Slimmer of the year

01 January 2017

Andy Wakefield, a driver with East Midlands Trains, is a slimmer of the year after losing 14 stone in the last 12 months.

New Year, new you. This is, traditionally, the month when we go on a diet, give up the cigarettes and alcohol, dig out the lycra and hit the gym. It may not last – how many of us make it past the third week of January? – but look at Andy Wakefield.




This time last year Andy, 49, and 5ft 6in, weighed 26st. Now he weighs 12st 4lb. His waist was 60in; now it’s 34in.His collar was 21 and now it’s 14½. Andy is living proof it can be done.

‘I started putting on weight when I started driving trains. It’s the sedentary lifestyle and the cakes, biscuits,and sweets. Every time I had a cup of tea, I’d have something sweet. I loved fig rolls; I’d eat a packet, no problem.

Before I began driving I was 16st or17st, but carried it well. I was healthy. But the LCC office here has a cupboard full of biscuits and cakes. Everyone brings a packet.’




After a routine operation, Andy ended up with sepsis, a life threatening condition. He was rushed to hospital, where it was touch and go, and complicated by his weight. Afterwards doctors ‘had ago at me’ and offered him a gastric bypass. ‘Which I flatly refused. But my other half was very upset. She realised how close I’d come.

We had a heart to heart and she said,“Look, we need to do something, and I’ll do it with you”.’

They joined Slimming World, a club with branches all over the country, ‘after Christmas, of course, and at my first weigh in I was bang on 26st.

‘I’m 50 next birthday and knew this was my last chance. I wanted to be an RFU level 2 coach, but didn’t look the part. My attitude was I really want to do this, once and for all, get back to my 16- year-old weight. My target was 12st 7lb and I hit that in December. People who are large – it’s not that they don’t know what they need to do to lose weight, it’s having the motivation, and having the support.’

Andy went on a strict diet, and took a little exercise – walking, swimming, badminton, rugby or going down the gym –every day. The discipline of being weighed, once a week, at a two hour Slimming World session, helped. ‘But I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Sarah. I needed her support. She makes the soups – we eat exactly the same food – and she lost 5st to get down to 8st 7lb.’ Their son James, 19, is in the RAF, but Adam, 13, tucked into spag bol and healthy lasagnes at home.

‘Around the three month mark, I’d lost 5st, and realised I was still eating plenty of food, and not feeling hungry.It’s about making choices. You can choose to eat chips from a chip shop or cook your own in an ActiFry. You can go to a curry house for a takeaway or make a fat-free curry yourself. It was my light bulb moment – I can still enjoy the food I like!

‘I’m over the moon. My GP has taken me off the blood pressure tablets. Colleagues on the railway have been really positive and encouraging – although one or two have walked past without recognising me! – and now I need to make sure I don’t put it all back on. The only downside is my clothes no longer fit – they’ve been bagged up for charity – but to any railwayman thinking of it, I’d say go for it, but you need support.’

Andy, who was born and brought up in Nottingham, has the railway in his blood – his father was a fireman on steam locos– but when he left school at 16 he joined the Royal Artillery. 24692526 Gunner Wakefield spent ten years – many as part of a six man Rapier air defence team –serving in Germany, Cyprus, and Northern Ireland during the Troubles. ‘I loved the camaraderie of army life. Army friends are friends for life. If I ever need any help, I know where to go.’


He did ‘bits and bobs’ for a few years,including a stint at Vision Express, where he met Sarah, a frame repairer, who has been his partner for the last 22 years, and then in 1999 decided,belatedly, to follow in his father’s footsteps.

‘Chalkie Mitchell’s son was working for me, I was being made redundant, and Chalkie said, “Come on, let’s get you on the railway. Here’s the application.” I started as a guard with Central Trains,took to it like a duck to water, and regretted I didn’t do it as soon as I left the army. The friendship – we’re a band of brothers here at Nottingham – it’s like the army.’ He was a guard for two years – ‘I’d always wanted to be a driver’ –and after a year’s training passed out in 2003. ‘I’ve driven 15Xs and 170s,coast to coast, Skegness to Liverpool, and lots of places in between.’

He’s well known on the railway for his magnificent moustaches. ‘I started five years ago – in Movember – and kept them.’ He’s a member of the Handlebar Club, founded by actor Jimmy – Whack- O! – Edwards in 1947.Andy has entered the British Beard & Moustache competition twice, coming second in 2014 and first in 2016. He was 11th at the world championship in Leogang, Austria, in 2015 and is hoping to go to world championship 2017 in Austin,Texas, later this year.

Andy has always been fit. He loves rugby, played hooker for 22 Light Air Defence, and now coaches at Long Eaton,which won an RFU president’s award last year. ‘Like the railway, and the army,it’s a family. We serve bacon butties, tea, coffee, and sausage and bacon cobs from 9am on Sunday while the kids are playing.’

He loves singing, too, and wowed delegates with his karaoke versions of Mustang Sally and Try a Little Tenderness at AAD in Southend in 2015. ‘22 Air Defence are the Welsh Gunners and you don’t not sing in a Welsh regiment. And there are rugby songs, of course…’


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