AN innovative football league which supports participants with weight loss and their mental health is making the difference to the lives of men across Exeter every day.

Since its launch in 2018, the MAN V FAT programme has helped its Exeter participants to lose a whopping 2646.2kg or 414 stones – that’s the equivalent to 22 baby elephants, two Mini’s or 36 kegs of beer!

Tim Bland.
Tim Bland. (Exeter City Community Trust)

And 208 participants have lost five per cent or more of their starting weight, with many reporting improvements in health problems such as diabetes and finding support for their mental health.

MAN V FAT is an FA-endorsed football league for UK men who are overweight or obese.

Teams meet at Exeter City’s Cliff Hill Training Ground where they play in a league and, as well as playing football, receive nutrition and lifestyle advice and 24/7 online and offline support.

Each session sees a traditional weigh-in, which is then followed by a 30-minute game of six-a-side football.

Extra goal bonuses are awarded depending on the pounds lost by the players, so it becomes a real team effort.

Scott Walker, head of participation at Exeter City Community Trust, said: “MAN V FAT is an incredible programme which is genuinely making a difference to the lives of men in our city.

"The teams have a fantastic time playing football and combined with the nutritional advice and mental health support it is having a really positive effect.”

MAN v FAT Exeter is one of 152 club locations across the UK currently.

Tim Bland, 40, from Crediton works for the National Trust, he joined MAN v FAT at the beginning of the programme.

He says: “Being a member of MAN V FAT Exeter has been a great experience for me. I’ve lost weight, made positive changes to my lifestyle and made good friends.

"I’ve enjoyed the routine of having something to look forward to on a Friday evening, especially when we move through towards winter and the early darkness.

"There is a good mix of fun and accountability that means the programme encourages good habits. “The moments when you can feel you’re losing weight have been amazing.

"The first time people who weren’t at MAN V FAT noticed I’d dropped some weight was incredible. It went from feeling like something that would never happen for me to becoming something that was happening as a result of my own positive choices.” He added: “On a personal level, my mental health improved greatly. Without the increased confidence and happiness that came with losing weight I’d not have applied or completed my master’s degree in history at the University of Exeter. Joining MAN v FAT was a key event that changed my life for the better. “If you’ve ever experienced any nagging doubt around your weight or felt like there was nothing you can do about it, you should join up. MAN v FAT has been really good for underlining that eating less and moving more will result in good results and you’ll have a lot of fun along the way.

“In a stressful and increasingly pressured world, schemes that enable us to make the healthy changes we want to make are vital. Schemes that enable men to discuss their health, both mental and physical, are key in helping people to live happy and healthy lives. The fact that it’s linked to football is great too!”

Mick Pearce, 32, from Exwick, is a call centre team leader. He signed up as he wanted to improve his fitness.

“The main thing I enjoy is the banter and friendship. Everyone celebrates everyone else’s weight loss, support those that have gained but also manage to have a good laugh whilst playing football.

“The biggest impact is my motivation. Working in an office I used to snack all day every day, normally on not very good food. Now though I want to make sure my team are not let down by me gaining weight. As a competitive person, results on the pitch and scales matter to me. I want my team to succeed.”

What would Mick say to others who are thinking of signing up?

“Definitely do it and throw yourself into it. Any ability, any size and any fitness can easily play and enjoy the journey with the rest of the guys. It is a very supportive environment, but also one where you don’t need to be shy!

“I think things like this really help push people in a way where they don’t feel pushed. Having a food diary that doesn’t pressure you into doing certain things is really good, I do what I can. Weeks where I fall short, I am not looked down on or spoken to but I am reassured that next week will be better.”

To sign up for MAN V FAT, or to find out more information, visit: .