SEVEN months ago, James “Arg” Argent feared he was eating himself to death after bingeing on fast food, fizzy drinks and snacks left him tipping the scales at almost 27st.
Now the former Towie star has proudly revealed he has reached his target weight of 15st 7lb after shedding almost 11st.
Arg, who began piling on the pounds in lockdown after kicking his cocaine and booze addiction, says doctors told him he was “on death row” — but it took his mum Patricia breaking down in tears in his bedroom for him to finally seek help.
“Bingeing made me tired and lethargic so I’d make plans every day to meet friends, do a job or achieve something,” he tells The Sun.
“But after I binged, I was so exhausted I’d end up just staying in bed and not leaving the house.
“Then one afternoon my mum found me in bed and started crying.
“She said, ‘I don’t recognise my son any more.’ That was a big wake-up call.
“Also, I reached the heaviest I’ve ever been in the height of the pandemic and doctors said I was dicing with death because I’ve got bad asthma and was morbidly obese, which was the worst possible combination if I was to catch Covid.
“I could have been a goner, so I just knew I had to do something.”
Arg, 33, who in April had a major stomach op to limit his food consumption, says his eating disorder spiralled out of control after beating his substance addictions, which saw him suffer two near-fatal overdoses.
‘COMFORT-EATING TO ESCAPE FEELINGS’
After a successful spell in rehab in Thailand at the beginning of 2020, he replaced the drink and drugs with junk food.
“I was in a good place,” he says. “I had a healthy balance of food and exercise, a good routine and I was three months clean and sober.
“Then as soon as I came home we went into lockdown, so all of the plans I had to stay active with boxing and swimming and staying busy with work were thrown up in the air.
“I was living alone and even though I wasn’t doing drink or drugs, which I was extremely proud of, I was comfort-eating out of boredom and to escape feelings, and it got out of control.”
The reality star wolfed down fried chicken, pizzas, curries, pie and mash, burgers and chips for lunch and dinner, all washed down with sugary drinks.
“I’d have a big lunch then I’d be snacking throughout the day, and then having another big meal,” he says.
“My favourite was pie and mash, but I’d get three pies, three portions of mash and plenty of liquor sauces — chilli, vinegar and pepper. Or I would tuck into an Indian takeaway with poppadoms, onion bhajis, naan bread, chicken madras, pilau rice and even a couple of lamb chops.
“After dinner, I’d go through a whole tub of ice cream — either Aunt Bessie’s Jam Roly Poly & Custard, Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food or Haagen-Dazs Salted Caramel.”
After ballooning to 26st 13lb, Arg took drastic action and opted for a gastric sleeve operation — where a section of the stomach is removed to reduce the portion size it can hold.
I wasn’t doing drink or drugs, which I was extremely proud of, but I was comfort-eating out of boredom and to escape feelings.
The £10,000 op — which Arg paid for himself — was carried out by the Transform Hospital Group at the private Burcot Hall Hospital near Birmingham.
“I was very nervous before I had the surgery because I knew it was a huge, life-changing decision,” he says.
“Some weight-loss surgeries can be reversed, but the one that I knew I needed is permanent, because 70 per cent of my stomach has been cut off.
“But I was so far gone, my life was on the line. I’ve always yo-yo dieted, and gone up and down in weight, but I’d never reached anything close to 27st before and this time I needed help.
“My surgeon, Martin Richardson, was amazing throughout the whole process and the aftercare.”
Because of the huge reduction in stomach size, Arg can only eat tiny portions of food. Fizzy drinks are banned and he cannot drink liquid half an hour before or after eating.
Arg says: “The surgery had a huge mental effect because I lost the cravings for fast food, sugary treats and food that’s high in carbs.
“Even if I did have a craving for it, I get a lot of discomfort if I eat the wrong things. As everything takes so long to go down, I now eat using a method called ‘20, 20, 20’.
“So the food I put into my mouth should be the size of a 20-pence piece, I should chew it 20 times and then wait 20 seconds before I go for the next mouthful.
“If I drink water just before a meal it sits above my stomach, and if I eat too soon it can make me sick.”
Doctors told Arg that to get to his target weight of 15st 7lb would take a year — but he has managed to hit his goal in half that time.
As well as eating healthier meals, such as chicken salad or fish with mixed veg, Arg drinks only green tea and water, and supplements his diet with multivitamins. He has also stuck to a regime of at least five one-hour fitness sessions a week, including boxing, swimming and weight training.
‘GIRLS NOW SEEM A BIT MORE KEEN’
“Physically, I don’t have a type,” he says. “I think I’m attracted to women who have their own goals, who are hard working and who want their own success.
Best pal and fellow ex-Towie star Mark Wright has helped him on his fitness journey, coaching him in the gym sessions and sticking by him through his darkest times.
Arg says: “Mark has never turned his back on me — he’s always showing me love and support, whether it is tough love or not.”
Another low point of last year’s lockdown for Arg was his split with long-term girlfriend Gemma Collins in July amid a toxic war of words which saw him brand The GC a “hippo”. The pair briefly reunited in October 2020, but called time on the relationship a month later.
Now he admits he was in a dark place at the time and that any bitterness towards Gemma — who is now dating former flame Rami Hawash — is very much in the past.
“Anything negative I’ve said about anyone I deeply regret and I apologise for,” he says.
The surgery had a huge mental effect because I lost the cravings for fast food, sugary treats and food that’s high in carbs.
“But that row was a long time ago and a lot of the time, when you say negative things about other people, you’re really saying it about yourself. It’s self-hatred.”
Although the pair — whose on-off romance spanned eight years — are not in contact with each other, Arg says he wishes her well in her new romance.
“I’m very pleased that she started dating Rami again because I’m actually quite fond of him — he’s a nice guy.”
As the pounds have dropped off with his new diet and fitness regime, Arg’s self-confidence has grown and he is now ready to get back on the dating scene. He says he is looking for a “strong woman” — and hopes he will settle down and have kids.
“I haven’t actually started dating yet, but I have noticed that a lot of the girls who didn’t look at me twice before now seem a bit more keen.
“I’m getting lots of compliments, but I’m not letting them go to my head. One drawback is the skinnier I get, the bigger my nose and ears look, so I can’t win!”
Arg has plenty of work projects up his sleeve too and is currently in rehearsals for a Christmas panto, playing Silly Simon in Jack And The Beanstalk in Tenby, Wales.
The Arg Band, which he fronts as a singer, is also playing regular gigs at weddings and corporate events, as well as a residency at Marbella restaurant Olivia’s, owned by former Towie star Elliott Wright.
He is soon to appear on Loose Women fronting a special report on eating disorders and is starring in new E4 show The Real Dirty Dancing. Now healthy and happy, he says his friends and family are relieved to get the real Arg back.
“My mum’s been through a hell of a lot and has had therapy and counselling herself, initially, I think, because of me and what I put her through, but now it actually helps her personally,” he says.
“But along with Adele and boxer Tyson Fury, my mum has been one of my biggest inspirations in my weight-loss journey.
“She lost a hell of a lot of weight for my sister’s wedding. I’m so proud of her.”
Now Arg has plans to swim the English Channel or the Strait of Gibraltar before the end of 2022, and would also like to compete in a boxing bout. He is learning to play bass guitar, so he can extend his role in the band.
“When I was morbidly obese, I was so unhappy and lethargic, I couldn’t achieve anything,” he says.
“Now, sitting here today, I have got my life back and I’m ticking things off a list every day and achieving things that I’ve always wanted to do.”
His typical daily diet
Breakfast: Full English or large portion of smoked salmon and four scrambled eggs on toast.
Lunch: Greggs slices or chicken burger and chips.
Dinner: Three pies, three portions of mash, liquor and sauces or Indian takeaway. Tub of ice cream.
Snacks/drinks: Large bags of crisps, chocolate, chewy sweets, fizzy drinks.
Breakfast: Small bowl of cereal, porridge or yoghurt with fruit puree – or small portion of smoked salmon and one scrambled egg, no toast.
Lunch: Chicken salad or soup.
Dinner: Chicken with rice, fish with green veg or sushi.
Snacks/drinks: Fruit, green tea, water.
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