MAN v FAT Football players gather at Wembley as men-only weight-loss programme hits 10 years

MAN v FAT Football players gathered to tell their incredible stories at Wembley recently as the innovative men-only weight-loss programme gears up for its 10-year anniversary.
Back in 2014, when Andrew Shanahan decided he needed to lose some weight, he opted for a local slimming club. Upon noticing it was geared primarily towards women, he decided that men would need something of their own. And so MAN v FAT was born.
Having crowdfunded an initial digital magazine run, MAN v FAT grew quickly, gaining recognition from the National Obesity Forum, Weight Concern and the British Dietetic Association. And in 2016, MAN v FAT Football was launched, a football league exclusively for men who want to lose weight.
MAN v FAT are offering Football365 readers a discount on new memberships – simply add the promo code ‘F365’ to see the cost reduced from £9.99 to £3.65.
It has been endorsed by The FA, Sports England, and the National Lottery, and boasts more than 100 clubs across the UK. And with 2024 set to mark the 10th anniversary of MAN v FAT, players were invited to the home of English football to tell their stories for the first of five of 10 special videos focused on weight-loss stories that are about much more than simply getting into shape.
The first videos will be going out in January 2024, part of the anniversary celebrations, which will also include a reception at the Houses of Parliament.
“It was a VIP filming with Wembley as the backdrop,” says Alan Robinson from MAN v FAT Football in Warrington. “That was based on us being one of the biggest success stories for the UK.
“I did 42 consecutive weeks weight loss. I was only on 20-something, and my coach said you’re on a really good streak at the minute. I became curious about that.
“My goal was to beat that record and I stretched mine out to 42 weeks. I eventually fell on the 43rd!”

Dan Stark was another invited guest on the day, and his story involves trying to become a father.
“I’ve lost over 70 kilos,” says Dan. “The main reasons for me joining, was myself and my partner, we couldn’t conceive naturally.
“I was invited down to that, to tell my story, the reasons why, what process I went through with IVF with my wife, and then my journey.”
Score goals on and off the pitch
MAN v FAT Football is quite straightforward. Open to any man with a BMI of 27.5 or over, you sign up, get assigned to a local team and play either five, six or seven-a-side matches with other men who are looking to lose weight. Score goals on the field, score off-field through your weight loss.
The competitive element forms a huge part, as players do not want to let their team-mates down by not meeting their weight-loss targets and therefore losing the game.
“The pitch is competitive because we all like football,” says Alan. “But if you really want to win this thing, what you’ve got to do is perform off the pitch. And the way to do that is to lose the weight. You score extra goals by being consistent.
“Once we go into the game, on the pitch, you can score three, four, or five goals, whatever. Actually, when the scoring comes in for the night, the game might finish 15-14. And 70% or 80% of the goals are scored off the pitch based on people’s weight loss victories.
“I was a captain of the UK Team of the Year. We went on to retain the title for three seasons. And that was based on weight loss – we were really average on the pitch to be fair.
“But all of us lost the weight and hit the milestones that scored the extra goals and points. And that’s 100% down to competitive elements. That’s why it’s so effective.”
MAN v FAT are offering Football365 readers a discount on new memberships – simply add the promo code ‘F365’ to see the cost reduced from £9.99 to £3.65.
Having team-mates and peers to help you along in your journey means particpants are able to go an extra mile.
“You are on the team chat on WhatsApp,” says Dan. “It just gives you that accountability aspect. You don’t want to be that one person letting the team down each week by gaining and not losing weight.
“ If you are having a bad week, it’s someone you can talk to, can open up to the left about things.”
And having that support network when times are tough makes all the difference and is not easily replaced if you are trying to lose weight and keep it off by yourself.
“I’ve had quite a lot of health issues this year with a couple of operations, so I wasn’t even able to attend the sessions for about five months,” Alan says.
“I was pretty much housebound. Every few days, I had a message from someone, checking in with the hospital. That was when my mental health was probably at the lowest, those little things kept me going from the community.
“It’s a bit of an outlet for a lot of people. Aside from the weight loss thing, I’ve encouraged many people to not give it up at the end of the weight loss journey. It’s kind of support community, a whole new group of friends within your life.”
MAN v FAT: Open to all
For anyone uncertain about whether MAN v FAT Football is right for them, Alan and Dan are both keen to stress that age, weight, motivation and even football ability do not matter.
“It’s 100 blokes all apprehensive when they’re first coming in, with the same goal,” says Alan.
“They need something to focus on to get them in the right mindset to get through the journey, with someone supporting them through it.
“I started off in October 2020. I’d been diagnosed with type two diabetes through poor diet and lifestyle. The next thing that came along was COVID. And pretty early on, they said people who have got existing health conditions such as diabetes, are overweight, you’re at greater risk.
“I was like this is my cue, I need to do something. Just as things opened back up, an advert pops up for MAN v FAT.
“Since then, I’ve gone through the process and managed to lose nine stone over the time. I’ve reversed my type two diabetes, just through the consistency of dieting and changing lifestyle, exercise wise.”
Going through abrupt changes in life was the catalyst for Dan’s weight gain and MAN v FAT Football was somewhere he could turn to when he needed to embark on his journey.
“My weight gain was when I was at university,” Dan says. “I had quite a bad accident. I stopped becoming quite active. And then just gained quite a lot of weight.
“I moved from my hometown, where my parents lived, as well. I didn’t have many friends in this neck of the woods in Lincoln. And this is a good way to meet new people.
“I tried the gym and things like that, but the motivation wasn’t there. But this is a good way for big lads to try and lose weight. I’ve never played like organised football, even for a team when I was younger.
“I’ve always been into football but never actively participated. You don’t know what the ability level is going to be for this. I’ve got better and improved now. And now I play football on a Monday night, I play five-a-side, and then Wednesday, and Friday. And Sunday I play eleven-a-side.
“The very first session, I think I lasted like five minutes in the game. And now literally I’m probably in one of the best shapes in my life.
“When me and my wife used to go out, after like 10, 15 minutes walking I’d be sweaty. I’d feel so uncomfortable. Now. None of that anymore when I go out.
“One guy is in his 60s, I’m definitely going to do it as long as I can.”
And so MAN v FAT will go into its 10th anniversary celebrations in good shape, helping participants improve not only their physical but mental health. And Dan and Alan are not done with it yet either.
“I’ve still got a fair bit to go,” says Dan. “My target’s 100 kilos.”
Alan adds: “I’ve always had a goal in my mind to go through the 10-stone barrier, which I hope to do next year. The main goal after that will be sustaining, not going back.”
MAN v FAT are offering Football365 readers a discount on new memberships – simply add the promo code ‘F365’ to see the cost reduced from £9.99 to £3.65.

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