When Man V Fat Football legends – and brothers – Ben and Andy Gallon both agreed to share their weight loss stories with us, we knew we had to do something a bit special, which is why we’re presenting to you our first head to head, two for the price of one, no-holds-barred Man V Fat Amazing Loser V Amazing Loser!
- Name: Andy Gallon (ask him anything on Talk)
- Height: 6’1″ (185 cm)
- Job: Product Manager
- Age: 34
- Location: Solihull
- Highest weight: 282 lbs (128 kg)
- Lowest weight: 199.8 lbs (91 kg)
- Plan: Calories in vs calories out (counting)
- Name:Ben Gallon (ask him anything on Talk)
- Height: 5’10” (177 cm)
- Job: Builder/Man V Fat Football coach
- Age: 34
- Location: Solihull
- Highest weight: 224 lbs (102 kg)
- Lowest weight: 158 lbs (72 kg)
- Plan: Calorie counting
Why did you get to the position where you needed to lose that weight?
AG The reasons (excuses) could be a post in themselves, but ultimately it came down to eating far too much of the wrong things. A lack of planning around what I would eat meant I would buy most of my meals at work, which would come with additional treats. I would often find a return to the fridge/cupboard in the horrid eat-feel depressed-eat more cycle. It meant that, for seven or eight years, I would go up and down as I tried to lose the weight and then slip, falling back to my previous weight, plus a little more.
BG Working in the building industry meant that I never really felt that overweight. I was generally surrounded by overweight men and got stuck in a rut where I really wasn’t that bothered about being overweight. I always thought it was easier to accept than to go on a diet. Having broad shoulders and chest also meant it wasn’t really noticeable and very rarely did people comment. Most of my meals were whatever I could buy and eat in the van, travelling from job to job, so generally fast food, pastries and café breakfasts/sandwiches.
What made you decide to change?
AG There were several factors building up; having my son meant a new realisation that he would likely follow in my footsteps if I didn’t change. To be able to chase him around the garden and play sports with him was dependent on being fit enough not to hurt myself or him. My health had started to suffer, joints were swollen and I suffered acid reflux often when I had the wrong food. The final push was one evening when my wife was out, I’d popped to the shop like I often did when I was alone to buy a tub of Ben and Jerry’s as a treat (the huge steak dinner wasn’t enough apparently) and they had a buy one get one free offer. Needless to say I ate both tubs one after another and sat there and just said enough is enough. Set myself a new year’s resolution and the rest is history.
What made it different from the times before?
AG Every time before, I approached it from the perspective that if I could lose some weight without anybody knowing I was dieting, I could keep my impending failure quiet too. If anybody commented on my weight loss I’d rubbish it as a trick of the light, or fob it off as only a few lbs. This time I sat down and formulated a plan. I knew how to lose weight, but what was missing was how to continue to the end. This came in the form of three things; two I planned and one I discovered seven days into my journey:
- Accountability – tell everybody what you’re doing and why. In a way, you’re letting them down as much as yourself if you slip. So I told all my family, all my friends and all my colleagues. It works on many levels – when you say no to a piece of birthday cake at work, it’s reaffirming when somebody say’s “he’s being good”. Also, people ask you how it’s going, which really gives you a boost early on when you’re making great progress.
- Goal setting and rewards – how do you know whether you’ve been successful if you don’t know where you’re going? So I took my goal and broke it down into manageable chunks with a timeline that was achievable. To try and keep the drive to every goal, I gave myself rewards along the way – things I wanted, but couldn’t justify the expense. A smart watch, A PS4 and a final shopping spree for the new wardrobe I needed when I reached my goal.
- MvF – when somebody sent over a link to join a weight loss football league I didn’t realise how much of a difference it was going to make. While I hope I would have succeeded anyway, I have my doubts – but I had a team all relying on me to lose weight every week, plus the addition of competition was the icing on the cake.
How did you do it?
AG Once the plan was in place, the rest was about how to get my calories below my target. By tracking (using MyFitnessPal) I was able to understand like never before what poor choices I was making. I’d see a huge bowl of pasta as being healthy, but once you’d weighed out the meal and worked it out I understood how easy it was to hit three or four thousand calories in a normal day. I started exploring exchanges – cauliflower rice and courgette became a staple and food scales became my friend. I didn’t cut anything out but I’d often be faced with a choice; I could have that ice cream, or alternatively I could have five pieces of fruit. I never wanted to feel hungry, as that’s when bad choices happen, so I filled my day with low calorie choices that meant I could eat a great deal without going over my allowance. For the first few months I tracked everything, from to the number of one cal sprays, down to milk in my tea. After two months I found that I knew enough to carry on without the counting, but I still checked anything I didn’t know and ticked it off in my head.
BG As a Qualified Chef I guess I’ve never really had a reason for eating poorly, but lack of organisation and an actual attack plan meant I never really stood a chance. After reading the forum for a few hours I had downloaded MyFitnessPal, I understood what BMR and TDEE meant and had The Golden Rule drilled into my brain – “consume less than you use”. I reduced my intake and started doing a little bit more. I was strict with myself and because of how bad my knee was I went for an inadvisable 1200kcals a day. I still to this day believe my 1200kcal a day diet was better nutritionally than most people’s 1500-1800kcal diet, as apart from the main content of my meal (meat or fish portion) I wouldn’t include anything that was more than 0.5-1 kcal per gram (so no bread, rice , pasta, white potatoes, oils, nuts etc).
What did you eat over the course of an average day?
AG Before Breakfast: Bowl of cereal (Bran Flakes/Weetabix) with raisins, 2 crumpets Lunch: Curry, rice and naan with a can of pop. Dinner: 4 fajita wraps with full fat yoghurt Snacks: Yoghurt pot (with fruit compote and granola), slice of cake, 2 pieces of fruit, chocolate bar, 2 samosas Drinks: 4x Tea and a hot chocolate. 0.5 litres of water. Now Breakfast: Bowl of cereal (Bran Flakes/Weetabix) with raisins Lunch: Bowl of soup Dinner: Sea bass with salad Snacks: 5x pieces of fruit Drinks: 4x tea 3 litres of water
BG Before Breakfast: Fry up from a café Lunch: Greggs, KFC, McDonalds, service station snacks Dinner: Take away 3-4 times a week. Snacks: A few bars of chocolate, cakes, pastries Drinks: Full fat coffee, Fizzy drinks. Now Breakfast: 4 Weetabix with skim milk Lunch: Salad with a can of tuna/boiled egg/chicken/ham etc. Dinner: Stir fry med veg, sweet chilli sauce and prawns Snack: Fruit, veg sticks home made fruit jelly pots. Drinks: Full fat coffee (fitted this in on 1200 so its just not going to change!) no added sugar squash, water.
How was the journey? Straightforward or were there a few plateaus along the way?
AG I’d be lying if I said there hadn’t been any bumps, but in general it’s been okay. My focus has been unwavering and as the milestones pass it gives you a greater impetus to keep going. The plateaus have usually coincided with some other change – a holiday or a busy time at work, so I switched back on the calorie tracking for a week or two and I’d quickly realise the slowdown was of my own creation and the plateau was actually because I’d lost my calorie deficit.
BG I would actually be lying if I said I found it difficult – it was probably 5-6 weeks in to my journey before I broke my 1200-1300kcal a day target and it wasn’t a slip, it was a conscious decision to have one slightly heavy meal. Having two main driving factors really gave me the motivation to do well. The first was knowing that I was weighing in at MvF football every week, so if I had put on then I would have to explain myself to pretty much everyone I knew. The second was plain and simply my competitive nature. I teach the kids at my football team to always go out and give their best, put as much effort in as you can. It is okay to want to win, as long as you can accept it when you lose and behave appropriately when you do win. Knowing my weight loss was contributing to my team’s score really gave me all the focus I needed. Generally, career-wise, Andy has always been a lot more successful than me, so if I get the chance to get one up on him I try and take it. Football was one of the areas I’ve always edged it when we compete, so although the weight loss was the main focus, to me it was football related in that due to the process we were a part of, my goal each week was just to stay ahead of Andy!
What negative experiences did you have of being overweight?
AG I was lucky in my build that I carried it off quite well, so while I got a few comments they were never the most offensive (I even adopted the nick name “Andy the Buffet Slayer”). But where I suffered was doing the things I enjoyed in my early twenties – football stopped, squash stopped, and I become more sedentary than at any other time in my life. While I like nice things, I would rely on Tesco or Sports Direct to fill my wardrobe – why spend money on nice clothes that were baggy and miss-fitting when you could get something cheap and bury it under your multi pack of doughnuts in your trolley?
BG Just after my knee injury I started managing my sons’ football team. The lads were now nine years old and all of a sudden I couldn’t keep up with them, or even last for the end of training match. I found that both my lads wanted to play games and activities that I took part in but hardly inspired them to be the best they could be. I also started noticing that chaps 10-20 years older than me at work were going for longer than I was, when years ago I was relied upon to do the more physical aspects of our work.
How has life changed now you’ve lost the weight?
AG I can now play a 90 minute football match [BG – He uses the term “play” loosely, he can however now run around on a football pitch for 90 minutes], where in January a 20 minute kick-around left me in agony for days. I feel much more confident in how I look and the clothes I buy are to compliment, rather than hide my physique. For the first time in 15 years I used a changing room when buying clothes, rather than hoping they fit when I get home. The acid reflux, which was a regular occurrence, is long gone, my cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugars are significantly down (they weren’t high but were borderline) and my health review at work only had green indicators. I also have much more energy, I just feel like doing more rather than sitting around waiting for the next meal or bed time.
BG After about 6 weeks of football and 2st lighter, I had noticed that, although still swelling after I played, the pain and discomfort in my knee was significantly lower. I was feeling great and the Thursday night training sessions we were doing saw me playing nearly 2 hours [AG – Unfortunately in those 2 hours he didn’t pass it once – we call him ‘Hollywood’ because he wants to score a wonder goal suitable for the big screen] of football with no problems. All of a sudden, I found myself dragging the kids out to play instead of trying to avoid any physical activity with them. I am more active at work and find I’m so much more productive than before. The biggest change has been the opportunity for me to get involved with Man v Fat and take up a role as a Man v Fat Football Coach, using my experiences of losing weight, being a chef and a football coach to try and help other chaps achieve what I did and make a massive improvement to their life. Everyone has different needs, some need the education, some need the motivation and some just need the support and understanding. It all makes for such a rewarding position and opportunity to meet some great and inspiring people.
Who helped you the most, and who got in the way?
AG I’ve been lucky to have the support of many people on my journey. My wife has had to put up with my incessant focus and calorie obsession. My brother and mother have been there on the same journey, sharing lessons and experiences. Work and friends have also been part of keeping me on the straight and narrow.
BG I’m the same as Andy really, the list seems to be endless. I think the reason it’s been so successful is because of the amount of strength I’ve had around me. I’ve always had people to talk to and push me along. The first person I suppose is good old Shan, who put a program in place that meant I never actually felt like I was dieting, but just made a few healthier choices each day and the rewards followed. Competition with Andy, although it wasn’t the reason I succeeded, was certainly the reason I got so far. After 9 weeks I hit my 172lb goal (26.5bmi) and realised that if I just stayed at this weight and maintained, Andy would overtake me and I just couldn’t have that. I looked in the mirror and realised I could easily shift another 14lbs. I hit my second goal with a week to spare and just when I was looking at maintaining my weight again, I find out that a news crew were coming to film our last weigh-in. I lost another 6lbs for the last week and have never been so happy with the shape I’m in. Family and my Man v Fat team also bonded all the elements together.
What surprised you about losing weight?
AG I’ll be honest, when I set my goal of 14 stone it may as well have been 3. I looked at the BMI model, which said my weight should be between 11.5 and 13.8 and thought that neither were achievable, so I set a goal and how to get there and kept in the back of my mind that if I could get to 16 stone I’d be delighted. As I reached my lowest weight since my teens (17 stone) and carried on losing, I realised that those barriers were in my head and if I wanted to, I could carry on. Now I’ve hit my goal and start to look at new challenges, I look back and think about how impossible I thought it would be and how breaking it down has made the journey easier than I’d have dreamt. I averaged 2.5lbs a week, there’s nothing scary when you look at a number that small.
BG As much as I’m expecting everyone to hate me for saying this, the most surprising thing was how easy I found it and how much I enjoyed it. Due to my calorie per gram rule I always felt like I was eating a lot and never really felt hungry. I quite often had 500g of veg with my dinners and lots of fruit throughout the day. For the first time in my life I was also actively drinking enough liquid, meaning I was fully hydrated, my energy levels were high and I was always in the right frame of mind to make healthy choices rather than more excuses.
If you could go back to the men you were at your heaviest, what would you say to them?
AG You can do it! Like anything, if you get a plan in place and take it one step at a time you’ll do it. The only thing you need to do is consume less than your body needs.
BG You enjoy healthy food. You spent months building an extension so you could have your perfect kitchen, so get your fat ass in there more often. (Oh and tell your brother he needs to lose weight).
You’re both Prime Minister for the day, what one law each do you bring in to help others who are obese?
AG For me there needs to be a better level of education, the diet industry should be regulated to clear the smoke screens and deliver honest messages. The years I and many others waste looking for a silver bullet could be better utilised with good advice. It also should be taught in schools, children should understand nutrition at a deeper level than “fruit good fat bad”. You can do so much more to fix our nation by just helping them understand the basics.
BG Simplified food labelling- if a product is sold as a 1 person ready meal then the information on the front should be per packet, not per 100g just so they can have green traffic lights on the front. The traffic light system on food has really helped. but I can’t help but think this per 100g system is a way of marketing something as healthier than it is. I also think restaurants and food establishments should be forced to publish onsite nutritional info. Some of us know more than enough to make healthy choices wherever we eat but the fact of the matter is that too many chaps don’t have this knowledge and quite often pick what they believe to be healthy, when in fact it really isn’t.
What else should we know about your weight loss stories?
AG Everybody is different, what worked for me may not work for others, but the approach of planning will help everyone. What got you fat, why do you want to lose weight – then focus on a plan that gets you there.
BG I planned everything I ate 2-4 days, even a week sometimes, in advance. Knowing what I was eating for every meal meant I not only had no excuse for wandering, but I always kept my kitchen full of healthy options. My freezer always had 15-20 homemade frozen meals as a back up, so even when I was in a rush I was able to grab something satisfying and within my limit.
What three things do other fat men need to know about losing weight?
- The worst thing you can do is try and do it alone, secret dieting is destined to fail, while you’re the only one who controls what goes into your body, the more people you have to support you, the easier it is to find help.
- The 6 Ps – Proper Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance
- When it comes to calories in vs calories out, it’s much easier to influence the ‘in’ part of the equation
- Whatever your plan is, take a few hours to think about every aspect. This is going to be an important journey so try and get as any parts of it right as you can.
- Set yourself goals and rewards – no matter what your goals are you can only ever lose 1lb at a time. I attacked my journey hard as I didn’t fancy going back under the knife, but if you lose 1lb a week that’s 1lb closer to your goal.
- Eating healthy doesn’t mean don’t enjoy your food. I often cooked grilled breakfasts, curry, burgers, pizza, chips using healthy alternatives so they still fitted in with my daily targets.
As with all our Amazing Losers and their weight loss before and after stories, Andy is on Talk and Ben is on Talk, where both are happy to chat through anything you’d like to know. It’s all free and it makes up the world’s biggest social network of men who want to get and give support around weight loss.