Before I lost seven stone, I was always behind a mask

Russell Newland took part in ITV’s This Time Next Year with Davina McCall after struggling with his weight. Did he emerge from behind the mask?

Russel Newland is an eccentric character with a penchant for a pirate costume, complete with piercings, bandana and Jack Sparrow-style beard. He’s been charming visitors to the recycling centre in High Wycombe where he works with his get-up, which came about on his first day in the job.

Russel explains: “I was wearing some pretty eccentric shorts and the site manager joked that they had a pirate on their hands. I’m always up for a laugh, so I reinvented my look and my appearance soon became a talking point.”

Over the years, Russel’s had started to pile on the pounds; he told us: “Growing up, when food was put on the table, you had to eat quickly, or risk going without. I didn’t start having any problems with my weight until I reached my mid-twenties. I worked in a factory at the time and, because I was the only one with a motorbike, I would go and collect everyone’s lunch for them from the pizza place or fish and chip shop. Most of the girls I worked with could never finish their lunch, so I’d do it for them. Before long, my weight began to creep up. At my heaviest, I was 24st 13lbs.

“I tried various diets and at one point I got down to 11st 7lbs. I was working as a freelance gardener at the time and during the winter, work started to dry up. I also lost my mum. It was a difficult time and I turned to food.

I’ve discovered the tools to stop me from slipping back into bad habits

Russel Newland

“With a 44-inch waist, my mobility was starting to suffer and my partner Kate was worried about my health. I decided I needed to lose weight so chose to do a sponsored slim for the charity that my company supports. I thought it would help to motivate me, but my rate of weight loss was slow. About the same time, I was scouted to appear on Davina McCall’s new TV show, This Time Next Year, where participants pledge to do something that will change their lives within a year. The TV production company recommended that I try a very low calorie diet, coupled with counselling sessions to help me address why I overate.

“Each week, I had a call with my Counsellor and other men, who, like me, were struggling with their weight. I learned a lot about myself and my relationship with food.

“As well as the seven stone weight loss, I lost my pirate image and found the real me. I’ve discovered the tools to stop me from slipping back into bad habits and I still attend my weekly calls to help me focus and keep my weight in check.

“As well as feeling happier and healthier, I can do all sorts of things that I couldn’t before. I’ve booked in to do an indoor skydive and I want to get back on my motorbike.”

Read more about how a very low calorie diet helped Russel shed his mask.