Ipswich santa forced to buy fake belly after dramatic weight loss
With his white beard, rosy cheeks and larger stomach, Geoffrey Thorpe from Ipswich could not have looked more like the iconic Santa.
But after fighting fit with a dramatic weight loss drive in 2019, the professional Father Christmas noticed a fairly big problem when he put on the red suit for another winter...namely that his stomach was now "as flat as a pancake".
While shedding 2.5st has had major health benefits for the 76-year-old, his new slimline figure was a problem for his professional Santa Claus image - as it meant he no longer looked like the real deal.
Yet thankfully the grandfather-of-10 has found a relatively inexpensive solution by buying fake belly, allowing him to continue his work meeting children in grottos across the country while still enjoying the health benefits of being thinner.
Even though Mr Thorpe's previous 18.5st figure was perfect for his job, it had left him with constant back pain, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and in need of a walking stick.
"I was in a bad way," said Mr Thorpe, who said that as a truck driver he had relied on a diet of takeaways, snacks and fatty foods.
The scale of his health problems were revealed when Mr Thorpe, who has been a professional Father Christmas for 12 years for SantaForHire.co.uk, went for a doctor's check-up which showed his diabetes.
The father-of-four was given tablets to help reduce his blood pressure and cholesterol but said his daughter "grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and said: 'You're going to Slimming World'".
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He said that the weight loss group has "helped me 1,000%", because: "They showed me food that was 'sin free', which I could eat and not worry about."
Mr Thorpe admits that "I do like my breakfasts at the start of the day" but that with Slimming World's help he can eat as much as before, but still lose weight by changing what he eats.
For example, at dinner times he has replaced potatoes with steamed vegetables.
The result has been overwhelming - as well as losing weight, Mr Thorpe's heartrate has reduced by 10 beats per minute and his diabetes is now said to be in remission.
"I'm fitter and healthier," he said.
"But there's been a drawback.
"I'm a professional Father Christmas and I've had to go out and buy a false stomach because I no longer protrude at the front like I used to."
As a result he has to wear the £11 fake stomach - which is worn like a bib, with a large cushion creating the illusion of a fat belly - whenever he is working.
"My stomach was as flat as a pancake," he said.
"However when I put the false stomach on people don't notice it."