Lee: “My dream of firefighting motivated me to lose 12 stone and take on a Half Ironman”

Lee Bioletti dropped from 27 stone to 15 as he pursued his dream of joining the fire service – and now he’s focused on raising funds for us with his biggest physical challenge yet.

Taking on a Half Ironman Triathlon would be a huge physical challenge for anyone – but for Lancashire on-call firefighter Lee Bioletti, it’s particularly special.

Lee lost a staggering 12 stone in just 12 months during lockdown – before which he weighed 27 stone. At that point, he truly believed his dream of becoming a firefighter was out of his grasp.

Since then, he’s not only achieved his weight loss goal in just three years – but also joined Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service six months ago.

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Now he says he’s training for his most difficult challenge to date and, while doing so, hopes to raise funds for us, having seen the support we’ve provided to many of his colleagues and knowing how important we could be for him in the future.

I knew about the Charity from being a new recruit and immediately recognised it’s a vital charity to support,” says Lee, 27.

“I had a couple of friends that were firefighters and sadly they’re no longer here. It brings home how important it is to have that support net there for you and your family.”

Lee had dreamt of becoming a firefighter from a young age, but always struggled with his health and fitness. He knew, in order to pass the fitness test and join the service, he needed to change his lifestyle.

“Three years ago I was about 27 stone,” says Lee. “I’ve been overweight all of my life, it’s something that I have struggled with ever since I can remember, even as a child.

“I went on to pass an apprenticeship from school and become a car and truck mechanic and then, at its worst point, I’d be eating takeaways all the time – someone would ask me, ‘do you want a pizza?’ and I’d say ‘I’ve already had a Chinese’, but then still have it.

“I’d have a couple of breakfasts, snacks, you name it. I was eating anything.”

Recognising he needed to make a huge change, Lee went to his doctor who recommended he look into gastric bypass surgery – for which he’d need to lose some weight to be eligible.

With a goal in mind, Lee began running every day and eating healthy meals. Within weeks he noticed the weight was dropping off, and he made the decision to keep going, without having surgery, knowing that embracing a healthier lifestyle was a long-term change he needed.

“I always dreamed of becoming a firefighter. Everyone told me I’d never do it, and I’d never be the weight to do it – I guess that motivated me,” says Lee.

“I’ve now lost 12.5 stone since lockdown pretty much. Keeping in mind my dream of becoming a firefighter, I started running every day – to the point I was running up and down a car park nearby in the middle of lockdown up to three miles each time.

“I like to test myself and see how far I can actually go. I was getting quicker and quicker each day and the weight was coming off at last.

“I remember having my last appointment with my doctor and being weighed. I think I’d been in a bit of a bubble until then and hadn’t realised how far I’d come. I got back in my car and I cried. I couldn’t believe it – I’d done it. I did it myself, no-one helped me. I went from 6XL to a large in clothes. It’s helped my mental health dramatically too.”

Lee now exercises regularly and in place of the takeaways he used to eat, he sticks to healthier foods like chicken, rice and veg.

“As my weight was dropping, I set my sights on a triathlon, but it wasn’t enough – I wanted a bigger challenge, so I tried a quarter-distance Ironman Triathlon and again, I was bored!” recalls Lee. “So that’s what made me look to do the Half Ironman in 2024. That’s a 1.2 mile swim, 56 miles on a bike and a Half Marathon.”

Lee hopes to complete The Lakesman Half on 16 June 2024, in aid of us.

“When I passed my fitness tests and got into the fire service, it was amazing. That’s when I decided to combine my challenge with fundraising for the Charity,” says Lee.

“I hope seeing someone like me, who used to be a larger lad, achieving this will inspire others to try things too.

“When I was working in my previous job as a truck mechanic, they did a lot of recoveries after RTCs. I’ve seen the devastation they cause at a young age. I’m now in a career where I’m again facing that, on a much larger scale, and knowing now that the Charity’s there for me if I ever need it is amazing.

“Knowing my partner has the Charity there for her too is fantastic. This Charity needs support, it’s relying on donations, so I just thought, ‘what can I do, however small?’”

Lee also hopes his weight loss journey will inspire others to look towards a healthier and happier lifestyle.

“If you want it that badly, nothing will stand in your way. It changes you, but it’s about becoming who you want to be,” he adds.

“If you need help, ask for help. Men in particular don’t do that enough. Remember this process takes time and hard work, but believe in yourself and set goals, have a dream and aim for it. Don’t let people put you down, celebrate the small goals even if it’s a few pounds, that’s a huge achievement. Be proud, and trust me it will all fall into place.

“The big question I ask you, what are you capable of? I want to leave you with this, don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done.”

To support Lee’s fundraiser, click here.