THE Chase star Mark “The Beast” Labbett secretly battled Covid-19 — prompting him to lose almost five stone, the Sun on Sunday can reveal.
He was sent home from the set of the smash ITV daytime quiz show after coming down with symptoms, and was forced to miss two episodes.
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Diabetic Mark was given a “red light” warning by his doctor at a medical in March when he weighed 27st.
He is the second star of The Chase hit by coronavirus after Paul “The Sinnerman” Sinha revealed he caught it after not self-isolating soon enough.
Speaking for the first time about his scare, Mark said: “I got suspected Covid at the end of February, and got sent home from work, for the first time in 15 years, on Wednesday 27th. ITV were brilliant, and took no chances.
“Because the testing capacity was so limited then, I never formally got a test but all I can say is that for two weeks I had complete loss of appetite, no sense of smell, a temperature, exhaustion and the worst fever of my life.
“Apparently one of the symptoms they’re discovering now is rapid attacks. One morning I woke up at 1.30am shivering uncontrollably. I had to go downstairs to alter the central heating, and I couldn’t hold a pint of water in one hand because I was shaking so much.
“For these brief spells you thought you’d need to be hospitalised but ten minutes later, you’d be fine. It felt like going one particularly brutal round with Mike Tyson.
“As a self-proclaimed fatty, of course I was aware that having Covid wasn’t good, and clearly increased the severity of my risk. At my last medical, the tests were based around a Christmas tree system — red, amber and green.
“Although I am fat I’ve always been quite fit, so everything else was in the amber zone except my weight which was firmly in the red.
“I basically didn’t eat for two weeks but since then the weight has continued to drop off because I have continued to eat sensibly. I knew I had to.
“I am still losing weight and beginning to notice the difference in photos which, I can assure you, are not Photoshopped!”
In April, a new study showed that being male or overweight could lead to more serious coronavirus illnesses. Those with diabetes were also found to be at higher risk, while anyone with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30, had a far higher chance of death if they got Covid-19
Earlier this week, Oxford graduate Mark shocked fans after posting a photo on Twitter showing him looking considerably slimmer, holding out the waistband of his too-baggy trousers.
He captioned the shot: “Lost a bit of waistline, still a long way to go”, prompting hundreds of comments from excited viewers. At his heaviest, in 2016, Mark weighted 29st. Earlier this year he tipped the scales at 27½st. He is now less than 23, and hopes to drop a further three, taking his BMI below 30.
It is currently in the mid-30s which is technically classed as “obese”.
Devon-born Mark, married to Katie, also credits his weight loss to “giving up chocolate”, and “running after a toddler”. While Katie has been working full-time, Mark has been caring for the youngster and fitting in his quizzing duties.
He says: “I have basically had to cut out chocolates and sweet things which are my downfall, and always have been.
“I like chocolate, all chocolate, any chocolate. I’ve even tried 100 per cent cacao chocolate in an effort to be healthier, but that gives no enjoyment.
“I have also been incredibly active in lockdown, running after my three-year-old son all day. That’s provided all the exercise I’ve needed! One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed so far is that my knees have stopped creaking when I move, because I am not bearing so much weight on them. I’m not doing any special diet, I am simply being sensible.
“But I will say, in all seriousness, that this four-month period has been the toughest of my life.
“I was going stir crazy so I can’t take all the credit. Stress played a part in simply making me not want to eat.
“When the nursery re-opened in early June, I can honestly say it was one of the happiest days of my life.”
Unsurprisingly, the 6ft 6in star, called The Beast because his surname sounds like the French la bête, meaning “beast”, praised Boris Johnson’s recent anti- obesity drive.
After the PM’s own coronavirus scare in April, which saw him admitted to intensive care, Mark hopes that by speaking out now he can encourage others to take care of their health.
Mark — who has appeared in The Chase, fronted by Bradley Walsh, since 2009 — said: “I am pleased to see the Prime Minister practising what he preaches, and losing weight.
“He was always quite active, but it is good that he is now being seen to exercise and diet. Clearly it is sending out a helpful message, and shows people you can be fit and fat, as well as encouraging those who are overweight to take action.”
Mark appeared in a US version of The Chase in 2013. He was its sole Chaser and gained something of a cult status.
Four months ago, his 50-year-old co-star Paul revealed he too had the coronavirus — adding he was “moments away” from ending up in hospital.
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