Reverend Canon Simon Stevenette is singing the praises of an innovative scheme to help football fans lose weight, having taken part himself and shed nearly three stone to boot.
The 53-year-old Vicar of Christ Church, in Old Town, will be joining fellow participants in the Legends Lounge at the County Ground on Saturday, 30th January, to celebrate reaching their weight loss goals which amounted to a staggering 45 stone.
Rev Stevenette, who now weighs 11.5 stone, said: “We all gave it our best shot and did brilliantly. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and has been truly life-changing.”
Such is the extent of his transformation, none of the father-of-five’s clothes fit any more including his holy collar.
He said: “My new 15-inch collars are on order so I’m still wearing the 17-inch ones. I need a whole new wardrobe because everything is way too baggy now. I haven’t been this trim since before I got married 30 years ago.”
He found out about the Football Fans In Training Initiative, run by Swindon Borough Council in partnership with Swindon Town Football in the Community Trust, through his role as the club’s Chaplain.
“I put my application in because my body is not what it used to be and I wanted to test the power of the badge. It certainly came up trumps for all of us – we’ve all smashed our targets and feel better than ever,” he said.
The 30 participants were put through a rigorous 12-week programme of physical training sessions to raise their fitness game combined with healthy eating advice to overhaul their diet.
Previously a lover of cheese and biscuits, crisps and chocolate, he now opts for fresh fruit and has cut right back on alcohol.
“In hindsight, I was a very unhealthy snacker and rather too fond of second helpings which probably stems from a childhood where money was tight so I hate seeing things go to waste. I’m drinking lots more water and feel so much more energised,” he said.
“Although I was reasonably active previously, I’m even more so now and my lighter frame has shaved minutes off my 5k best time and improved my drop shots on the tennis court no end. I’m also walking more regularly.”
During the course of the scheme, Rev Stevenette was hailed the ‘biggest loser’, having lost the most weight, and more than entered the spirit with fellow Town fans.
He said: “There was a tremendous camaraderie and we had enormous fun. The collective support from each other, as well as the wonderful encouragement from the organisers, spurred us all on and we’re still going strong. We can’t wait to help mentor the next intake.”
Keeping up their ball skills, the participants are heading up to Manchester City next month for their first championship match.
He said: “We can’t wait and are training hard for it. My sons and wife are very proud and I’m determined to keep going with it. The whole experience has affected me very deeply and I want to say a big thank you.”
But in keeping with Christian tradition to have fish on Friday, Rev Stevenette hasn’t forgone his favourite treat.
He said: “My big weakness is fish and chips and they do say a bit of what you fancy does you good. I’ve just tried to cut back on the chips.”
Cllr Brian Mattock, Swindon Borough Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said: “Many congratulations to everyone who took part, including Reverend Canon Simon Stevenette. Their successes are really inspirational and show what fantastic achievements can be made, when there’s a shared passion and willpower.”
FFIT’s latest intake starts next week and people can find out more about the scheme 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 at www.change4life.co.uk