'The Whale gives a voice to people like me'

Sean Crawford
Sean Crawford says he is now in a much better place and ready to lose weight

Sean Crawford cried when he saw the trailer for award-winning Hollywood film The Whale.

He says the movie about a reclusive English teacher with severe obesity resonated with his life.

Mirroring the plot of the film, Sean rapidly gained weight after someone close to him died. He now weighs 30 stone (190kg).

The father-of-one from Athelstaneford in East Lothian says the film - which has won an Oscar for its star, Brendan Fraser - has given a voice to people in his situation.

And he says there are many similarities between his life and that of the film's lead character, Charlie.

"He instructs a class from behind a computer because he is ashamed of his weight, I hid away from things because I was ashamed of mine," said Sean.

"The main focus is making sure our daughters turn out to be good human beings just in case we aren't there to see them grow up.

"I think people need to realise big people are human beings."

Brendan Fraser in The Whale
In the film The Whale, Brendan Fraser plays Charlie - a teacher who weighs 42 stones (267kg)

Brendan Fraser's on-screen transformation was the result of heavy prosthetics, which he admitted was "a challenge", physically and emotionally.

He said he hopes the film will help to "end the bias against those who live with obesity".

Sean says health and depression are among the issues that can lead to weight gain.

He said: "I often get adults looking at me in disgust, kids stare and make comments - but I understand this is the innocence of youth.

"I so often hear people talk about the likes of anorexia and bulimia with a degree of sympathy, whereas obesity is frowned upon.

"Both are illnesses at the end of the day."

Sean said he had been a confident person before he started gaining weight.

One of his best friends passed away in 2019, then two months later he took voluntary redundancy from his role as a maintenance supervisor after 12 years in the job.

This was followed by the Covid lockdown, and he ended up out of work for a few years.

In this time he became a bit of a hermit - and put on 12 stones (76kg) in 18 months.

Sean Crawford
Sean does not like having his photograph taken

"My doctor said if there was an award for putting on weight in the shortest space of time then he would give it to me," said Sean.

"I neglected my life and spent 99.9% of my time watching TV, eating and drinking fizzy juice.

"I don't sleep much so I have 18 to 19 hours a day to do this."

He went from working with 200 people every day to sitting on his own in his house.

Sean said he gave up - particularly during lockdown, when he found the isolation very stressful.

He started getting back pains and it became too painful to walk.

He tried to find out how much he weighed, but there were no scales big enough at his doctor's surgery.

Sean Crawford
Sean Crawford before he gained weight

He eventually got weighed at the hospital, and found that he weighed 30 stone (190kg).

"It was soul destroying and I lost all my confidence," he said.

At the end of 2020, when his vacuum cleaner broke and he did not have enough money to replace it, a friend gave him a number for the charity DadsWork, which is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.

The community project in East Lothian provides support groups, positive parenting classes, workshops on the role of fathers, home visits, trips and outings for fathers and their children.

They gave him a vacuum cleaner and told him about drop-in groups and workshops he could attend with his daughter.

Sean, who is 5ft 11ins , said: "I didn't know what they did but after meeting them I've seen them just about every week since.

"I started going to their drop-in groups and it was great to meet other dads and hear their stories and what they were struggling with.

"These sessions helped normalise struggles of fatherhood to me and now I realise that I'm not alone - and not the only one who may feel that they don't know what they're doing all of the time."

Sean Crawford
Sean Crawford previously weighed around 18 stone (114kg)

Sean said this had made him a better dad.

He also now has a job volunteering as a supervisor in a food bank.

"DadsWork have really helped me be more productive with the time I spend with my daughter too," he added.

He said they now do "all sorts of things together" and had been supported with swimming passes.

"My daughter loves it and it's helping me get into shape and get my confidence back," he said.

Kevin Young, project manager of DadsWork, said the organisation was there to offer support.

He said: "Sean has made a remarkable turnaround. When we first met him he was low in confidence and self esteem and wouldn't go out.

"We have spent a lot of time building our relationship with him to establish trust.

"He has gone from the vacuum cleaner, which was a small thing but huge thing for his family, to engaging with us hugely."

Sean Crawford
Sean now has the confidence to go out with his daughter to the park

Now Sean feels in a better place and hopes to lose weight so he can meet a new partner.

"I hate being on my own and I hate being lonely," he said. "I'm in a terrible place with my weight and hate having my picture taken or looking at myself.

"But now I'm working again I feel ready to lose weight."

Sean, who spoke to BBC Scotland before The Whale was released in cinemas, had said he was desperate to see the film.

"I ended up in tears when I watched the trailer, I related to it so much," he said.

"I couldn't tell you the last time I wanted to see a film at the cinema but this one massively ties into my situation.

"I empathise with him and it also gives a voice to people in my position.

"He is a teacher and is helping society. It shows people benefitting from his life, as normally overweight people are hidden away and are not given the credit they are due."