A DAD who tipped the scales at almost 28 stone is now shedding the pounds to raise cash for charity.
Darren Johnson had set his heart on taking part in a parachute jump in aid of South Tyneside’s Young Carers Association.
But after piling on the pounds and expanding to a size 56 waist, he was too heavy to jump out of a plane.
However, determined to carry out the daredevil feat from his own bucket list, he has set himself a target of slimming down to 15 stone.
And already, after joining a gym, re-thinking his diet and taking part in the Great North Run – finishing in a time of three hours 35 minutes – he has shed six stone in as many months and he’s now 21st 4lbs.
Mr Johnson, who runs Disney-inspired party entertainment business Rent-a-Character, said: “I don’t know what it was that made me decide to lose the weight.
“One day I just decided enough was enough. So I got out of the house and joined a gym and I’ve never looked back since.”
For three years, since his ex-partner Mandy Carr’s death from blood poisoning at the age of 42, Mr Johnson, who suffers from arthritis, says he turned to comfort eating to cope with the loss and becoming a full-time dad to his teenage daughter Megan, 16.
“After Mandy died, I just didn’t really leave the house. I would just sit and eat and if I called to the shops, I’d be buying bars of chocolate,” said Darren, 42, from Barnes Road, South Shields.
“Megan was receiving a lot of support from the Young Carers and I wanted to do something for them, but when I looked into doing a parachute jump I could see I was too heavy to do it – but even then it was a case of ‘OK’.
“It was just excuse after excuse as to why I couldn’t do anything.
“Then one day I thought that was it. Enough was enough and I needed to get off my backside and do something about this weight.”
Darren sought medical intervention with the help of a gastric band fitted in April but says he quickly realised unless he also made changes to his lifestyle it wasn’t going to work.
He added: “People think if you have a gastric band, weight loss is easy. It’s not. You have to work with the band for it to be of any benefit.
“Losing the six stone hasn’t been easy but the support I’ve had from people has been amazing and every pound I’ve lost it’s just spurred me on to lose more.
“I’m aiming for 15 stone, as this is the most I can weigh if I want to do the parachute jump.”
Darren raised more than £250 for South Tyneside Young Carers Associations in the Great North Run.