Footballers playing in a league just for obese men lose one tonne in weight between them


Overweight men playing in a local football league have lost just over one tonne - over 157 stone - in weight between them.

The'Man v Fat' league, made up of eight teams and 80 players began in Solihull in January this year and was only open to men with a BMI over 30, classifying them as obese.

Points were won and and off the pitch though - with extra goals added to the results if players had shed pounds.

Man v Fat football

And next month similar leagues will launch up and down the country for overweight men.

It began as a crowdfunding project by Andrew Shanahan in April 2014, who felt that there weren't enough weight loss groups or resources specifically aimed at men.

"I know how miserable it is to be obese. I didn't feel confident," Andrew, who weighed 17 stone at the time said. "I couldn't find a single thing to help blokes lose weight, while there are so many products aimed at women.

"Psychologically and biologically men lose weight differently than women. For one they lose it faster, and I felt like weight loss groups were more geared towards women and seemed to be 99% women."

After raising £9,000, starting a website, forum and writing a book for men trying to lose weight, Andrew partnered with Solihull council and Power League to organise a local 6-aside 14-week league in January this year.

Each week, players - aged between 18-71 - took part in weigh-in sessions and for every two players in a team who lost weight during the week, an extra goal was awarded to the result of the match.

Andrew said: "Almost all of the men have lost weight and 61% of them have lost more than 5% of their bodyweight or more."

From July, 20 leagues will begin nationwide for men for who want to lose weight and play football (this time there's no specific BMI requirement).

Man V Fat football

"A lot of men love sport and probably played in their twenties but as life might have got busy, and they've lost contact with sport. A lot of men put on weight and think there's no way back into sport," Andrew said.

"Being overweight makes you far less likely to involve yourself in a social life. And some of the guys who play haven't kicked a ball for twenty years, but what we've done is give them a level playing field - they're not 'the fat bloke' on the team.

"It means there's a huge amount of camaraderie on the pitch. I thought the guys might want some privacy during weigh-ins  but actually they all cheer each other on, congratulating each other, and if someone hasn't lost weight everyone else is encouraging.

ANDREW SHANAHAN before and after weight loss

"And the football is really competitive. Perhaps from my own prejudice I assume it might be a bit sedate, but these guys are thundering around the pitch!"

One of the players, Ben Gallon, 31, who's team won the Solihull Man v Fat league joined with his brother Andrew.

"I was 16 stone and always knew I was overweight but had no real motivation to lose it," Ben, a builder, said. But after a serious knee operation his weight became more of a factor. "It gave me a kick up the backside to do something about it."

Man V Fat football

"On that first night of the league there wasn't one person who hadn't tried to lose weight and failed or lost weight and put it back on. We were all in the same boat.

"The football is a decent standard, it's a good pace but there's enough in the team to sub on and off when we need to.

"It's different approach to losing weight. Tell a guy that he might get heart disease or diabetes in 40 years' time if he doesn't lose weight and they might just shrug, but tell them they'll let their team down on Monday night and our stubborn competitiveness kicks in."

Ben Gallon, 31,

Ben, who used to work as a chef, began to cook again and would make a big batch of healthy meals every Sunday - and bring a portion for each of his team mates to their games on Monday nights.

"It meant it was one less healthy meal for them to worry about making," he said.

Ben lost an incredible four stone during the 14-week league and his team lost a total of 20 stone.

On Saturday he'll join a squad of 25 - all of who have lost at least 5% of their bodyweight - to play a match at a pitch in Wembley, London.

To sign up to a league visit Man V Fat.