Chips for breakfast, a burger for lunch, Mr Chicken for dinner: for nearly 20 years, this was Royston Morton’s diet.
At his heaviest he was 322lbs — the result of a massive weight gain in 2010, while in Boston for brother Winston Lottimore’s kidney transplant surgery.
“If I got stressed out or depressed, I would eat,” he said. “From what I understand, the more sugar I ate the more addictive it became.
“I went for two weeks. We don’t have Popeyes in Bermuda, we don’t have McDonald’s, we don’t have Uno’s deep-dish pizza. I was 307lbs when I left Bermuda, when I left there, I weighed 322lbs.”
Now 49, Mr Morton began turning to food for comfort in his late twenties. Before he knew it, he was happily stuck in a rut.
“I used to have Herr’s jalapeńo chips every day with breakfast and custard creams and a Monster Energy drink; every day I would have a cheeseburger and fries for lunch and I would have Mr Chicken for dinner every night — a pile of junk was going into my system. I would go through a half gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream while watching a movie. That’s how bad I was.”
Last November, Paula Estwick, his doctor at Northshore Medical & Aesthetics Centre, stressed the urgency for change after a checkup revealed he had high blood pressure, was pre-diabetic and weighed 310lbs. And then the produce manager at Somerset MarketPlace learnt his employers planned to hold a three-month weight-loss competition to get staff on a healthy track.
Co-workers encouraged him to sign up.
“It’s easy for somebody who has a hill to climb to say you have to do something, but I had to climb a mountain,” said Mr Morton. “People have to understand the psychological part, the emotional part of it. If I had to lose 10lbs or 15lbs I would have been excited about that, but I had to lose a lot of weight.
“I put it off because I weighed more than 300lbs — that and the fact that I was enjoying my French fries and honey BBQ wings. I’d lost weight before so I knew what it would take and I didn’t feel like going through it.”
Then he paid a visit to his mother, Marion, at Lorraine Rest Home.
“She’s 79 and not afraid to tell me what’s on her mind,” Mr Morton laughed. “She said, ‘My goodness is that your stomach sticking out like that? You look like you need a laxative.’ And then she turned to the nurse and said, ‘My son needs a laxative.’ After that, I said, ‘All right, I’ll do it.’
“My dad had diabetes from his early 70s. He had his leg taken off, his sight was poor; my grandmother had both legs taken off. It struck fear in me. I said, I don’t want to live like that — taking needles for the rest of my life, having poor circulation, loss of sight, amputation. I didn’t want to go through that.”
Mr Morton joined the B-Lean Club, a weight-loss programme run by Northshore Medical, and was ultimately one of 47 staff members who signed up for MarketPlace’s Biggest Loser Challenge. On April 1, the day of the first weigh-in, he hit the scales at 316lbs.
“That night I went out and bought ice cream and cookies and sat down and thought about it. I said, ‘I’ve got to go to Northshore [for a checkup]; they’re going to be on me about this. I don’t want to waste time.’”
The B-Lean programme started with “two weeks of detox”. All the things he loved — Mr Chicken, KFC, chocolate chip cookies, Snickers, Quality Street sweets and old-fashioned ginger snap cookies — were officially banned from his diet.
“It was a rebuild of appetite, cleansing of any waste,” he said. “For the first two or three weeks I wasn’t motivated, but I did it anyway.
“I was carrying 108lbs of fat. I had no energy or drive to do anything. All I could do was pray and push myself to do what I had to do.”
He lost 5lbs in those early days and was inspired by co-workers who lost more.
“When I got down to 295lbs I started to feel rejuvenated. I had a bit more energy to do things and was motivated to push on. I’m thankful MarketPlace came up with the competition — I think I would have otherwise been about 320lbs right now. A lot of people lost weight by changing their lifestyle, their eating habits. Whether at the end you lost 10lbs or 60lbs, all progress is good progress.”
Mr Morton was crowned “the biggest loser” at the end of the supermarket chain’s challenge. With help from B-Lean, the support of his co-workers and with regular walks, he lost 60lbs.
“I was also blessed that I had an active job,” he said. “As produce manager, I was lifting 40lb cases of vegetables, 50lb bags of bananas. It helped me burn off a lot of calories, a lot of fat.
“Even mornings when I woke up tired, I had energy. Before, I would walk and my feet would hurt due to poor circulation. I would have joint pain, hip pain ...”
His mother was thrilled by his transformation.
“After the competition I went to see her and said, ‘What do you think of your son now? She said: ‘I don’t take nothing back. I don’t apologise for it. It was all motivation and encouragement. You’re my only son so a mother’s worrying is good. The fact that you’re healthier means you will be here a little longer.’”
• As winner of MarketPlace’s Biggest Loser Challenge, Royston Morton received a round-trip ticket to the American Airlines destination of his choice. The total weight lost by all participants was 352lbs