“I could train seven clients in a day, back-to-back. Then I would have to have the energy to train myself.” If there is one word to describe the kind of bodybuilder that Dean Wharmby was, it would be “determined.” Born in Rochdale, Manchester, England in 1988, Wharmby had high hopes of becoming a professional bodybuilding champion and worked diligently to pack on an impressive 280 pounds of muscle. Unfortunately, he never saw the bodybuilding stage or a Mr. Olympia competition after he was diagnosed with liver cancer at 39 years old after years of living on a 10,000-calorie diet filled with steroids and energy drinks.
Known throughout Rochdale for his incredible physique, Wharmby was the talk of the town as people often stopped him in the street or visited him at the gym just to say they’d met the legendary Brit. Filled with energy and always smiling, Wharmby had a great life as a businessman, personal trainer and amateur bodybuilder alongside his girlfriend of five years, Charlotte Rigby, and their child. What more could he ask for? Determined to see his amateur status transform into professional ranking on the bodybuilding circuit, Wharmby continued to reach for more as a bodybuilder and trainer at the risk of life.
Like so many other bodybuilders, Wharmby knew the value of a healthy diet—especially as a personal trainer—but he also knew the secret to getting bigger muscles required consuming massive amounts of calories each day in addition to spending countless hours at the gym. Unlike professionals like Lee Haney, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dorian Yates who tailored their diets to include thousands of healthy calories, Wharmby’s busy lifestyle made it easy for him to consume 10,000 calories a day in the unhealthiest way—with a diet of cheeseburgers, pizza, bacon sandwiches and energy drinks.
A sloppy way to pack in the calories, Wharmby knew the high levels of saturated fat could potentially damage his heart over time but nothing could stop him. For five years, he worked to build muscle with an insane diet that consisted of eight bacon sandwiches and a protein shake for breakfast followed by a steak sandwich, an entire chicken, two sweet potatoes, two protein bars and a protein shake. After his afternoon snack of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder meal, he ate a pepperoni pizza before feasting on three chicken breasts or a steak for dinner followed by 400 grams of beef and 15 boiled eggs. But, that’s not all. He typically woke up every two hours at night for a snack that included everything from snack cakes and protein bars to entire jars of peanut butter.
Wharmby didn’t stop at an unhealthy diet as he turned to anabolic steroids to take his physique to the next level and ensure his future on the main stage as a professional bodybuilder. Claiming that he only took steroids for one year while he was establishing his personal training business, experts argued that the 39-year-old was probably taking them far longer as he continued to abuse his body with steroids, junk food and energy drinks. It was only a matter of time before his fast and hard lifestyle finally caught up with him.
Typically training anywhere between seven and eight clients each day, Wharmby was often drained before he could even get to the gym to train himself. Turning to energy drinks for a quick boost of energy, it wasn’t long until one energy drink turned into three before he realized he was consuming eight drinks a day just to get through his workouts. Between the drinks and abusing anabolic steroids, Wharmby was creating a recipe for disaster that reared its ugly head after a routine checkup with his physician in 2010 revealed a tumor on his liver.
With the reality of his lifestyle and diagnosis finally settling in, Wharmby refused a liver transplant and chemotherapy with the hopes of reversing the cancer with an all-natural treatment plan that included a strict diet. Tossing out all the junk food, steroids and energy drinks, he cut out all sugars and adopted a clean-eating lifestyle that was long overdue. “I can’t say it was the diet for sure, but things like the energy drinks could be contributing factors,” he told the Daily Mail in 2015. “Red meats—all things we have found out have so many impurities in them now. I think it was a combination of it all.”
After a year of clean eating, Wharmby’s tumor disappeared, which rekindled his dreams of bodybuilding and led him to revert to an unhealthy diet of pizza and hamburgers, energy drinks and fatty foods once again. Within months, he was back to his old habits and flirting with death just as he collapsed outside the gym and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. His girlfriend grew tired of sitting on the sidelines and watching him abuse his second chance so she broke up with him. Finding himself homeless, it was even harder for him to get healthier as he fought heartache and despair.
In November 2014, Wharmby found himself back in the hospital with doctors telling him the unthinkable—that he only had three weeks to live. With his girlfriend back by his side, Wharmby learned that the massive tumor on his liver was inoperable. “I was offered chemotherapy, but doctors basically said there was no point,” he told the Daily Mail. Opting to spend the rest of his life in hospice as a cancer patient, Wharmby shared his story and daily updates with over 10,000 followers on his Facebook page before losing his battle to cancer on July 19, 2015 at only 39 years old. His girlfriend shared the news with one final post, “Dean is dancing with the angels now in a place where there are no limitations. I know they will have welcomed him with open arms and will treasure such a beautiful soul…Rest in peace darling.”