A Perthshire man surprised his two children when he peeled off a padded body suit to reveal he had lost several stone.
The moment is shown on BBC Scotland on Tuesday, in the series Secret Body, a show which helped people lose weight without the pressure of family or work colleagues knowing.
By issuing the weight-shifters with a realistic fabric suit which replicates how they looked before the health regime started, the participants on the television show lost weight unnoticed by others until they were ready to reveal all.
Six foot four and 19 stone Mike Ovens (54), from Blair Atholl, took on the challenge.
He told the PA he had tried diets for 30 years but, when he reached his goal, it would then unravel.
Previously he had attended Slimmers World meetings to try and make a dent in the paunch he was carrying, but he worked as a game butcher and enjoyed his food.
With the pandemic, Slimmers World stopped meeting and went on Zoom and Mike lost interest.
“That first summer lockdown was what really got me,” said Mike. “My partner Linda had moved in, we were not working, really happy to be together, and we sat in the garden a lot ‘living the dream’ with time on our hands and drank a fair bit of prosecco.
“When I was back at work, someone printed an email out for a joke. A production company was looking for someone to try the body suit idea. I pulled it out the bin and applied that day.
“I got my picture taken by Linda - we were outside the Perth KFC - and I sent them the snap of my big belly. I told them I wanted to feel I could join my children on the zip wire at Killiecrankie but I wasn’t sure they would let me go up the state I was in. The folks making the programme for the BBC contacted me straight away and I was signed up.”
Two health coaches - the Perth-based ‘Kilted Coaches’ Stephen Clarke and Rab Shields - were appointed to steer the group of 12 Scottish weight losers.
Mike said Stephen, who was his mentor, was “brilliant”. They regularly met up to go walking up the hills by Mike’s Highland Perthshire home and they remain in touch even though the programme has finished.
Mike had to continuously measure his body, taking eight pictures a week of his neck, thighs, belly, the lot.
As he lost weight, padding was sewn into the suit so, to anyone seeing him, Mike looked like nothing had happened.
Mike shared his body suit secret just with partner Linda. He kept his work colleagues and his kids Michael (28) and Emily (23) in the dark.
“I would come in from work and the first impulse was to rip it off,” he smiled.
“But I had to be on guard as my daughter comes over for tea every night, so I had to get it on again when she was due to arrive.
“Luckily neither my son or my daughter had a clue what was up.
“The closest I came to being rumbled was at work when I went to the toilet but I forgot to do up the studs that fix it in place between your legs.
“Someone spied my fabric ‘tail’ sticking out and did a double take. ‘Are you wearing, err, something?’ he asked. I smiled and shot straight back, ‘Oh didn’t you know? It’s Wear Your Wife’s Underwear Day. He believed me!”
Mike lost two stone over three months.
On the last day of filming he asked his mum, his children, Linda and her family to meet him at the Atholl Arms Hotel in Blair Atholl.
He said: “We had never all been together before. Linda and I plan to get married plus with the separation of COVID, we’d not all been in the same room, so it was always going to be emotional.
“The final ‘magic suit’ had my clothes sewn on, so I could literally peel off like a butterfly. There were tears and shock and delight.
“Stephen’s best tip to me was to lose the weight for yourself not anybody else and it is very wise. I’ve kept gently losing weight since the show ended. During the programme I shed about 10lb a month for three months, but being active has ensured I continue to get lighter on the scales. And my attitude has altered, it’s not about goals, its about feeling good, so I believe I will keep the lost weight from returning.”
Mike has started a new job as the concierge at the luxury Fonab Castle Hotel in Pitlochry.
“I would never have dared to apply for this post a year ago,” he explained to the Perthshire Advertiser.
“You are effectively the face of the hotel, but this experience changed how I saw myself, hugely for the better.”
Secret Body (episode 3) is on the BBC Scotland channel on Tuesday, January 25 at 10pm and afterwards on i-Player.