For six years, Mark Lafferty has been helping people across the Borders to lose weight.
Reporter Hilary Scott learns how Mark emerged from a dark period in his life to become five stone lighter, healthy and happy.
“My kids think they have a new dad,” says father-of-two Mark.
Alarmed by the COVID-19 mortality rate for men in his age group who were overweight or obese, Mark knew it was time to practice what he preached.
“I was an emotional eater,” said Mark. “I’d regained weight as my mental health had been poor. I was diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder and reverted back to old coping strategies like relying on junk food.”
After 16 sessions of trauma therapy with a psychologist, Mark started to address the issues holding him back in life.
“I felt my mind was in the right place to restart my diet. COVID and the link with obesity spurred me into taking action. What’s different is that I look at junk food and see it exactly as it is – carb-laden. And as for chocolate, it’s just full of sugar – pure, white and deadly.”
While many were piling on the pounds during lockdown, Mark was losing them.
Looking at himself in the mirror, he was desperately unhappy with the reflection, and decided to take action.
“Now that I have lost the weight, I feel great. I treated myself to some nice new clothes. I fitted into all my old ones. I’m out running three times per week and loving it.
“I have also taken up golf. I love that too but just wish I could improve as quickly as I have with running,” said Mark.
^ Before: Mark Lafferty gained weight when his mental health was poor
His transformation has had a positive effect on the family too.
“I’m also way more active with my kids. Out running and playing football and golf with them. They think they have a new dad and I’m over the moon about that!”
The NHS has announced that it is enrolling 5,000 patients onto a year-long trial of soups and shakes in a bid to tackle the obesity crisis.
Reacting to this, Mark said: “Not before time. Junk food has been likened to the new tobacco for some time now. It’s evident that the advice for the last 30 years of ‘eat less and move more’ is not working, so I welcome this new shift in attitude towards using low-calorie meal replacement packs as a way to lose weight.”
Mark added: “For anyone considering our diet I’d say go for it. The freedom and confidence you gain is awesome. There is a plan to suit all with or without conventional food, so there is plenty of choice.”
The most rewarding aspect of the job is seeing clients succeed, says Mark – who works alongside his wife Nicola.
“We recently had a new client, Sarah Turnbull, join us in the lockdown period and she lost a whopping 2st 7lbs. Seeing the change in her has been incredible.”
Partly responsible for a new addition to the world, Mark said: “One of our clients has given birth to a baby girl. She needed to lose weight to get IVF treatment and after losing 3st with us she qualified for IVF.
“We also have a client that’s reversed their type 2 diabetes. Can you imagine no longer needing to inject insulin? All life-changing experiences through losing weight.”
^ After: Mark Lafferty has lost five stone. Photo: Helen Barrington
And Mark has a few strings to his bow when it comes to helping people with dieting.
“I’m also a qualified addiction counsellor and reality therapist. So I help people with the mental and emotional side of being on a weight-loss plan. There’s usually a good reason why folk turn to food for comfort, so I can offer a bit more support.”
Slamming critics who body-shame people, Mark says: “What bugs me most is that people are often fat-shamed by others. Fat-shaming is unacceptable and causes people to feel shame and guilt.
“If that approach worked we’d all be a healthy weight. Also, what can be upsetting for folk on a weight-loss journey are the comments like, ‘Aw you’ve lost too much weight. Get some meat on them bones’.
“These are really hurtful comments, and I feel as a society we should learn to think before we speak. A person’s body regardless of size is their business and nobody else’s.”
Looking to the future, Mark hopes to contribute to making an impact on the obesity crisis and he would like to think the only clients he sees will be those maintaining their healthy weight.
They say the proof is in the pudding, but not in this case.
The proof is in the numerous clients who have walked out of the doors of Mark and Nicola’s Peebles weight-loss clinic in Cavalry Park, feeling healthy and happy.