'I knew I was gay but I just didn't want to accept it' - Dublin man says losing 5st gave him courage to find love
A man who once tipped the scales at 22st (139kg) said losing weight helped him to accept his sexuality and meet "the man of his dreams".
For years, Ger Fleming (27) said he hid his anxieties behind his big personality and "party boy" exterior and turned to food as a way of comfort.
"From a young age I knew I was gay but I just didn't want to accept it. I never wanted to explore it," said Ger, speaking to Independent.ie.
"I used to just try and convince myself, 'you think you are but you can't be'.
"When I was out with my friends I was the joker of the group, the party boy, but when I was on my own I would be thinking about it. I would eat my feelings away and I was just becoming bigger and bigger."
Clondalkin man Ger, who has shed more than 5.5st (34kg) throughout the past two years, said he knew his health had become out of control while returning from a sun holiday with friends.
"Before we took off, an air hostess asked me if I needed a seatbelt extender. It was really embarrassing and I made a pact with myself to just get that sorted when I got home.
"I started small, making an effort to eat less take aways and sweets, and I tried to go for short jogs a few times a week.
"After I lost a bit of weight I started getting a bit more female attention and I actually went out with a girl for a while but I just knew it wasn't right," he said.
The bank worker focused on building up the courage to tell his family that he was gay, but said he didn't need to worry as they were very accepting and supportive.
"I just bit the bullet and did it. After 25 years, I told my parents. They had always said that if we were gay it wouldn't make a difference, but when it comes to actually telling them it's another thing.
"They responded to it so well, they said there was no need to be worrying as much as I was. It took me so long to accept myself though I panicked about other people accepting it."
Quite unexpectedly, Ger met his partner, Kerry man Mark, while on a work night out in 2015 and the pair have been together ever since.
"I've been the happiest I've ever been and I've met the man of my dreams, really. When I was at my heaviest I just had no interest in exploring myself. It is a relief to finally have had the confidence to be myself, and Mark is amazing."
Ger is just 1st (6kg) away from his goal weight, but is confident he will get there. The 27-year-old said his anxiety has improved so much since he began to accept himself and offered advice to anyone in a similar position.
"When you feel like giving up remember why you started, nobody can do it but yourself. When I look back now compared to a couple of years ago, I couldn't be in a better place."