The power of saying no: Amazing Loser Josh Deegan

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One thing we love from running our MAN v FAT Football leagues is seeing the inspiring progress made by players – even if you have absolutely no intention of ever setting foot on a football pitch, you could learn a thing or two from these guys. This week’s Amazing Loser has lost over 8 stone in ONE year after being overweight all his life and he has some very good advice for those looking to do the same…

Name: Josh Deegan (read his excellent blog over at Josh vs Fat, where he chronicles his weight loss efforts)
Age: 26
Height: 195cm (6ft 3)
Location: Wythenshawe, Manchester
Occupation: Supervisor
Highest weight: 159.2kg (25st 1lbs / 351lbs)
Lowest weight: 106.4kg (16st 10lbs / 234lbs)
Weight lost: 53.1kg (117lb / 8st 5lbs)

How did you get to the position where you needed to lose weight?

I’ve always been fat. Always.

I wish I was overreacting with that answer, but I’m really not – I genuinely cannot remember any time in my life before now where I haven’t been overweight.

Throughout my early life and teens, I was always bigger and taller than my friends and I definitely felt it. At first, it was dismissed as “growth spurts” and “puppy fat”, but while my friends all grew into proportion as they got older, I remained big. At school, I was picked on about my size regularly, and to combat this, when I was just 11 years old, I was made to join Weight Watchers by my mum.

It was excruciatingly embarrassing, not to mention pretty harrowing for a child that age and for that reason and more, I didn’t stick with it for very long. As I got older (and bigger), I ended up trying other methods to try and lose weight, such as weekly check-ups with a nurse and taking up running, but they always ended in failure due to my lack of commitment.

The weight then piled on even more which in turn affected my confidence and to cope with that, I ate. It was quite a vicious circle which reached its head in February 2017, where I found myself, at the age of 25, at a point where enough was enough and I knew deep down that I had to something, otherwise I never would and I’d end up in an early grave.

What negative experiences did you have of being overweight?

Apart from the obvious and consistent ones that come with being overweight – clothes not fitting, finding physical activity too hard etc., there are two moments that stand out above all else.

The first is from when I was 17. I needed an urgent rhinoplasty to clear a blockage in the airways of my nose, but before doctors could proceed with the operation, I needed a pre-op assessment, which included taking my weight. The nurse was ridiculously horrified when she weighed me that I was so big at such a young age. So much so, that the hospital ended up receiving a complaint from my mum regarding her reaction – it wasn’t exactly comforting for the patient. The actual operation was also difficult because of the weight around my face and when coming around after the procedure, I got the shakes due to a bad reaction t0 the anaesthetic, which really traumatised me.

The second negative experience came while I was in college. I was rewarded for my attendance with an end of term trip to Alton Towers. I’m a massive thrill seeker, and whenever these sort of trips came around, I’d usually end up going off on my own towards all the big rides as my mates wouldn’t want to do them straight away – they’d have to start small and work their way up. However, on this occasion, I didn’t end up on any rides at all as I was asked to leave the first one I tried to get on due to being too big for the safety belt to go over me. I was absolutely mortified and spent the rest of the day walking around the park trying my best to stay occupied, too scared to try my luck on another ride.

But while losing weight, all the memories of the negative experiences of being overweight I’ve ever had over the years, such as this one, have come flooding back and I’ve done my best to try and correct them. The best one by far was going back to Alton Towers last August after dropping 5 stone and getting on that damn ride!

What made you decide to change?

This is a question I’ve been asked a lot. I would say that the biggest catalyst for me actually wanting to lose weight and change my lifestyle was when I turned 25. I remember spending my 25th birthday feeling really low – probably the lowest I’ve ever felt – as I knew that I was now a quarter of the way through my life and I hadn’t really started living it yet. I was nowhere near where I wanted to be in life at this age, and I knew deep down that it was definitely my weight holding me back.

I knew I had to combat it some way, and I knew that if I didn’t do it soon, I never would. I hated the way I looked and felt. I hated the fact that I had to wear massive clothes and I hated the fact that I was finding the simplest of physical tasks hard to do. Family and friends told me on a daily basis that I needed to do something, but their cries just fell on deaf ears. I just carried on eating and getting myself into a bigger state. I was genuinely resigned to always being like this. That was until I found something that has changed my life for the better in so many ways.

How did you do it?

With the help of you guys and your amazing football league! (ed: Aw, shucks! We didn’t pay him to say that. Honest.)

One Sunday evening, I saw an advert on Facebook for the MAN v FAT Football Manchester league. Life well and truly does have a funny way of throwing things your way sometimes when you need them the most. I’d never heard of MAN v FAT until then. I remember looking at the ad, and it showed lads as big as I was at that time playing football. I clicked on it and read what it was all about. Are you a Man? Yes. Want to lose weight? Hell yeah. Want to lose weight whilst also playing football in a specially devised league where how you perform off the pitch affects results on it? “…That’s actually genius!” I thought. So I signed up as a solo player.

It was a massive step for me, as at the time my confidence was absolutely rock bottom and the idea of meeting new people and playing football with them scared the hell out of me.  But week-by-week, I’ve gone along, and slowly but surely, I started to notice that the more weight I lost, the fitter I got. It has kick-started a real motivation to really change my lifestyle and start eating better and exercising more. I now religiously walk everywhere, I have weekly sessions with a personal trainer, and I play football twice a week. I really, really enjoy it, too, which is something I never thought would happen.

3 stone down

What made losing weight this time different from the times before?

There are so many things that changed my mindset and made me really want to do well and lose weight. Being among other lads at MAN v FAT Football was a huge game changer. Most diet clubs or weight loss schemes are aimed at women, with very few male members, so to find something specifically for men who all had a common love of football and all had a common desire to lose weight was a brilliant way of overcoming the mental barriers I’d attached to losing weight.

The team aspect helped me a lot too, as each week I would go into it thinking “I don’t want to let my team down here”, knowing that if I put on weight, I’d be punished with an ‘own goal’ but that if I lost, I’d be rewarded with a goal or hat-trick if I’d lost three weeks in a row or hit my 5/10% target. Knowing that could be the difference between winning and losing a game when coupled with the pitch result has really spurred me on during this whole process. 

It has 100% kick-started a motivation to get fit and healthy which I never knew I had. I have lost over eight stone in just one year, and I think a lot of that is to do with being given targets to achieve across the season, such as getting 5% and 10% of my body weight off. I found myself going into every week seeing the targets getting closer and closer and the sense of achievement when you hit them is overwhelming. Others suddenly start noticing that you’re looking well and that confidence only makes you want to set more targets in order to achieve more.

4 stone down

Why do you think MAN v FAT Football works?

Men are usually far too embarrassed to attend the mainstream diet clubs as those sort of schemes are usually attended by and more centred towards women, so to use a men-only approach with sport attached is a brilliant way of tapping into the market. For me, knowing that my weight loss contributed towards the team’s goals meant that I never wanted to be the one who let the team down. Everyone in the league encourages each other, whether face to face or through the WhatsApp groups, and there is also plenty of banter involved. Everyone in the league has the same aim – to lose weight – and I think that’s why most people who join end up losing weight.

What would you say to anyone thinking of joining MAN v FAT Football?

Just do it! You’ll be given so much advice, encouragement and motivation and you’ll be made to feel welcome right from the word go. Don’t let your judgement of your footballing ability put you off, either, as you can contribute to the team in other ways through the weight loss side of things. MAN v FAT Football can really change your life, as it has done mine. 

5 stone down

What did you eat before you lost weight?

My diet was really inconsistent and my portion control was non-existent. I would usually have a big bowl of sugary cereal to start the day, as well as 2 slices of toast to go with it. Dinner would usually be a fatty sandwich, a packet of crisps, some chocolate and a fizzy drink and tea would be pizzas, takeaways, or cheese-heavy dishes. I never ate fruit or veg and genuinely scoffed at the idea of healthy eating.  My biggest downfalls were bread, crisps, cheese and pastries and the number of sugary drinks I consumed was, looking back, quite dangerous.

What do you eat now?

Now, my diet is a world away from what I ate previously. I’ll usually have porridge or 30g sugar-free cereal with 125ml of semi-skimmed milk for breakfast. Dinner is usually a chicken or hoisin duck wrap, with an apple, banana and bottle of water and my evening meals are based around fish or chicken – good sources of protein – with rice or potatoes and lots of veg. I try and make sure I have at least 2 litres of water a day too and if I do have a fizzy drink, I make sure it’s a diet or sugar-free version

6 stone down

What was the most difficult thing about losing weight?

Learning to say no.

No, I don’t want a biscuit with my cup of tea. No, I’ll pass on a bacon sarnie this morning, thanks. You’re nipping to McDonald’s for dinner? I’ll stick to my wrap and water, thanks. No, I’ll stay in this weekend, as I don’t want to drink away my hard work.

At first, it was hard as it seemed that temptation was around every corner, but over time it’s just become easier and easier and now people know either to just not ask or be understandable if I’m apprehensive about maybe going out for a few drinks or for a meal. I’ve been called boring during this process by some of my mates, but upon reaching my target weight, they were full of praise for me and also slightly apologetic for not really understanding my ambition. The support I was shown by my teammates and other members of my MAN v FAT Football league was crucial during these sort of times.

How did you overcome any difficulties?

Just by telling myself that it’ll all be worth it in the end. Every Monday, when seeing that I’d lost weight over the previous week, that made it worth it. When others started to notice, that made it worth it, and upon seeing my target weight on those scales and finally being healthy and happy for the first time ever in my life… That made it so, so worth it.

How has life changed now that you’ve lost weight?

Well I’m totally skint through constantly needing new clothes for a start! In all seriousness, life has changed massively. I’m more confident now, I’m happier, I’m healthier and my outlook on everything is a lot more positive. The dark cloud has been lifted.

Who supported you the most on your journey and how did they help?

I can’t really say that any one person was supportive the most, as on the whole, all of my family and friends have really gotten behind me and supported me with this. I’ve been sure to be pretty vocal, open and honest about being on a weight loss journey and I’ve been sure to share my progress on social media in order to motivate myself and also use it as a tool to maybe inspire others. The comments I’ve been getting across those posts have been really motivating and that has definitely helped me stay focused.

If you could go back to the person you were at your heaviest, what would you say to him?

I think I’d really try my best to make him wake up and see the warning signs, but remembering how I used to be and how set in my ways I was, I think I honestly wouldn’t listen to myself! I’d emphasise just how fun weight loss can actually be though and show him that life really doesn’t have to be the way he’s living it now.

Now that you’ve lost weight, how are you planning on maintaining your weight loss?

I’m just going to take things day-by-day and week-by-week, as I have done throughout the whole weight loss process. I obviously don’t want to end up losing too much weight, so I won’t need to go as hell for leather every week anymore, but I will always be mindful of what I consume from here on out. I actually read an Amazing Loser story on here a while ago where the lad said he gives himself a 4kg leeway – he could go over his target weight by up to 4kg at any one time, but as soon as he went over it he HAD to lose it again. I think that may be a decent method for me to take on, as it’ll mean that, as mentioned above, most weeks I won’t need to go hell for leather to lose weight, but should alarm bells start ringing, I can switch it back to get myself back down.

7 stone down

You’re Prime Minister/President for the day – what law would you bring in to help combat the obesity problem?

I know that it has been suggested that fizzy drinks in the UK should carry a ‘sugar tax’ if their sugary content is deemed too much, so I would aim to make sure that this stretches over to food in some way. I don’t think you can take these sort of things away completely, as people will always want them, and the choice should be free for people to make, but I’d make sure a low sugar or sugar free alternative to most foods and drinks were available and also significantly cheaper than their full fat, full sugar alternative.

What three things do other fat men need to know about losing weight?

  1. Men love to take the mick out of other men, don’t we? If you’re having a moment of misfortune or you do something silly or make a decision your mates don’t agree with, you can end up the butt of many jokes. So believe me when I say that it takes serious balls and even more dedication to be on a night out and order a Diet Coke instead of a pint or a salad instead of a burger. This is stuff I’ve done and then been the subject of abuse over, but at the end of the day, just remember that you’re not doing this for them, you’re doing it for yourself and your own wellbeing. So bugger ‘em!
  1. It’s bloody hard. For the reasons listed above and many, many more. You’ll have to make a lot of sacrifices and break habits of a lifetime, but just tell yourself it’ll all be worth it in the end. You might not want to get up early to go to the gym today, but in three months time, you’ll thank yourself for it.
  1. Talk! To other lads, whether they’re losing weight or not, about your journey. Yes, I’ve said that sometimes my mates can make me the subject of their jokes when I’m trying my damn hardest to be good, but I know that they’re only kidding and more often than not they’ve been hugely supportive of me during my weight loss, spurring me on and wishing me to do well. I was open and honest with them about wanting to lose weight right from the get-go, and this has stood me in good stead.

8 stone down

You’ve been keeping a blog while you’ve been losing weight, how has this helped on your weight loss journey?

I’m a very creative person, and I love to write. I did a degree in comedy writing and performance at Salford University (Unusual, I know!), but hadn’t really written much since graduating, so when the motivation that came with the weight loss was peaking, I decided to get my creative juices flowing again and reignite that love I had of writing to keep track of my progress through means of a blog.

At first, I literally only did it for my own amusement, as a way of keeping myself busy and to look back on once I’d got to where I wanted to be, but after 4 or 5 posts I decided to share it with my MAN v FAT Football league WhatsApp group in the hope it would inspire and motivate some of the lads, and the feedback I had from it was really good. Keeping the blog has been such a good way of writing down feelings or thoughts after a weigh in and game that I’d maybe find hard to say in person. I also decided to share it to give a players view of what MAN v FAT Football can do for someone if they really take it seriously, and I’d like to think that the blog now answers a lot of questions new or even existing players, and men who want to lose weight in general might have about being on a weight loss journey.

Would you recommend that other men losing weight keep a blog? If so, what tips do you have for them?

I would, definitely. As I said, it’s a great way of keeping tabs on how you’re doing and it’s also a lot of fun! The top 3 tips I have are:

  • Take lots of progress pictures and celebrate seeing your results. Share it everywhere, as you’ve worked damn hard for that.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about your weight and the issues you’ve faced candidly. Other blokes WILL have the same issues, and although we don’t like to admit it, sometimes talking – or in this case writing about it – can help.
  • You don’t need to be technically gifted or have a way with words. A couple of sentences on a Facebook post about how you’ve done that week, or a couple of words attached to a progress pic on Instagram could be all you do, but sharing your progress, I certainly found, is massively important. It’ll motivate and inspire not just yourself, but also others around you, whether they’re losing weight or not.

Many thanks to Josh for sharing his story and a huge well done to him for everything he’s achieved! If you’re intrigued by MAN v FAT Football, you can find out everything you need to know (including how to sign up) over on the MAN v FAT Football website.



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