How one man fought back from infertility
AT 41 stone Gary Kirwan knew he was in trouble. He was just 31 years of age and was so overweight that he no longer cared whether he lived or died. He was unemployed, super morbidly obese and had been told that he was infertile. He had hit rock bottom.
"I was just getting so fed up with my life. I was beaten down as a person," he recalled.
Always a big person, at 6ft 2in Gary's weight ballooned in his 20s before reaching the point where he could no longer weigh himself.
"I was always a big guy, never huge in the way I became, but in secondary school I was always the fat one. I was around 17, 18 stone by the time I did my Leaving Cert. After that I was always 20-odd stone," he explained.
His weight spiralled out of control as a result of "poor habits" while working in construction. While he ate his fair share of junk food, it was fizzy drinks which caused the real damage.
"I'd drink about four litres a day. There's about 3,000 calories in that. That's more than a grown man is meant to eat in a day. It was just a bad, silly habit," he added.
Gary was around 22 stone when he met his future wife Michelle. By the time they married, five years ago, he had hit 30 stone. By this time last year Gary's weight had spiralled to 41 stone.
Despite repeated requests by his worried family for him to lose weight, the number on the scales kept rising.
"I would agree with everything they'd say to stop the conversation and get out of there," he recalled.
His weight restricted every aspect of his life, and left his confidence shattered. It even affected every job interview he had over the two years he was unemployed.
"All they can see is the weight, they can't see the person. Even walking down the street people look at you like you're a complete and utter pig."
Gary caught the attention of the country after he competed in the Dublin City Marathon last October. Weighing 29 stone at the time Gary walked the 26.2 miles, finishing in 10 hours 46 minutes, hours after the race had ended and the bunting taken down.
In the past year Gary has turned his life around. He has got his confidence back, lost over 12 stone, returned to college and had his chances of having a family restored.
His greatest moment of joy came when a second opinion from a fertility specialist revealed he was not infertile.
"When I started the diet I decided I wanted to go to a different fertility specialist. He said, 'There's nothing wrong with you'. I don't know if that's down to the weight loss. It took days to sink in."
His determination and an even greater goal were what drove him on -- the Marathon des Sables. The six-day, 151 mile marathon across the Sahara Desert is considered one of the most difficult endurance tests in the world.
He now plans to reduce his weight to 16 stone by the end of the year in preparation for the trek.
"I decided I'd really love to do something big with my life. I didn't want the big story to be that I lost 20-odd stone. I didn't want that as a legacy for my children. I didn't want to be remembered as that fat guy who lost all the weight," he said. "I really want to do if for myself and to prove that you can come from 30 or 40 stone and do great things with your life."
His story, documented on the Ray D'Arcy show, has proved a huge inspiration to thousands struggling with weight problems around the country.
He has now set up his own website www.garykirwan.ie to help others.