His weight ballooned as he cared alone for three kids following the death of his wife... but now David Severn is fighting fit
GRIEVING dad David Severn put his three young children to bed and tried to figure out how on earth he could possibly cope without his loving wife. Her sudden death had left him reeling. Now, as he tried to get to grips with becoming a widower at the age of 37, he was facing not only life without her but also bringing up his trio of babies – the youngest just five months old – all alone.
“It wasn’t the easiest of times, that’s for sure,” he says sadly, as he recalls the shocking death of wife Loraine at the age of 36 following a massive epileptic seizure. “My whole world fell apart.
“I just had to get on with it. It was certainly going to be a struggle, the kids would have one parent, not two. I could only try to do my best.”
Deep in mourning and still in shock, David quit work to become a full-time dad. He looked after the family home, he tended to Tammy, three, her sister, Alex, nearly two, and baby John.
He somehow juggled nappy changes, ABCs and night-time feeds. He looked after the garden and cooked and cleaned. The only thing he didn’t do terribly well was look after himself. It was only when his own daughter pointed out how low and unhealthy he’d become that David finally took the step to dramatically change his life.
Today, thanks to her, David, of Calder Road, Saughton Mains, is nearly half the man he once was – more than nine stones lighter, fitter and brimming with new confidence.
“I feel phenomenal for the first time in a very long time,” he says. “I used to sit at home miserable but now I’m impatient with life, I want to do everything as quickly as possible. I realise there’s no point sitting about doing nothing.”
David, now 50, had piled on the pounds as he battled to control his grief while struggling to cope with raising the children alone. He’d stave off the boredom of lonely evenings when the kids were in bed by snacking on sweets and crisps. Eventually he tipped the scales at 22 stones 6lbs – way over his ideal weight of 13 stones.
“I was already 18 stones when I married Loraine in 1991,” he admits, “but I was also working for the council in the recreation department doing a physical job, so at least I was active. But after she died, the weight piled on.
“I wasn’t happy in my life. I was at the bottom of the well. Loraine had been taking medication, her condition was supposed to be under control and no-one seemed to know why she’d had this huge seizure that killed her.
“Afterwards I was dealing with the kids 24 hours a day, every single day. It was hard being a single parent, I wasn’t working and I missed my wife,” he adds. “After the kids went to bed, I’d sit on my own, late at night, eating to fill the gap. I’d eat sweet things, then when I thought they were making me put on weight, I switched to savoury things like peanuts and crisps. I got bigger and bigger and more depressed.”
A chance remark at a school meeting from Tammy, now 17, finally jolted him into action. “Tammy has special needs and there was a meeting at her primary school with the teachers, doctor and psychologist,” he recalls.
“They asked what she’d like to do after leaving school and she told them she wanted to study depression because of me. I realised I had to come clean to everyone and admit that I wasn’t really handling things very well.”
David realised his weight wasn’t helping. But he was shocked to stand on the scales at Scottish Slimmers leader Susan Shaw’s Carrick Knowe class in May 2009 and see the scales soar to 22st 6lbs. “Then she said my target weight was 13 stones and my reaction was ‘you’re having a laugh’. Last time I was 13 stones I was 15 years old. I didn’t think it possible to ever get back to that.”
A healthy eating plan that swapped unhealthy snacks for fresh fruit and vegetables meant he lost nine pounds in his first week – enough incentive to stick to the plan.
As the pounds started to slide off, David’s life began to gradually change for the better. Once barely able to join in games with his kids, he found new energy. And as his confidence began to return, he took the plunge to look at dating websites, in search of someone to share his life.
“I lived through that terrible scenario of Loraine passing away and it was very hard to break out of that mental state,” he admits. “A mother tends to be the link for the rest of the family and all the friends. When she’s gone, people start to drift off – everyone has their own lives to lead.
“My self-esteem was rock bottom, so now it’s great when people see me and do a double take because they’re not sure it’s really me.”
David not only reached his target weight in autumn, but at his weigh-in just before Christmas discovered he is actually half a pound under it, at 12st 13.5lbs.
“My life is completely different now. I felt so heavy before and so down. I’m grateful to Tammy – if she hadn’t said anything, then things probably wouldn’t have changed.
“Everything happened as a result of that comment. And it changed my life.”
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