In January I started a weight management scheme for men in partnership with Solihull Council called MAN v FAT Football Click Here. The idea was to see if a modified version of the beautiful game could be a useful tool to engage men with weight loss and support them to beat fat. In six months it has become one of the most successful weight management schemes ever with 95% of players losing weight and 62% of players hitting their 5% body weight target. For the initial 80 players who started the league the average weight loss was nearly two stone and the league lost 1,727lbs as a whole.
Of course, MAN v FAT Football isn`t the first to try to utilise our national sport to speak to men about weight loss. However, our scheme goes one step further and gamifies the idea of weight loss. On first glance, the league works just like a normal 14 week 6-a-side football league, apart from the fact that all the players are overweight or obese. Players are put into teams and they play a game every week. In between games they are supported with resources from MAN v FAT. Uniquely though, the league position is ultimately decided not just on the points won on the pitch, but by the pounds lost off it as well. Players score bonus goals for weight loss and this is added to the football scores to give a new league table.
‘We figured out pretty early on that weight loss counted just as much as the football if you wanted to win the league,’ says Marcus Farnsworth, a carpenter whose 67lb loss meant that he was the league’s biggest loser overall. Farnsworth combined his wife’s Slimming World-inspired cooking with his own focus and found the weight dropping off. ‘In our groups and at the games we would all talk about what people were eating and drinking and we’d push each other to make healthy choices and give each other advice. At the weigh-ins if someone lost you’d cheer them on, but if they’d gained then you’d have a word to cheer them up and push them on for next week. It was a great atmosphere.’
There`s been a lot written about how turning mundane or thankless tasks into a game is the next big thing and MAN v FAT Football shows that harnessing the competitive nature of men is a big step forward in terms of weight loss. As well as making weight loss a more acceptable topic of conversation, it also gives a group motivation to stick to your programme. All too often plans that rest on an individual motivation can be destroyed by that person losing heart. If you`re losing weight not just for you, but for your team as well, it adds another layer to the motivation you feel.
‘The thing for me is that I didn’t really feel like I was on a weight loss scheme,’ explains Andy Hunt, one of the players who says his participation in the league has given him a renewed ability to keep up with his children thanks to the 40lbs he`s lost. ‘While I was doing the scheme it just felt like meeting up with other blokes who wanted to lose weight and who were into football. It’s only now I look at the scheme that I can see how many things were built in to make sure that the players lost weight. Things like the forums, the online tools we had access to, the book we were given, the coaches we met every week but above all the teams we had to cheer each other on.’
The biggest problem we`ve had with launching MAN v FAT Football is keeping up with demand. We had nearly 1,000 applications for the original 80 places on the pilot league and we`re now partnering with Powerleague to take the scheme nationwide. The leagues are launching in July and men can register at www.manvfat.com/football – it costs £9.99 to register as a player and then £6 a week for the 14 week season.
‘I’d tell every bloke out there who enjoys football and wants to lose weight to get involved,’ says Dean Gripton, whose doctor recently took him off diabetes medication as a result of the 21 lbs he lost on the first league. ‘It’s really very difficult to lose weight without support and when you’re a member of Weight Watchers or Slimming World you’re always feeling like you don’t fit in. What MAN v FAT Football does is provide the support you need in a way that makes it much more effective. You pay, you weigh and you play footy. You might get thrashed – but even if you do it doesn’t matter as long as you’re losing on the scales.’
MAN v FAT Football is launching at leagues across the country from July. To register as a player, men need to visit www.manvfat.com/football. You can join on your own or with friends or family.
REGISTRATION WEEK BY LEAGUE
Friday 26th August
Birmingham – Powerleague – FRIDAY 7-9PM Salford Stadium, Lichfield Rd, Birmingham, West Midlands B6 7TG, UK
Stoke – Powerleague – FRIDAY 7-9PM Trentham Lakes North, Dennis Viollet Ave, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 4TN, UK
Sunday 28th August
Glasgow – Powerleague – SUNDAY 10-12noon 1 Kennedy St, Townhead, Glasgow, Lanarkshire G4 0EB, UK
Coventry – Powerleague – SUNDAY 10-12noon Woodlands School and Sports College, Coventry, West Midlands CV5 7FF, UK
Friday 2nd September
London – Sunbury on Thames – Powerleague – FRIDAY 7-9PM Nallhead Rd, Feltham, Greater London TW13 6SS, UK
Manchester – South – Powerleague – FRIDAY – 7-9PM Wilbraham Rd, Manchester M16 8GW, UK
Leeds – Powerleague – FRIDAY 7-9PM Wellington Bridge St, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS3 1LW, UK
Cardiff – Powerleague – FRIDAY 7-9PM Manor Way, Cardiff CF14 1RF, UK
Sunday 4th September
London – Shoreditch – Powerleague – SUNDAY 10-12noon Braithwaite St, London E1 6GJ, UK
Newcastle – Gateshead – Powerleague – SUNDAY 10-12noon Ropery Rd, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear NE8 2HD, UK
Sheffield – Powerleague – SUNDAY 10-12noon 3 Stadium Way, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S9 3HL, UK
Milton Keynes – Powerleague – SUNDAY 10-12noon Fyfield Barrow, Walnut Tree, Milton Keynes MK7 7WH, UK
Monday 5th September
London – Croydon – Powerleague – MONDAY 7-9PM Hannibal Way, Croydon, Sutton, Greater London CR0 4RW
Wednesday 7th September
London – Wembley – Powerleague – WEDNESDAY 7-9PM Powerleague Wembley, Royal Route, Off Engineers Way, London HA9 0WS, UK
Manchester – Central – Powerleague – WEDS 8.30-10.30PM 20 Union St, Manchester M12 4JD, UK
Sunday 11th September
London – Docklands – Powerleague – SUNDAY 10-12noon City Harbour NCP, Selsdon Way, Isle of Dogs, London E14 9GL, UK
Peterborough – Powerleague – SUNDAY 10-12noon Peterborough Rd, Peterborough PE7 3BW, UK
Nottingham – Powerleague – SUNDAY 10-12noon Thane Rd, Lenton Lane Industrial Estate, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire NG7 2TG, UK
Manchester – Trafford – Powerleague SUNDAY 10-12noon Trafford Way, Stretford, Manchester M17 8DD, UK