At 22 stone, a “raging voice” in Tom Watson’s head told him things had to change.
“I kept hearing this voice, ‘you’re going to die if you don’t sort this out’,” says the former MP.
“I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live for my children.”
That was in 2017, when his children Malachi and Saoirse were 12 and nine.
In the five years since, the former deputy Labour leader, 55, who lives in Bewdley, Worcestershire, with his partner Sarah, also 55, has lost eight stone and transformed his lifestyle.
Gone are the late-night curries and chocolate snacks, replaced by bulletproof coffees (made with fats to give low-carb energy) and spiralised “courgetti”. And he’s clearly passionate about spreading the word.
Tom’s first book, Downsizing, in 2020 followed his journey after he went down to 14 stone and reversed his type 2 diabetes.
His follow up, Lose Weight 4 Life, shows how to keep on track with the four Ms devised by Tom – Motivation, Measurement, Movement and Maintenance.
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“In the first book I didn’t want to be preachy, I could only tell you what I did,” he says. “But this book is offering a blueprint of practical advice.
“It’s called Lose Weight 4 Life because essentially there is never an end point, it’s always a journey, not the destination. It’s how you deal with setbacks. For 30 years that’s what I did wrong. If I failed once on other diets, I always punished myself and went back into denial.
“When I think about my old days of eating, it was extraordinary. It would start with a massive bowl of porridge, then a mug of tea and a bacon sandwich at the House of Commons, mid-morning I’d have a Tunnock’s teacake. Then I’d go to lunch.
“In my younger days, that would always involve wine. By lunch I’d probably had twice my recommended daily allowance of calories.
“Very often you’d be voting at 10pm and there would be a late- night curry or a delivery of pizza. It was a long, carb-heavy, nutritionally shallow input.”
Today Tom’s diet is now completely sugar-free and he’s come off diabetes medication.
“I consider myself a reformed sugar addict,” he says.
“If I eat something with hidden sugar in, I just get cravings again. Now I might have a bulletproof coffee in the morning or an omelette with spinach. Lunch will be salad with tuna and homemade vinaigrette. My mantra is real food, not processed food. I’ve not eaten microwave meals for five years.
“I’ve not drunk beer since because of the sugar. If I go out, I’ll drink vodka and soda with fresh lime. I’ll make cauliflower rice. I got very good at spiralising courgettes to make noodle or pasta alternatives. I’ve had an occasional sliver of pizza if the kids have a leftover piece. Even then I regret it.”
Beginning his journey, Tom set himself a target of losing 100lb.
“In the first week I lost a pound a day. Losing half a stone in a week was a joy. I decided to aim for 100lb and said when I’d lost that, I’d buy a new bike. And then in 2018 I entered RideLondon.”
Exercise is paramount for Tom.
“I’m just under 14 stone now but it needs to be a bit lower. My 10,000 steps is the absolute core of it. It’s basically an hour a day walking. You can do it in chunks. I also go to the gym three times a week and really mix it up. I lift weights, do circuits. It’s still a struggle, I’m still a middle-aged bloke battling it all.”
So what are his best motivation tips?
“There are days when it is just really hard, but you can do things to make it easy like having your trainers next to the front door. It’s really important to have embedded routines, real habits. You’ve got to be organised with your weekly food shop.
“I weigh myself every couple of weeks. I’m more in touch with my body now and more aware if I’ve put a bit of weight on – I feel the pinch in my clothes.”
Nottingham Post / SWNS.com)
As for mealtimes growing up, Tom says, “We were definitely an eating family. My mum’s apple pies were so good. Sunday lunch was enormous with giant plates of homemade Yorkshire puddings, loads of gravy and always a pudding with custard.”
His father Tony died last year, aged 76.
“That was difficult. It knocks you off your stride. Mum [Linda] is in Cornwall. She’s 79. When I stay with her we do little walks around the house with her zimmer frame. I think she dreads me coming to do her exercises sometimes.”
Tom, who was the Labour MP for West Bromwich East, says there have been so many positives to losing weight. “There was a moment, and it was a really important one for me, when I could finally buy a Marks & Spencer suit off the shelf again. I could have cried. Just to be able to fit into what you would describe as ordinary people’s clothes again, that’s a great feeling.
“I also wasn’t expecting the cognitive gains. I describe it as like a fog being lifted from my brain. I just felt sharper in my recall of facts and names. I was calmer to the point where I used to quip that perhaps I’d become too chilled out for politics.”
Tom, currently chair of UK Music, left politics in 2019. It took him time to decompress and he says he’s glad he went when he did.
“I very often do Bewdley Boot Camp, pushing tyres around a field or lifting empty beer barrels. I’m usually the oldest and the slowest, so there’s a degree of humiliation for a 55 year-old bloke. But it’s fun and a necessary part of the journey.
“If you’d asked me five-and-a-half years ago, ‘what do you want?’, this is what I would have wanted. To not be 22 stone again and still free of diabetes.”
– Lose Weight 4 Life by Tom Watson is out now (£18.99, Kyle Books)