time to look back and reflect on a more negative outcome of Covid and that just gives me one more positive reason why I lost the weight and got my fitness to where I am now.

“My goodness, I am so glad I achieved it and will continue to do so in group.”

Dee Innes , who runs the Tiptree group said Graham is an‘inspiration to everyone who is struggling for motivation during lockdown.

She said: “Looking after ourselves and our health is more important than ever right now, and the changes Graham has told us about are incredible.

“I hope his success will inspire other people in the area who would like to lose weight, improve their health and form new lifestyle habits to take action.

“For many of us it felt like the pause button was pushed on normal life back in March, but no-one has to put their life on hold and if you’re worried about your weight and feeling alone and desperate, it’s important not to give up.”

Graham said the comradery and support of the group have helped him keep up his motivation during lockdown.

He said: “Although this year has undoubtedly been tough for everyone, the motivation I get from group has helped me stay on track with my weight-loss journey and I feel like I can take on the world now.”

“We share recipes and ideas for getting active and everyone is there motivating you on, and when you get stuck with your weight loss your consultant is always there with some really good questions to help you get unstuck, having a network of support has never been so important, when it can feel so lonely in lockdown.”

For more information about the Tiptree group contact Dee on 07858 874926.