Each week, a football match in Blackpool is preceded by a very unusual activity – a weigh in for each player.

The weights are recorded and contribute to the scores at an innovative program which helped 35 men in the seaside town lost a combined 550 lbs last year.

The men have lost an average of just over a stone each at MAN v FAT, a programme designed to help overweight and obese men lead healthier lives. The six-a-side club takes place at Blackpool Sports Center on Monday evening and is specifically aimed at men with a BMI of higher than 27.5.

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Paul Turner from Blackpool, who has so far lost eleven pounds with the help of MAN v FAT Football, explains: “I really enjoy the social aspect of the group and mixing with like-minded men in a similar age group, something that can become difficult as you get older.

“I would definitely encourage other men from the area to get involved. MAN v FAT is a great way of socialising and because you know everyone is involved to lose weight, you don’t feel self-conscious going out on the field as the other players are all shapes and sizes, and very welcoming.

“MAN v FAT has helped me make new friends and is improving my mental health through exercise and by having something extra to focus on. It’s great to enjoy competitive sport again too, while it is all fun and light-hearted, you genuinely care about winning. “

The club has space for new players and its organisers, Active Blackpool, are encouraging more local men to get involved. According to Public Health England statistics, 71.6 per cent of adults in Blackpool are overweight or obese, placing it among the top 15 hotspots in England for the health concern. The national average stands at around 63.9 per cent.

MAN v FAT is an FA-affiliated scheme, which has 7,500 players taking part in over 150 clubs across the UK. The program was created by Andrew Shanahan, who, fed-up with traditional weight loss classes primarily aimed at women, decided to develop a program that combines the beautiful game with achievable weight loss goals for men.

Before matches, players are weighed, which is followed by a 30-minute game of six-a-side, with extra goal bonuses awarded to teams based on the amount of weight players have lost. Weight loss and match scores then contribute to teams’ league positions within a club. Players receive additional support including healthy meal recipe ideas and tips on general fitness.

Richard Crick, MAN v FAT’s Head of Football, said: “We are extremely proud of the progress made by our players, coaches and the wider team involved at our Blackpool club. The club currently has spaces for new players, so if you’re ready to shed some extra weight, while having fun and making new friends in the process – get in touch! “

The total amount of weight lost by MAN v FAT players in the UK currently stands at around 400,000 pounds. Players can join up at www.manvfat.com/football and they can get more information by calling 0345 163 1042 or emailing football@manvfat.com

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