A maths teacher who shed over 7st in a year by playing football now completes monthly half marathons to maintain his new physique but says the biggest difference is his happiness.
Mike Wallbank, 33, who lives in Bolton, Greater Manchester, with his girlfriend, Anna, 34, also a teacher, took part in MAN v FAT, a weight loss programme for men.
As part of it, Mike participated in weekly football matches where the teammates are given extra goals depending on how much weight they have lost that week.
He said: “Looking back, I was pretty miserable and I was self-conscious about clothing. I was unable to buy the clothes that I really wanted to buy.
“It’s so nice now that I can go into any shop and buy clothes.
“Anyone who knows me would say that my happiness has improved since the weight loss.”
He added: “I’m able to have shared experiences with friends, playing football together, and I now take part in staff kickabouts without fear of being out of breath.”
Mike stepped on the scales in September 2020 and weighed in at 20st 10lb.
Mike said: “There wasn’t a particular moment that spurred me to lose weight but as a big football fan, I wanted to be able to play again.”
He added: “I was watching Wigan Athletic play when I saw a MAN v FAT advertisement which caught my attention.
“I used to love playing football when I was younger but as I got older, I worried that my size would get in the way so I was nervous to join anything.”
So, in September 2020, Mike took the leap to join MAN v FAT and began his weight loss journey.
He said: “I cut down on the snacks of chocolate and crisps I was having but the big thing for me was portion control.
“I used to take in big portions of pasta with cheese into school for my lunch and I didn’t consider just how bad that was.
“I started eating soup and noodles instead and my exercise was increased from the football, so the weight started to budge.”
And a big part of the programme was the weekly game of football.
Mike said: “All of the men on the programme are put into teams and there’s a number of teams in the league.
“Everyone’s like-minded, everyone’s there to lose weight and enjoy football.
“Every week, we’d all weigh in and how much weight we’d lost would determine bonus scores.”
He added: “If everyone on the team loses weight one week, then you’ll get a couple of bonus goals, same with if you hit a certain milestone.
“I wanted to keep up with my fitness so, while we all meet for the football game and weigh-in on a Wednesday, one of the guys organised a kickabout on a Monday evening too which I now go to every week.
“My lifestyle completely changed.”
Switching up his eating and exercise habits, Mike’s weight began to shift and by September 2021, a year after he started the journey, he weighed in at 13st 4lb, a whopping 7st 6lb less than the previous year.
Mike said: “My friends and family are all really chuffed for me and there’s people who haven’t seen me in a while who don’t recognise me.
“It’s a nice feeling because you don’t always notice the small differences yourself.”
He added: “The kids at school see me every day but they’ve noticed I look a lot different to how I did last year.
“They understand I’m losing weight to be healthier and they’re very supportive too, often asking me how football is going, which is quite sweet.”
And Mike’s commute to work has also changed since his weight loss.
He said: “I found that I was spending my evening after work exercising so I decided to start cycling to work.
“I cycle a total of 32 miles a day to get to work and back, which has freed up my evenings because I’ve burnt my calories for the day just on the commute.
“I never thought fitness would become such a big part of my life but I haven’t looked back.”
In April, Mike completed the Great North Run, a challenge he had been working towards after hitting his goal weight.
He said: “It was a half marathon which I finished in one hour and 43 minutes. I was really happy with that time.
“I had been training for it over the last few months and once it was over, I wanted to carry on. I had caught a love for running.”
He added: “So, I’ve made it my challenge to run a half marathon every month, which I’ve stuck to since.”
Mike’s next run will be the Manchester Half Marathon on October 9.
He said: “The fact that I feel physically fit enough to run a half marathon every month is great.
“And I’m really happy that football has become part of my life again.”
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