A FATHER-of-four who turned to food when his wife died has been voted slimmer of the year.

Thomas Maw's family and doctor had all tried to persuade the emphysema sufferer to lose weight.

The 57-year-old said he began to put on weight four years ago, following the death of his wife, Ann.

"After I lost my wife, I just felt like I was simply existing and I was eating and drinking like there was no tomorrow," he said.

"On a night, I would be sitting on my own watching the television, and it was just so easy to go to the fridge and get a can of beer or something."

It was a chance meeting with a shopper in a supermarket that pointed Mr Maw towards his local slimming class in November last year.

"This woman walked up to me and said, 'you're doing the same as me, you're looking at the calories'. Then she told me I was better off going to a slimming class," said Mr Maw, from Bracken Field, Framwellgate Moor, Durham.

He took her advice, and, with much trepidation, went along to the Changes slimming club in Newton Hall, Durham.

Mr Maw, who at the time was 13st 10lb, achieved his target weight within 13 weeks and in the space of a year lost 40lb, or nearly three stone. Now he has been voted Changes' North-East Slimmer of the Year by his fellow dieters.

Second place went to Sylvia James, from Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, who lost 5st 12lb, and the Greatest Achiever award went to Diane Wilson, from Darlington, who lost 6st 3lb.

Changes can be contacted on (01325) 260060.