‘We were too fat to have sex on our honeymoon but after losing 15 stone we are friskier than ever!’
With a shared passion for cakes and takeaways, Mark and Louise Hannigan’s love life went down the pan until dieting restored their passion
Puffing and panting with sheer exhaustion, honeymooners Mark and Louise Hannigan collapsed onto their hotel bed. But it wasn’t a passionate session consummating their marriage that had left the couple lathered in sweat.
It was the walk back from the hotel pool.
Because the newlyweds had a combined weight of more than 36st – and even a simple stroll together left the morbidly obese pair out of breath and in pain.
Mark weighed in at 21st 6lb and Louise 15st 2lb. And in the insufferable heat in Lanzarote, sex was off the menu . So they flew home from their disaster honeymoon without even having made love once.
Now, 17 months on, they have lost Louise’s weight between them. And they are making up for that lost honeymoon.
Louise, 42, says: “We were just too lethargic because of our weight to have any interest in sex. Now we both feel attractive and confident for the first time in our lives and it feels incredible.”
Gas engineer Mark, 40, adds: “It’s like we’ve come alive and woken up. I joke it’s like having a new wife – and Louise says she has a new husband.”
Mum-of-two Louise had always battled with her weight but says she “buried her head in the sand” while she was raising her sons Luke and Greg, now 10 and 21 as a single mum.
The dinner lady would nibble on the cakes she made at school all day and eat jars of Nutella and multi-packs of crisps in secret at home.
She recalls: “I went up and down like a yo-yo because I was a secret comfort eater. I ate when I was happy and I ate when I was sad.”
By the time she met Mark on a dating website in April 2010 she had slimmed to a size 16 by cutting down on sweet treats. Days after clicking online, they had their first date. And within weeks divorcé Mark, who was then 14st 7lb, had moved from his home half an hour away to live with Louise and her sons.
Louise says: “I just knew he was the man for me and luckily he felt the same. We didn’t want to be apart.”
Mark also had a sweet tooth which enabled Louise to indulge him with her love of baking and cooking. Soon the pair began to put on weight.
She says: “I loved having Mark to bake for and he enjoyed eating it all.”
But as their waistbands grew their libidos began to wane.
Mark says: “We had been like most new couples to start with, but as we got bigger sex became a chore. We just didn’t have the energy.”
Instead of nights of passion, the couple looked forward to treating themselves to takeaway meals and piles of junk food in front of the TV, starting with creamy dips and Doritos.
Louise would make them both a healthy chicken sandwich to take to work, but the packed lunch was also crammed with crisps and chocolate bars.
Mark would eat his after a McDonald’s breakfast and stock up on pastry from Greggs for lunch. He also kept supplies of crisps in his van. But despite their growing bulk , the pair were in denial.
Louise, 5ft 5ins, says: “I was wearing bigger clothes but would just cut the label out so I didn’t have to face it. I told myself we loved each other so it didn’t matter.”
By the time she peaked at a 15st 2lbs size 22, Mark weighed 21st and their sex life had dwindled to a handful of times a year. Mark, 5ft 10ins, says: “Physically it wasn’t there. Neither of us had any self- confidence. Our only interest was food.
Before: Mark weiged 21st 6lbs
Then in the 2012 leap year, Louise asked him to marry her. She hid her proposal in a box of chocolates, but Mark was so busy tucking in he didn’t read the note.
Louise says: “I had to tell him to pick it up and when he did he said ‘yes’ straight away – then we finished the chocs.” For the big day in June 2014, Louise had a dress made in a size 22 hoping red and black would flatter her frame more than a traditional white gown.
Mark had to settle for one of the few kilts he could find in a 53ins waist.
The couple wed at Gretna Green with Louise’s sons there and four guests. They managed to make love that night but passion was the last thing on their minds when they flew off on honeymoon to Lanzarote.
Louise says: “The heat hit me straight away. I was sweating constantly and couldn’t walk far without my hips and shins hurting. In fact the only time we were out of breath in the bedroom was after walking back from the pool.”
At home it was no different. Mark was also suffering with suspected sleep apnoea – where you stop breathing momentarily and wake up – caused by his size. It left him permanently exhausted and relying on sugary energy drinks.
Their honeymoon pictures made Louise feel ashamed. “I hated what I saw and I hit rock bottom,” she says.
The turning point came in November 2014 when Louise received a call at work from Mark telling her he was in the back of an ambulance. She recalls: “When he told me to meet him at the hospital I was terrified.”
Mark’s van had crashed into a lamppost after he blacked out at the wheel. He escaped with cuts and bruises, but medics were sure the accident was caused by his weight.
Mark explains: “My blood pressure was so high that when I coughed it rocketed and I’d passed out. The thought that I could have died leaving Louise a widow was terrifying.”
His licence was revoked by the DVLA who told him he had to get his BMI below 30 to get it back. The couple vowed to tackle their weight.
Mark had heard about the Cambridge Weight Plan through a friend. They booked an appointment with a consultant for Boxing Day, meaning they could enjoy a last binge before starting the meal replacement plan.
During the first week Mark lost 13lbs and Louise 10. She says: “It was hard but that reward made it all worth it and spurred us to keep going. We weren’t ever competitive about it because we knew how much it meant to the other person to succeed.”
As the weight fell off, they continued to shrink – and their libido grew.
The exercise they got in the bedroom helped to keep the pounds falling off and the couple started walking together, with Mark also joining a gym. By their first anniversary, Louise was a size 8 and Mark had lost 8st – he was just one stone from his 12st target. She says: “We did not look or feel like the same couple who had said ‘I do’ just one year earlier.”
Days later on June 27 she reached her target of 9st 7lbs. One month on, Mark reached his and the couple flew back to Lanzarote to celebrate their first year as man and wife.
Mark, who got his licence back in June, says: “It was a different story this time. Instead of hiding away, we sat by the pool in our swimwear and walked everywhere. The difference it made was incredible, the best holiday ever.”
The couple, from Peebles in Scotland, recently won an award from Cambridge Weight Plan for their success on the scales. During his acceptance speech, Mark told the audience he and Louise were friskier than ever thanks to their weight loss.
Louise laughs: “I was not expecting him to say that in front of so many people. I went bright red but everyone cheered.”
The couple feel so passionate about the plan they have trained as weight loss consultants to help others slim.
Mark says: “We still love food but we make the right choices. But what really tastes good is having our lives back.”
And a smiling Louise, who has lost a further 7lbs, adds: “We may not have made love on our honeymoon but we are certainly making up for it now.”
Weight before: 15st 2lb
Weight now: 9st
Total loss: 6st 2lb
Weight before: 21st 6lb
Weight now: 12st 6lb
Total loss: 9st
What Louise ate before
Breakfast: No breakfast
Snack: Cakes at school
Lunch: Packed lunch, crisps and chocolate bars
Snack: Nutella spooned from the jar and six bags of crisps
Dinner: Takeaway or large home-cooked meal
Snack: Crisps, dips and chocolate bars
What Mark ate before
Breakfast: Bacon sandwiches with four slices of bread
Snack: Breakfast wrap with bacon, eggs, sausage and cheese from McDonald’s
Lunch: Homemade chicken sandwich, crisps, biscuits
Second lunch: Two Greggs chicken bakes, latte coffee and custard donut
Snack: Two bags of crisps and two king-size chocolate bars. Monster energy drink (large can)
Dinner: Pizza or kebab or home-cooked meat dinner
Snack: Crisps and chocolate
What they eat now
Breakfast: Poached or scrambled egg and smoked salmon
Lunch: Chicken salad or goat cheese salad
Dinner: Steak or salmon with vegetables or salad
Snack: Sugar-free jelly