At 412kg, Barry Austin was eat­ing him­self to death. Fa­mous for be­ing Bri­tain’s fat­test man he’s now on a diet and warn­ing chil­dren against obe­sity, says Nick Hard­ing

Friday - - Report -

B arry Austin ad­mits he’s got a way to go be­fore he achieves his New Year’s res­o­lu­tion for 2014; he’s aim­ing to be­come the world’s big­gest loser by shed­ding 203kg – with­out re­sort­ing to surgery.

When he be­gan his weight loss chal­lenge in late 2012, he weighed more than 317kg and is fa­mous in his na­tive UK as Bri­tain’s Fat­test Man. He’s been the sub­ject of a film and count­less in­ter­views and news sto­ries. He even had a mag­a­zine col­umn de­voted to his un­healthy eat­ing habits and his views on food.

But du­bi­ous fame came at a huge cost – for the past five years he has been largely house­bound. He suf­fers a range of weight-re­lated health prob­lems in­clud­ing type 2 di­a­betes and trou­ble breath­ing. He reg­u­larly de­vel­ops in­fected leg sores that ren­der him bed­bound. These are caused by his skin get­ting strained

by the ex­cess body fat. His weight also makes it dan­ger­ous for him to un­dergo a gen­eral anaes­thetic, so an oper­a­tion to re­duce his fat is out of the ques­tion.

But Barry, who weighed in at a stag­ger­ing 349kg in early 2012 af­ter binge­ing on junk food when his mother Lil­lian died aged 80 of nat­u­ral causes – she her­self was al­most 190kg – is now fight­ing back against the obe­sity that has cursed him all his adult life.

In early 2013, he en­listed the help of a per­sonal trainer who has also pre­scribed a diet for him. Now he

‘If I can do it any­one can… I want to give obese people the con­fi­dence to change their lives’

wants to be the poster boy for di­et­ing and wants his prob­lems to act as a warn­ing for oth­ers.

“I’d like chil­dren and adults to see me and to see how dan­ger­ous obe­sity and over-eat­ing is. It is a global prob­lem and it needs to be high­lighted,’’ he says. “Hope­fully any­one who sees me will re­alise that it is not big or clever to be this size be­cause of the in­jury you do to yourself. I am the best vis­ual aid against overeat­ing there is.”

Barry, 46, has a mes­sage of hope for people who feel they are stuck in a de­struc­tive pat­tern of binge eat­ing.

“If I can do it, any­one can,” he says. “It’s never too late to change the way you are. I want to give obese people the con­fi­dence to change their lives. It has be­come my mis­sion in life to help stop the tide of obe­sity.”

Barry has en­listed the help of his friends, film­maker Jonny Banis­ter who is mak­ing a doc­u­men­tary about the weight loss cam­paign, and old school friend and per­sonal trainer Donville Hen­drix. To­gether they call them­selves Team Baz and plan to set up a project called Barry’s Fight­ing Fit, which will visit schools and health cen­tres in the UK to talk about the is­sues around obe­sity.

Barry ad­mits that for much of his life he has been eat­ing him­self to death. He was a nor­mal­sized child and en­joyed hearty home cook­ing such as meat stews and calo­rie-rich fried break­fasts.

When Barry was younger, he worked as a cab driver and played rugby. It was his friends, he says, who en­cour­aged him to en­ter eat­ing and drink­ing com­pe­ti­tions – and he al­ways won. His huge ap­petite led to him be­com­ing a lo­cal celebrity.

And the older he got, the big­ger he got and he be­came a mi­nor celebrity as the fat­test man in his home­town of Birm­ing­ham. As an avid foot­ball fan, he was adopted as an un­of­fi­cial mas­cot by the for­mer pre­mier­ship league team he sup­ports; Birm­ing­ham City. Op­po­si­tion fans would ha­bit­u­ally chant ‘who ate all the pies?’ at him and Barry would re­ply ‘I did’. For a while it was all a game.

In his twen­ties and thir­ties Barry, who is 183cm tall, gorged on junk food – crisps, burg­ers, co­las and fried chicken. He could con­sume a stag­ger­ing 29,000 calo­ries a day. The rec­om­mended in­take for an adult male is no more than 2,500. By the time Barry was in his 20s, he weighed a mas­sive 413kg.

His daily diet con­sisted of a break­fast of sev­eral cuts of fried meat, six to eight fried eggs, a huge help­ing of pota­toes and a loaf of fried bread, a lunch of four por­tions of fish fried in bat­ter served with chips and a din­ner of nine adult curry por­tions, more than one kilo of rice cooked with ghee and sev­eral naan breads.

Snacks in­cluded fam­ily sized cream puddings, up to 20 fam­ily sized bags of crisps and sev­eral choco­late bars. He washed all this down with 12 litres of fizzy drinks such as full-su­gar co­las and le­mon­ade.

At first he en­joyed the in­famy of be­ing crowned the fat­test man in the UK. “At that age I thought it was fun and that I was in­de­struc­tible. I thought my body could cope,” he says.

“Know­ing what I know now, I have no idea why any­one would want to get so large. My quest to be fa­mous for be­ing fat was driven by ex­u­ber­ance and youth.”

In De­cem­ber 2009, Barry played Big Brian in ITV1’s com­edy-drama The Fat­test Man in Bri­tain star­ring Ti­mothy Spall and Bobby Ball.

Barry even­tu­ally lost the ti­tle of Bri­tain’s fat­test man to Paul Ma­son, who was 444kg at his heav­i­est and was clas­si­fied as the world’s heav­i­est man at the time.

“People asked me if I was sad about los­ing my ti­tle,” says Barry. “I might have been when I was young but it was a curse and the only thing I was sad about was the fact that some­one else was go­ing through what I was go­ing through. No­body should have to suf­fer the way we do at our size.

“People need to know how dan­ger­ous obe­sity is. It is an ill­ness. I feel des­per­ately sorry for people who get trapped in the cy­cle of

over-eat­ing be­cause I know what they are go­ing through.”

Barry de­cided to change his life af­ter watch­ing the Chan­nel 4 doc­u­men­tary Bri­tain’s Fat­test Man, which fol­lowed 49-year-old Paul Ma­son’s bat­tle with obe­sity.

“I had been stuck in the house for years,” says Barry. “I lost my mum of nat­u­ral causes and I went off the rails. I was eat­ing my­self to death. I was spend­ing a lot of time on the sofa watch­ing TV and then one night

Bri­tain’s Fat­test Man came on and I started think­ing about my life and how much of it I had wasted. At the end of it the main char­ac­ter slims to a nor­mal-size per­son. I wanted to be that man. I de­cided to do some­thing not just for me but for other people and to raise aware­ness of obe­sity.”

Af­ter sev­eral at­tempts to lose weight in the past, which saw him yo-yo be­tween 412kg and 285kg, he be­gan his cam­paign in earnest last April and has al­ready gone from more than 317kg to around 285kg. It is dif­fi­cult to get an ac­cu­rate weight be­cause he needs to be weighed on spe­cial scales. The near­est ap­prox­i­ma­tion he can get is to be weighed in a van at a lo­cal ve­hi­cle weigh­ing sta­tion.

Barry now has a per­sonal trainer and works out three times a week. His health cam­paign is not with­out its lo­gis­ti­cal prob­lems as he has to be driven to the gym in a minibus as he is too big to fit in a car.

No one has ever at­tempted to lose so much weight nat­u­rally be­fore. Barry has re­fused of­fers of gas­tric by-pass surgery. He says, “I could have a by-pass but I would feel like a cheat. It is a se­vere oper­a­tion and not a quick and easy fix. My way is the more healthy way of do­ing it. and were sent to dif­fer­ent sec­ondary schools. It was 15 years ago that Deb­bie, sin­gle and a mother of four af­ter split­ting from her chil­dren’s fa­ther, was once again re­united with Barry and they started dat­ing.

He says, “My big­gest re­gret is that my mum was al­ways telling me to lose weight and I wish I had while she was alive. I felt help­less af­ter she died but there are people who love me, like my fu­ture wife, and I am do­ing this for them.”

Now Barry’s diet con­sists of muesli for break­fast, salad for lunch, lean meat sand­wiches with chicken or beef and jacket pota­toes for din­ner. Snacks con­sist of small bread rolls with chicken and he has cut down to two litres of re­duced-su­gar cola a day. When he treats him­self to a curry, he or­ders just one, which he shares with Deb­bie.

He ad­mits it is a strug­gle, par­tic­u­larly the gym ses­sions. Each time he stands up Barry has to hoist his 285kg frame. His fit­ness regime is mod­elled on the train­ing ses­sions used by box­ers Mike Tyson and Floyd May­weather work­ing out and be­ing on a con­trolled diet. He uses punch­bags and speed­balls and spars in the ring, al­though he needs to sit on a spe­cially made stool be­tween bouts of ex­er­tion.

“I didn’t so much as walk into the gym, I rolled in,” laughs Barry. “One man told me I was in the wrong place and that the curry restau­rant was over the road.

“To be­gin with I had to ex­er­cise sit­ting down. Now I can stand for a few min­utes then I have to sit down for two or three min­utes’ rest. I go to the gym three days a week for up to 90 min­utes.

“I haven’t been weighed prop­erly since I started last April but I can no­tice that the weight is com­ing off. My clothes feel looser around the top. If I can get to a 100cm waist in 18 months, I’ll be happy. There’s no van­ity in­volved in this.”

Barry hopes that as well as ex­tend­ing his life and help­ing oth­ers, los­ing weight will al­low him to en­joy life’s plea­sures again. “My dream is to be able to go fish­ing and to drive,” he says. “I can only fit one leg in the footwell of the car at the mo­ment.

“It’s easy to think that I have wasted the last 20 years of my life by overeat­ing but if I can help oth­ers then it would have been worth it.”

‘I have no one else to blame for the state I am in but my­self. I ate my­self into this mess’

I have no one else to blame for the state I am in but my­self. I ate my­self into this mess and I am go­ing to diet and ex­er­cise my­self out of it.”

Barry has thou­sands of sup­port­ers on his weight loss face­book page and has asked restaurants and take­aways near his home to refuse him ser­vice in a bid to help him achieve his goal.

“I want people to catch me if I go off course. I want people to stop me eat­ing chips or curry,” he says.

Barry is now en­gaged to his carer Deb­bie Kirby. The two first met at in­fant school, but then got sep­a­rated


412kg Barry is de­ter­mined to lose weight with­out go­ing un­der the knife

You’re barred: Barry has asked lo­cal restaurants not to serve him

He could eat four serv­ings of fish and chips at once

REAL LIFE Barry fol­lows a regime mod­elled on the one used by Mike Tyson

Barry with his fi­ance and carer, Deb­bie



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