A SCOTTISH surgeon has revealed how failing to climb the steps to the Great Wall of China encouraged him to shed almost half his bodyweight.
Dr Chris Oliver was appalled to discover his 27-stone bulk meant he could not manage just 10 steps at the tourist mecca.
The consultant orthopaedic surgeon put himself in the hands of his medical colleagues back in Edinburgh and had a gastric band fitted.
The 53-year-old managed to lose 12 stone in less than a year and is now about to cycle almost 3,500 miles across the US with his daughter to raise money for charity.
Despite being a sports fanatic in his medical student days, Dr Oliver saw his weight balloon as his lifestyle became increasingly inactive.
His body mass index (BMI) hit a life-threatening 50 – twice as high as a “normal” man of his height.
When he underwent surgery to fit a gastric band, the doctor at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary needed a special 2XXL size surgical gown to fit his 56-inch chest and waist.
Dr Oliver, who had never been able to make diets work, decided he needed to do something drastic after visiting the Great Wall of China while on a business trip.
He said: “I was so unfit that I couldn’t manage to get up ten steps.
“I thought I’d rather be dead than the way I was. I couldn’t get up ten steps without being exhausted. I was so unfit.”
After returning home he organised surgery to have a laparoscopic adjustable gastric band fitted.
The inflatable silicon belt fitted around the top of his stomach – creating a small pouch which vastly reduces the amount of food he can eat at any one time.
He is now about to embark on a staggering 3415 mile 50-day trip from Los Angeles to Boston with daughter Catherine to raise money for WaterAid UK.
The father and daughter team will tackle the Rockies, the roasting heat of Death Valley and cycle across the Appalachian Mountains.
He said: “I met someone who’d cycled across America last summer and I liked the sound of it. The problem wasn’t so much whether I felt I could do it, it was getting time off work.
“Once I realised I could get the time I said I’d do it – and Catherine decided she’d like to do it too.”
The duo will be accompanied by a support team throughout their trip and have been training hard.
Dr Oliver’s gastric band means he will be unable to enjoy super-sized American portions, and the doctor admitted he was concerned his small meals could leave him out of energy.
He said: “I’ve struggled a few times in training because I’ve simply run out of energy. I’m lucky that it’s an adjustable band, so I can have it relaxed a little and hopefully be able to take in a bit more calories.
“But I’ve no plans to have it removed. Having it changes your behaviour, it alters you relationship with food completely.
“I know I’m going to have trouble managing to get the calories I’ll need every day.
“At the moment, I’m struggling to eat more than 1000 calories a day – 6,000 is going to be really difficult.
“The main problem I’m facing is not so much worries about injuries or climbing up the Rockies, its running out of energy.”
After his dramatic weight loss, Dr Oliver has taken part in triathlons and cycled from Lands’ End to John O’Groats in 19 days during 2009 to raise money for charity.
“He said: “Obesity is such a massive societal problem and people do need support.
“But anyone who really turns their mind to it can lose weight if they are motivated and work to sustain it.
“Life these days is too easy. We get food too easy and it’s too easy to jump in the car rather than walk and cycle.
“I knew what I could do when I was younger – I ran marathons and went kayaking. Having the band was a tool to help me change my life and to help me realise I could go back to doing all that great stuff.”