A TIVERTON man warned by his doctor he would be dead in five years if he did not lose weight reached the finals of a national slimming competition after losing 17st 3lb.

Father-of-three Paul Palmer, 38, has been named one of Slimming World’s Greatest Losers of 2014.

He had been overweight for years but piled on the pounds after losing his job five years ago.

He said: “I worried I’d never work again, especially after I was turned down for a job as a bus driver because I was too heavy for the seats. I suppose I sought comfort in food.”

Soon Paul, who weighed 35st 11lb at his heaviest, was suffering with high blood pressure, back and joint pain and depression.

It was these health problems that led to the stark warning from his family doctor.

In April 2012 Paul read about Slimming World on the internet and decided to join Katrina Barker’s group in Tiverton.

He said: “I was extremely nervous – I felt embarrassed at how big I’d let myself get and thought people might judge me, but everyone was so friendly.

“Last year I trained as a Slimming World consultant myself and now I run three groups each week.

“I always remember how I felt on that first night and make sure new members get a really warm welcome, just like I did.”

Within two years Paul has lost 17st 3lb, dropping to 18st 8lb and slimming down his waist from 72in to 40in.

Paul has transformed his fitness as well as his appearance and now runs daily.

His weight loss saw him reach the finals of Slimming World’s Greatest Loser 2014 competition, which recognises Slimming World members in the UK and Ireland who have lost the most weight.

He was named as sixth place runner-up at a ceremony in London last week.