A dad-of-two who used to struggle getting in the car due to his size 38st size has now turned his life around after losing half his body weight.

James Bake, 37, from Gloucester, had suffered with his weight for as long as he could remember. However, he lost 248.5lbs (17st) with the help of gastric sleeve surgery and has now become a competitive triathlete.

Talking about his journey, James said: "I was always bigger than other kids my age. I can't really point to one thing that made me gain weight, except that I really loved eating."

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James didn't get much exercise throughout his teens and adult years, even though he liked working out. Whenever he tried to be active, it left him in pain for days.

He woke up every day thinking about what he could eat, often going for takeaways and huge dinners that packed in more than 5,000 calories.

James Bake poses before his weight loss
He often enjoyed takeaways and huge dinners that packed in more than 5000 calories

"When I was overweight, shopping for clothes was an absolute nightmare," James recalled. "I had to scour the internet for specific clothing websites that catered to my size, and it often came at a steep cost."

The difficulties extended beyond just wardrobe woes. "Getting in and out of my car became a daily struggle," he added. "It was like a constant reminder of the limitations my weight had imposed on me."

Being there for his son's rugby games should have been a source of joy, but it was a painful experience for James.

James Bake poses before and after his weight loss
James was at his heaviest during the covid lockdown

Yet amid these struggles, James had an uncanny ability to mask his true feelings. He often resorted to humour, cracking jokes about his weight as a coping mechanism.

"I would frequently make self-deprecating fat jokes," he confessed. "I'd refer to myself as 'the healthiest fatty' because, despite my size, I somehow managed to avoid any serious health complications."

After watching the scale increase daily during the COVID-19 lockdown, James had reached his heaviest, weighing 531lbs (38st).

Determined to lose weight but failing at numerous diets, he explored the possibility of gastric sleeve surgery through the NHS. However, he encountered obstacles when dealing with the weight management team.

"To opt for private surgery in the UK would cost £19,500, mainly because of my elevated BMI," James explained. "I decided to look for more budget-friendly options abroad. After researching online forums and Facebook groups, I found two highly praised surgeons in Egypt. Neither had any negative feedback or concerns from previous patients."

James Bake poses after his weight loss
James went to Egypt for gastric sleeve surgery

James' choice became even more appealing when he considered the financial aspect. Opting for surgery in Egypt, including airfare, the cost of an additional seat, and sharing expenses with James' travel companion amounted to £6,000.

Once settled on Egypt, it was a case of speaking to both surgeons, which took place via WhatsApp and then making the decision. James ultimately placed his trust in Dr Hany Armia from Slim Fit Clinic, located in Al Wosta, Cairo.

"After the surgery, Dr Hany kept me at the hospital overnight, and the following day, I was transferred to a 5-star hotel just 20 minutes away from Dr Hany and his team in case I needed any assistance," he said. "Two days later, I was transported back to the airport for my return to the UK. The next day, I was back at work and experienced no side effects or complications."

James continued: "I understood that gastric sleeve surgery was a tool to manage the quantity of food I ate, but it wouldn't miraculously transform my shape or guarantee healthy food choices. That responsibility fell on me. Knowing that making poor choices could result in discomfort and sickness was a powerful motivator."

James Bake poses with his family at a triathalon
James now enjoys taking part in triathlons

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James adopted an intense training regimen, waking up at 4:50am and dedicating six days a week to cycling, running, and swimming. With the encouragement of his best friend, he delved into triathlons.

"Finishing my first-ever triathlon was such a rollercoaster of emotions," he said. "I was last to cross the finish line, but the incredible support from my family, friends, and the triathlon community lit a fire in me to keep pushing forward.

"My time has improved dramatically. In my most recent triathlon, I clocked in an hour less than my first attempt. It was even more memorable to have my kids Max, 11, Florence, five, Kira, 19, and Caitlin, 14, right there with me as we crossed the finish line together!"

James, who now weighs 283lbs (20st), is currently part of the Tri Team Gloucester and a member of Passion Fit Coaching. He continues to push his limits, training for a white-collar boxing match and planning a series of marathons and Ironman races.

James advises others considering gastric sleeve surgery to consider options abroad. "My only regret was taking as long as I did to decide," he said. "Do your research, and don't rule out options outside of your home country. Gastric surgery abroad might not be the easiest path, but it can potentially transform your life!"