Fat Can Stories: Garry Swinburn

Let's face it, we live in a culture where being fat is 'disgusting' and 'utterly wrong'. People shame us, harass us, and mock us when we eat. We're made fun of for exercising. We've been called "lazy", "a disgrace to fat people everywhere", and more. The truth is that we're just like every other person on this planet; we're all individuals trying to live out lives of our own choosing while being true to ourselves. There are so many people in our community who remind us that there are untold stories of success and achievements that are often ignored. So we are going to start a series of stories called ‘Fat Can stories’ where we celebrate achievements from members of our community, whilst inspiring others that you do anything! 

We are kicking starting this series with Garry’s story where he talks about the highs and lows in his triathlon journey...



“Over the near 58 years so far, I have at times been really fit, but spent the majority of my life significantly overweight or in shorthand, fat. I don’t like it, but I tolerate it, as it is often easier to do so, but as I age and realise the mortal consequences. I’d like a few more years so, to be less fat and more fit.

For me though, when I felt I needed to do something, I for once really managed to get my focus and activity in better order, and even whilst fat, managed to do something called Tenby Long Course Weekend. I am 5 foot 3 and a half inches and weighed 17 and a half stone at the beginning of the challenge. The long course weekend started on Friday night with a 1.2-mile sea swim in Wales, then on Saturday a cycle ride of 112 miles and finally on the Sunday, a half marathon. 

To get to the LCW event, my first step was a sprint triathlon. A mere 750 metres swim, 20k bike and 5k run around Blenheim palace…. I couldn’t run more than 100 yards to start. Therefore I joined a triathlon club, saw and met these people doing Iron People events and found out that they were as keen as mustard to help and wholly supportive, recognising that I wanted to sort out the weight as well as the ability to do all 3 disciplines. So I started to train. I swam once a week, run twice a week and cycled 2-3 times a week but not always and not every week either, there were times to relax, recover or party!

I kept the training up, and with help from the club and friends, I upped the exercise and even got out of the beginner’s lane in swimming!!! I completed a couple of sprint triathlons and took part in the Birmingham Velo. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it but was knackered at the end.

Then came Tenby Long Course. I did it though, the swim in just over an hour, the bike in around 6 & a half hours and the half marathon in just over 3 hours. When I got home, I weighed myself and learnt that I had lost another half a stone despite eating like a king for 3 days!

 I was still ‘classified’ as overweight and fat after completing these last 5 events in that year, even though I lost 3 and a half stones, bringing me just over the 14-stone mark. I felt so good.

But then I failed myself. I moved jobs and the pressure from it was unpleasant and intense, lockdown came and I worked exclusively from home. I suffer from Seasonal Adjustments so my mood was low as I found things very difficult, and the only solution was to eat. I slowed the exercise and ate more. Again like many, I suffered bereavement with the loss of my mother due to Covid and I became very insular and unmotivated to do almost anything. It was truly dark times and without the exercise and with poor diet, those 3 and a half stone came back to sit around my girth once again.

In February I began to feel better and having challenged my niece to do a triathlon I was honour bound to compete with her. So I got active again. Unfortunately, I suffered from tennis elbow, and the wet suit struggled to get past my hips, I just pedalled on the indoor turbo trainer. Come April, I was ready to start running again when my old calf issue decide to raise its’ head so running quickly left he picture but nonetheless I continued cycling. And if it couldn’t get any worse, by May and I was hit with a serious chest infection, despite my Covid tests results saying I was negative, my training had to stop.

With my determination itching to salvage something, I still went with my niece back to Blenheim and did the bike and run, as I was not feasible to do the swim…..  but I did it with the bike being reasonable and the run very slow and that at my heaviest ever weight, the crowd were great and fully supportive.

So now I’m about to sign up for Tenby next year as it is my ambition to do this, and then maybe a half ironman for my 60th or who knows. I probably will still be fat to some extent but this is the whole point of this story. You can be fat and you CAN do these things, me and my friends are living proof!!”

Want to share your ‘FAT CAN’ story? Email us at fatlads@fatladattheback.com or post about it on social media using the hashtag #actuallyfatcan and tag us @fatladattheback 

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