He has become a household name as ‘The Beast’ on hit ITV daytime quiz show The Chase, yet behind the menacing role he plays on the enduring popular quiz show, lay a story Mark Labbett has rarely told.

Labbett’s nickname on the show, hosted by Bradley Walsh, comes from his sizeable physique, as he stands at at 6"6', yet that frame was carrying too much weight for too long and it got to a point where his life was in danger.

Speaking exclusively to Female First in association with Fitbit, Labbett opens up here on the chilling moment when he realised he was eating himself into a potentially fatal situation.

When did the weight issue begin for you?

The main thing was when I stopped playing rugby. You are eating as if you are still training, but I didn’t realise how much went on. I put on about seven or eight stones and I didn’t really notice. You see it with a lot of sportspeople.

How do you reflect on the day you were diagnosed with diabetes?

I used to eat vast amounts of sweets and chocolate so I was my own fault. If I had moaned about diabetes, it would have been like a two bottle a day alcoholic moaning about having sclerosis of the liver. I did the crime, so I had to do the time. This was self-inflicted and I had to accept that.

The annoying thing is in late 2018 I got very close to being diagnosed as not being diabetic but for some reason they never told me. If they had I would probably have cracked on and lost more weight, but I knew something had to happen as I was dangerously overweight.

Do you feel your life was in danger when you were at your heaviest?

I honestly believe that I wouldn't be here now if I had kept going the way I was. I'm sure I'd have had at least one stroke or a heart attack if I had carried on eating the way I was. The stress of teaching was adding to my problems before I started working on The Chase and it was a gradual thing that caught up with me.

I may have been in denial for a long period because I didn't want to admit I had a problem, but in my last year of teaching in 2003, I was at 29 stone.

My blood pressure was high enough for them to put me on blood pressure pills and this were getting serious.

How has the Fitbit helped your fitness regime?

I think the Fitbit will help me live longer. I would never have lost the weight if I had to restrict myself to two pieces of lettuce for my dinner. You have to set realistic targets and then you can reach your goals and having a Fitbit looking at what you are doing and giving you that information helps.

Did your role as a 'big' character on The Chase add to your weight problems?

I'd regularly be offered cake because that's the image I wanted due to my size and because they thought I wouldn't be intimidating if I was smaller. Now I'm at 20 stone and hopefully I still feel I'm pretty scary!

If someone had a drink problem, you wouldn't go out of your way to offer them a double... yet people offer people who are overweight sweets and cakes. That can't be right.

Now it feel like ITV and the viewers are quite enjoying the way I look now. Maybe I am learner and meaner now. Dropping from a 60 inch chest to a 54. That is still bigger than most people, but I feel much healthier now.

You have lost 10 stone in recent years, so how have you done that?

A change of diet. I try to take the dog out a couple of times a week, try to take the stairs rather than the lift, walk five minutes rather than drive. Never order side dishes in restaurants and just try to show some discipline. I now eat healthy things at the ITV parties and not the sweets and chocolates, so that is better for me.

How have you dealt with becoming a celebrity at a latter stage of your life?

My job didn't exist until 2009. How can you prepare yourself to become a celebrity in your mid-40s? I feel that this is the job I was born to do, but it can still be strange when people ask for selfies in supermarkets!

Every year, The Chase has got bigger and bigger. When we first went to ITV parties, people asked who we were, but they all know who we are now and they want selfies with us.

Of course, we now have an Irish Chaser with us after Darragh Ennis joined the show last year and he is experiencing what the rest of us have been through as the show has got bigger and bigger and you become more well known.

What is next for you and your career?

I would like to have my own show at some point. I feel like we have done everything we can with The Chase and the spinoff shows now. I love working on The Chase and want that to continue for as long as possible, but hosting my own show would be great.

In partnership with Fitbit, Mark, took part in this year’s Diabetes UK One Million Steps Challenge, alongside 30,000+ others.

The challenge saw the nation take over 11 billion steps to raise over £2 million and counting to fight for a world where diabetes can do no harm.

The One Million Step Challenge was the first ‘step’ in what is a three-year partnership, in which Fitbit and Diabetes UK aim to educate on the importance of leading a healthier and more active lifestyle and the role it can play in role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes (T2 diabetes) and management of all types of diabetes.

Words by Matt Johnson for Female First

RELATED: Paul Sinha says The Chase turned his life 'upside down'