At 29st I changed my thinking

Until fairly recently I was a social recluse. I was a loner. I’d been overweight for most of my teens but at 16 I went from being a chubby kid to seriously big.

Looking back, it was around this time my parents split up and dad moved out. I guess I hit the food harder because it numbed things. Within a few years I reached 29st.

Losing weight seemed like an impossible task. I was stuck. I’d stay in my room playing computer games and eating pizzas, pies, cakes, bread and cereal. I rarely ventured out or caught up with friends. I felt too unattractive.

I eventually decided to start a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD), together with some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). At first, I was really intimidated, but my counsellor was welcoming and I found the activities interesting. Within a couple of weeks I’d lost 2st.

Talking about my issues with food helped relieve my isolation and gave me an insight into why I ate so much. As each day went by I began to emerge from a very dark place. I started being able to look people in the eye.

Overall, I lost 14st 2Ibs in 11 months. People were amazed. There was no going back.

"The reality was that food seemed like a friend but had become a prison. The real Joe was stuck somewhere, buried deep under all the weight."

The backstory

Joe has always loved tattoos, but when he was overweight he didn’t see the point in having any, as he didn’t want to expose his body. Once he lost weight, he began to indulge his passion and his ink is now an integral part of who he is.

When we were planning Joe’s photoshoot for Broccoli & Brains magazine, we decided to bring his tattoos to life and use them to tell his story.

We recruited artist Megamunden to create this bespoke tattoo-style artwork. It draws on key elements of Joe’s life, from his parents’ divorce and dropping out of university to meeting his girlfriend Marianna, travelling the world and in his words: “coming out of hibernation”.

We tested Joe’s new abs of steel by getting him to hold some crazy poses, so we could integrate the photography with the illustration. The end result was pretty special.

Read more about Joe’s weight loss journey.