Christmas has come early for a team of Swindon Town football fans carrying extra pounds, who have all achieved their goal to lose weight and get fit to boot.
What’s more the 30-strong group of men, aged between 36 and 65, are determined to keep up their resolve over the festive period.
Collectively they have shed a whopping 43.8 stone stone after successfully completing the Football Fans In Training (FFIT) scheme, which aims to transform lifestyles and kick waistlines into touch.
The pioneering initiative which is amongst the first of its kind nationally, is run by Swindon Borough Council in partnership with the Swindon Town Football in the Community Trust. It saw participants put through a rigorous 12-week programme of physical training sessions to raise their fitness game and healthy eating advice to overhaul their diet.
The results are plain to see, as beer guts have been banished and lazy nights in front of the box swapped for gruelling workouts. Besides the physical benefits, they also feel happier as well as more motivated and energised than ever – partly thanks to previous graduates of the scheme, who have also been spurring them on and passing on tips.
Craig Moore, aged 39, from Walcot, has already lost more than two stone and is full of praise for FFIT.
The dad-of-three, who works as a warehouse supervisor, said: “It has totally changed my life for the better in so many different ways. I’m slimmer, fitter and more confident plus I’m spending loads more time being active with my kids – going jogging, playing football.”
Before embarking on the scheme Craig was eating at irregular times and not paying attention to what he ate, often relying on junk food in vending machines.
He said: “That’s all changed now – chocolate and crisps went out and I’m having healthy stuff, including lots of lean protein like fish with fresh fruit and veg. Before this I was probably having only 5 a week but I’m now definitely getting my 5 a day.
“My wife has been joining in and she has also lost weight, so is chuffed. I didn’t used to do any exercise, but now I jog just about everywhere and am really enjoying getting back into football. I’ll still be having a nice Christmas dinner, but I won’t be going overboard because I feel great now so I’m determined to stick to this.”
Gary Neale, aged 36, from Park South, has also shifted a couple of stone and has no intention of stopping.
The dad-of-four, who works as a service engineer, said: “I’ve still got my old wedding suit from when I was 21, so my aim is to fit into that again. Over the years the weight started piling on, particularly when I was made redundant and got into bad habits – sitting around too much and comfort eating.”
Determined to keep up the healthy eating, Gary has taken an allotment and planted his first crop of veg.
He said: “I make my own packed lunch of salad and pasta and eat far more fruit and veg than I used to. The exercise has also worked wonders – I’m walking a lot, jogging in the evening and playing football. I feel really positive and will definitely be steering clear of sweets this Christmas. I’ll have the traditional dinner, but with more veg, and have some fruit with yoghurt for pudding.”
Mick Aynsley, aged 53, from central Swindon, has shed nearly two stone and his eight-year-old daughter Kiera has certainly noticed.
Mick, who is also an RAF reservist, said.“Kiera asks where my belly has gone, which is quite a compliment. I’ve tried other things in the past to lose weight, like going to the gym and weight loss programmes, but none of them were very sustainable and I didn’t enjoy it.
“This is completely different and there’s a great sense of camaraderie between us. We all support each other and meet up, for instance we’re currently doing circuits in the evening up and down steps in Kingshill – my record is 10 times without stopping.”
Mick still plans to enter the festive spirit but will be keeping a watchful eye on what he is eating and drinking.
He said: “I’ll enjoy it and indulge a little, but will give sweets and cakes a miss. I also intend to work off any excess by sticking to my exercise routine. It really lifts my spirits and I’m less self-conscious about my size.”
Cllr Brian Mattock, Swindon Borough Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said: “Congratulations to all participants in this innovative scheme, which has supported them in making such positive changes to their lifestyles. Their enthusiasm and commitment is truly inspiring and I’m delighted to hear that they have every intention of sticking to their new routines, which are not only getting great results but also proving really enjoyable. Far from being about denial, they have discovered new levels of fitness and foods which are tasty without being unhealthy.”
If you’re a football fan carrying extra pounds and want to find out more or sign up for the next intake in the New Year, contact Jon Holloway by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling: (01793) 421303
Free advice and information about how to improve your diet and be more physically active is also available atwww.change4life.co.uk