A fat-fighting footballer has shed seven stone in two years by playing in a league dedicated to weightloss.
Geoff Johnson, from Colchester, had reached 19 stone when he decided he was going to shed the pounds.
The Essex man turned to Facebook for inspiration and found MAN v FAT Football, Essex Live reported.
The leagues, which take place in Chelmsford, Harlow and Colchester, are specifically aimed at overweight and obese men, with over 300 players from across the region taking part.
Combined, the Essex footballers, who are aged between 19 to 57, lost over 1400 pounds of weight in 2020.
Geoff said: “At first, I thought it would just be a bunch of overweight guys kicking a ball about, but it’s so much more than that.
“It isn’t just about food, diet and exercise to lose some weight, it’s turned into a community.
“We try and support each other when we’re feeling down during lockdown – it’s been a great help to us all.”
Geoff has now managed to get his weight down to 12 stone two years after joining the league.
The Arsenal fan said: “It was a really good challenge, it really keeps the weight off and I’ve really enjoyed it.
“I feel fantastic. I have so much more energy – I wish I did it years ago.
“It’s good that I’m so much more active. I’ve had some really nice compliments and of course, that makes you feel even better. I feel amazing.
“It’s been a great experience. Mentally I feel better too – I’m much more positive.
“The mental side was the bit that surprised me the most. Especially during the mental challenges of lockdown, its been a great help.”
Before matches the players are weighed, which is followed by a 30-minute game of six-a-side.
Extra goal bonuses are awarded to teams based on the number of weight the players have lost.
Dad-of-two Geoff explained: “You really want to lose the weight because you don’t want to let your team down by not getting the points if you don’t lose any pounds.
“That could be the difference between winning and losing the game.”
Although team sports are unable to go ahead amid coronavirus lockdown restrictions, MAN v FAT has launched a new challenge to help the men drop a few pounds during the pandemic.
MAN v FAT Challenge employs the same principles as the football programme using weekly events to motivate and inspire members.
Challenges are based around nutrition, exercise and healthy habit building.
Members earn points for their team for losing weight each week, tracking their food and exercising between 90-150 minutes per week.
They also cook healthy calorie-controlled meals from scratch and hitting their weight loss milestones along the way.
Geoff, who is the head chef of Milsoms Catering, hoped to help the other men involved in the challenge by giving them healthy recipes to follow.
He said: “I’m now helping the other guys with the cooking. We do food challenges now so I’m helping the guys cook some healthy dishes.
“I’m just trying to inspire the other lads now.
“I now cook in a different way at home – I’ve adapted dishes to take away the butter and cream to make meals healthier. I also now have salads, fish and chicken.
“Healthy food doesn’t have to be a bit of lettuce and a cracker.”
Geoff says he’s now ‘taken back control’ of his body and the way he eats. He’s now more careful of what he’s eating.
“My biggest issue was portion size,” Geoff said.
“Being a chef I was always cooking for loads of people.
“I never really controlled what I was eating and how much I was eating and eating the wrong things at the wrong time.
“If I was going out for a meal I’d have the biggest burger or the biggest steak – I wasn’t concerned about calories or the size of the portion.
“Whereas now I really think about what I’m eating and how it’s been cooked.
“I took back control – you’re the one who’s in control of your body.”
MAN v FAT’s Head of Football, Richard Crick explained: “While it’s disappointing that our football leagues are currently on hold, we are very excited about the prospect of guiding men in Essex to improve their health in 2021 and stay in shape during the national lockdown.
“The first national lockdown saw men across the UK lose over a tonne, or 2,200 pounds of weight by taking part in the MAN v FAT Challenge, which has been designed with the current climate in mind in terms of safety – but should also be good fun for everyone that takes part.”