As the MAN v FAT Football leagues around the country start to shape up for January launches, it’s inevitable that new players will feel a bit nervous about what to expect. Fortunately, we’ve had some brilliant perspectives from the players and we’ve even seen the difference that it’s made to some of the coaches. Fox Hollies player Mark Durose has now spent a year playing MAN v FAT Football and wanted to share his views on the leagues which show that not everyone has a straight and untroubled path to their goals.

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So after three solid seasons, I’ve arrived at the end of my first year in MAN V FAT Football. The final results of 71lbs lost, a return to normal blood pressure from dangerously high and a visceral fat rating of 12, down from 21 all help to paint a great picture. But this year has been tough and, if I’m honest, it’s not always been fun. So why am I so proud to now be taking a job helping other men to join the leagues? Why would I put other blokes through something that has challenged me so much? 

To understand why I struggled during MAN v FAT Football you need a bit of context. I first signed up for the scheme after reading about it in the Birmingham Evening Mail towards the end of 2015, I figured what did I have to lose – aside from the 45kgs of fat that was making my life a misery. To this point I’d been a serial dieting failure who had tried all sorts of diets without success. I’d been the biggest in my circle of friends for as long as I could remember and had learnt to laugh along with people about my weight.  

The call came through to turn up at Fox Hollies Leisure Centre in mid-January to meet my new team. I could hardly walk without breathing like a broken bagpipe let alone play football but I consoled myself with the knowledge that I could always go in goal; after all – the fat kid always gets shoved in goal! Even though it had been made clear that it was a league to support men in their battle against weight I still did my usual and lost just under 7 kilos in the two weeks before registration. I thought it might make me feel a bit better about walking into a sports centre in the shape I was, which as you can see from the video above (I’m the one in the blue and white shirt) was not good.

We weighed in at the registration session and I tipped the scales at 136.8kgs, and I was given a friendly recommendation to speak to my GP before I started playing due to a high and possibly dangerous BP. Not a great start. Throw into the mix that a great guy named Lee Malin turned up and introduced himself as “Hi, I’m Lee your new keeper!” and even my retreat into goal was blocked from me. Most of the people who know me wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d thrown the towel at that point. Instead, in a strange twist of fate I was nominated as Captain for Dyslexia Untied. My job as I saw it was to motivate our team to lose weight, keep them up-to-date with fixtures and results and maybe win a trophy.

Season one was fun, there was lots of interest in the concept and all sorts of people showing up to speak with us and film us. One of the highlights was an appearance on The One Show, we answered questions about our aims and what had bought us to MAN v FAT. My team finished second in the league and I lost weight 10 weeks out of the 14 week season. It was here I made a mistake though. I thought I was being smart by keeping things slow and recording minor losses each week that still contributed to my team but didn’t really do much about the weight I had to lose. That strategy was ruined when I gained 2.2kgs one week and undid a lot of the losses I’d had and blew my chances of making the bonus game at Wembley for those players who have lost 5% of their body weight. Each league has a special game at the end of the season for those players who hit this magic target and they’re always special games that all the players want to be a part of.

For me this was one of the low points of the first 14 weeks, that and being unable to complete a match due to tight calves and hamstrings (if I could give your team one piece of advice in terms of winning the league it would be to warm up properly!) It was a strange feeling, I honestly felt that by playing football for 30 minutes I’d obtained the magic formula, how wrong I was. Season two started with another low, I returned to the set of The One Show surrounded by the league’s biggest losers and realised I had wasted a massive opportunity, with the weight I’d gained during the off season I was a stone lighter which was ok but still pretty poor from where I had been and what I could have achieved.

Then came my lightbulb moment. By a quirk of fate I became the face, or rather the back, of MAN v FAT Football. A photographer visited the league one evening and a snap of me watching a game was one of the ones that was used. Suddenly, everywhere I looked my back was on promotional material and it…looked…HUGE. I decided to use this as motivation – so I started to put this picture everywhere as a screensaver: on my phone, on my fridge – as a motivation to never go back to the fat back point. Another big change was that I began to read the book that I had bought months before and it inspired me to make small changes. I walked at lunchtime every day. I didn’t let myself make any excuses, 2-3 miles a day, I stayed out of the car and left my money in the office. Calorie counting became a daily activity, and I began to understand how the increased activity was improving my overall health.

I also found the forum massively useful; every day you read about other guys going through the same struggles and experiences and you pick up all sorts of advice. I paid particular attention to a post about holidays and managed to follow up a 2.2kgs gain from Easter with a 0.6kgs loss in August. I actually lost weight on holiday! In some ways it’s frustrating that it really isn’t rocket science, but sometimes you need that little extra push and that support around you to make changes to such a deep rooted routine and lifestyle.

For me, finally, the penny had dropped!

As a result of the changes I made the season was fantastic, the weight loss percentage doubled to over 8% and I was making a positive impact both on and off the pitch. Suddenly I was less than twenty stones which had been a massive target of mine for a long time. It was now so much easier to get involved in other activities that I took up a coaching role with my son’s junior rugby team and started coaching adult Touch Rugby to maintain and improve my fitness. I’ve never been one for the gym, so I have had to find other ways to be active that I enjoy.

Because I’d beaten the magic 5% target I also got to play in the MAN v FAT Inter-league game and I played the whole game. I’d gone from playing four minutes maximum to cruising through 90 minutes in a matter of months, now I felt that I belonged amongst the biggest losers and could hold my own finally!

Season 3 I took on a new approach as I wanted to achieve something as an individual as well as within the team. The initial target was to be the biggest loser and deliver losses every week of the season. In the end I made Top 3, losing over 12% of my body weight and I hit my target of losing every week and contributing the maximum 16.5 goals by achieving 13 losses, 4 hat tricks my 5% and 10% bonuses! Again this led to a qualification for a Losers match at St. George’s Park which will be in February 2017 and is by far my biggest footballing achievement in my life – so far!

During the leagues I’d applied to become a MAN v FAT Football Weight Loss Coach and though I felt I could contribute, at that point in the first season realistically I was yet to prove that I could be a positive role model and support the other guys on their journey. I’m beyond proud to say that I’m now going to be the Coach for the Grace Academy league starting in January – I want to bring everything about my experience so far to the men on the league, not just the victories that I’ve had on the leagues, but also the low points and the challenges. After all, if I can crack it, then you can too.

Our thanks to Mark who you can chat to over on the forum if you have questions about his experiences so far. If you would like to see what the fuss is all about then sign up to your local league and we’ll get you onto a team. As Mark discovered the only thing you have to lose is weight.