Mike Ryan #ComeAsYouAre

Mike Ryan, who is 37 and from Manchester, felt like he had hit rock-bottom when he struggled to strap himself into an aeroplane seat, despite doing an hour of weight training every day.

Mike’s weight gain had not been caused by a lack of activity but rather an unhealthy eating habit which had led to him piling on the pounds and losing motivation and confidence in himself.

At what point did you feel like you had hit rock bottom?

I had problems sleeping, not being able to get comfy, waking the family with my breathing at night.

Can you describe what your relationship with food and exercise was like during this time?

I was weight training 1 hour a day, but never really pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I would browse social media between sets and then go home and order a take away thinking i’d earned it.

I would eat takeaways nearly 4-5 times a week and sometimes twice a day. 

Can you describe how this made you feel mentally?

My self esteem was low, I’d avoid mirrors and duck out of photos. I’d also avoid seeing people.

Please explain your key motivation(s) to change your eating and exercise habits?

My kids. I wanted to be able to play football with them and more importantly, be around long enough to see them grow up.

Once you’d highlighted the concerns you had with your eating and exercise, what was your first step to recovery?

I decided to try and stop the takeaways and snacking. I would of course carry on training as I was because it had worked in the past.

What was your first training program once you’d decided to make a change to your exercise regime and how did Xercise4Less facilitate this?

I decided to try a transformation camp because I was bored of training on my own and not seeing the changes I was hoping for. The camps looked fun. I gave those 8 weeks not only hard work in the gym, but really watched what I was eating. When I started to see changes, feel better, and sleep better, I was able to push myself harder in the camp sessions, and then I started to see the numbers on the tape measure come down.  

What advice would you give to anybody currently suffering with body image / self-esteem issues?

Gyms can be intimidating places! Remember, nobody is watching at you. We are all there for the same reason, same goal.. “to be better than we were yesterday”.

Regular users… if you see someone new and unsure of what to do; be nice, help them, even just a smile or a nod of approval goes a long way, we were all newbies once. 

Terri Hill – Transformation Story

 Woman who drank three cans of coke a day achieves life changing transformation by dropping an unbelievable three dress sizes in the space of just three months.

Terri Hill joined an Xercise4Less weight loss transformation camp to help her lose three dress sizes in just three months, enabling her to address her unhealthy lifestyle and totally regain her confidence. Terri Hill, 29, from Darlington, had always eaten whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, without having to worry about her weight.

“I never really realised the consequences physically as I skated regularly. It was about a year after I stopped skating that I noticed myself feeling sluggish and not as confident in myself.”

Terri’s diet was a huge contribution to her weight gain. She would often eat two breakfasts, fast food – such as KFC or McDonald’s – for lunch, two or three bars of chocolate and three cans of coke a day. Terri felt her weight gain was holding her back. She didn’t feel as confident in herself as she used to be and she felt embarrassed. Her friends and family also began to make comments, which made her determined to lose weight.

“They would say things like, ‘Do you want a biscuit? Of course you do!’. A friend of mine once said they couldn’t make me look slim in my friend’s wedding pictures because, although they were good at photoshop, they weren’t a magician.”

In January 2018, Terri organised a weight loss competition at work to encourage both herself and her colleagues who wanted to lose weight to get fit in the New Year. She then joined Xercise4Less in Darlington in February 2018 when she felt she was beginning to hit a wall with her training goals. It was there that she signed up to a life changing Xercise4Less transformation camp, which ran for eight weeks between March and May 2018.

“The Xercise4Less transformation camp was a great kick start and helped me get to know the gym, the staff and make some friends too.

“I also met a personal trainer there who I worked with for a few months afterwards to keep me on track!”

Since starting her weight loss journey, Terri has changed her mindset from wanting to be skinny, to wanting to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle. She has ditched the KFC lunches and Coca-Cola multipacks in favour of lighter lunches, fruit and protein bars.

“I am motivated to find balance in my life between my health, being stronger and also eating the occasional pizza!

“I spent a lot of time on Instagram looking at other people’s transformations and loved reading about the difference people could feel in their mental state.”

The results of her change in lifestyle have been incredible. Since joining Xercise4Less Terri has dropped an amazing three dress sizes in the space of just three months, going from a size 14 dress size to a size 8. Working out up to five times a week at Xercise4Less, she has shed the pounds in that time, dropping from more than 12 stone to just 10 stone. It has been an incredible weight loss journey for Terri over such a short space of time, highlighting the life changing impact of an Xercise4Less transformation camp which everyday people can enjoy.

“I train between three and five times a week, depending on the week! I usually do spinning once or twice and weight train two or three times.

“I was able to look forward to enjoying Christmas this year without feeling guilty. It’s about balance for me, I want to train on days I can and eat Christmas pudding on other days!”

Sophia Ellis #ComeAsYouAre

Sophia Ellis was completely consumed by her eating disorder; she feared food, binged and purged until she passed out and struggled with depression alongside Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and EDNOS. 

The inspiring 23 year young power lifter from Southend tells us her inspirational story below.

At what point did you feel like you had hit rock bottom?

When I was deep in depression, was throwing up more than 14 times a day, was on a heart monitor, felt like I had no way out & tried to kill myself.

Can you describe what your relationship with food and exercise was like during this time?

I feared food. It made me anxious being around it. My mind would tell me how bad it was to eat certain foods and that I didn’t deserve to eat them. I abused exercises just to burn off what I ate, even if I didn’t want to run I had to. With Anorexia I avoided foods, starved myself and was so restrictive. The Bulimia I lost control, binged and purged till I’d pass out.

Can you describe how this made you feel mentally?

I was consumed by the eating disorder. Isolated, lonely and felt worthless. I didn’t want to exist anymore. I hated having the illness but couldn’t see a life without it. It was killing me and I was destroying myself and disgusted with who I was turning into. It made me feel dead inside, like I was in a constant destructive cycle that I couldn’t get out of.

Please explain your key motivation(s) to change your eating and exercise habits?

I wanted to be healthy again for my friends and family. It had broken us apart and I could see what it was doing to them. I wanted to just end the bulimic cycle it was getting too much. 

Once you’d highlighted the concerns you had with your eating and exercise, what was your first step to recovery?

I went to my GP after collapsing at work and having heart problems. I managed to get funding for professional help at the Royal Maydsley Hospital. I recommend seeking professional help. Being aware that you are ill and getting help is the first step. I went through several therapies and finally found one that helped. It’s about being patient with yourself, one day at a time.

What was your first training program once you’d decided to make a change to your exercise regime and how did Xercise4Less facilitate this?

My first training programme was one that my brother had helped design for me. After leaving hospital I needed something to get me out of my room so got into weight training. Eventually I found Powerlifting and the rest is history! I trained at Xercise for less when I moved back down to Southend from London and used the facilities for some of my training sessions in prep for competitions.

What advice would you give to anybody currently suffering with body image / self-esteem issues?

Stop comparing yourself to others. You are on your own journey. Accept yourself, accept your body. Confidence comes through self care and appreciation of yourself. Do it for you and no one else. Find what you are passionate about and be bloody badass at it!

James Tanner #ComeAsYouAre

42-year old James Tanner from Newport used to convenience eat a lot of the time, but reflecting on wedding pictures decided to kick start his weight-loss journey by joining our Transformation Camp on 9th April 2018. 

At what point did you feel like you had hit rock bottom?

I was really close to rock bottom when some of the drivers I worked with made comments about me getting fat.  A few months later, in March 2018 my cousin got married; it was an awesome day and everyone had a great time however when I saw the wedding pictures later that day on social media I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I couldn’t understand how I’d let myself get into the position I was in, or what I was doing to myself. Was that really me? I felt so ashamed of myself I didn’t know what to do.

Can you describe what your relationship with food and exercise was like during this time?

Exercise was non existent. As a bus driver, and my working hours, I didn’t think there was time to fit any form of exercise into my daily routine, and actually moving physically was quite difficult when on duty.

Food wise I would eat whatever was easiest. A typical day would see me start work between 6-7am with a packet of crisps, a breakfast bar, a bag of sweets and a bottle of pop. I would try to make sure I had enough time to pick up a sausage and bacon sandwich or McDonalds breakfast before 10am, too.

Lunch would be purely convenience food (chip shop/KFC/McDonalds etc). I would also pick up 2 chocolate bars, another bag of sweets and more pop for the afternoon. Typically, when I finished work, I would grab a pizza or something similar for my tea and when I headed up to bed I would take a packet of crisps, a small cake and that all important bottle of pop that I convinced myself I couldn’t sleep without by my bed.

Can you describe how this made you feel mentally?

I have struggled with my mental health for a long period of time, particularly since my dad passed away in my early teens and as a result have struggled with depression and anxiety during certain periods of my life. 

I had put these bouts of depression to working long shifts and concentrating on the roads, but then it slowly started to dawn on me that although they were a part of the problem they weren’t the actual root cause. The root cause was mainly down to me, and how my eating habits had killed off the very little self confidence that I had left.

Please explain your key motivation(s) to change your eating and exercise habits?

After seeing the wedding pictures, I looked at local gym options and I saw that there was a Transformation camp starting at my local Xercise4less on the 9th April. This is a pretty significant date in my life as 10 years earlier I’d traveled to Sheffield and had stereotatic radiotherapy on that date. I have a benign tumour on my brain stem and the treatment was to stop it from growing anymore; so I said to myself, why go through all of that just to end up like this? 

Once you’d highlighted the concerns you had with your eating and exercise, what was your first step to recovery?

I knew that if I had just booked the camp online I would’ve found a way to talk myself out of going. The thought of walking into a gym was quite intimidating but I convinced myself to go in and ask for a look around and I’m so glad I did! I felt a bit silly for being so anxious about it, as all the staff put me at ease almost immediately. 

After that it was pretty straightforward, although far from easy. Listening and learning from the information you’re given is pretty much all you need to do. Almost immediately I started counting calories and switching up my eating habits. Processed foods went from being an every meal item, to pretty much being non existent.  Sweets and chocolates were replaced by raisins and carrots. I knew I had to put in 100% effort on everything or I would wane off into old habits.

What was your first training program once you’d decided to make a change to your exercise regime and how did Xercise4Less facilitate this?

I joined the transformation camp. When I walked in to sign up I met Tom (Personal Trainer) who would be taking the camp. He explained how everything worked and gave me a plan of what would happen. I had the food app on my phone which allowed me to track and log my food intake, too. The camp took place 3 nights a week and Tom really put us through our paces with different exercises. He helped with any questions we may have had and there was also a private group chat room on the app where all the campers in our group could ask questions at any time. 

What advice would you give to anybody currently suffering with body image / self-esteem issues?

Only you can change what your not happy with, there are lots of great people who will help you and give you all the tools to make the changes but you’re the one who has to make the effort.

Bethany Mcmanus #ComeAsYouAre

Bethany McManus, 20, lives in Cumbernauld. After suffering from borderline anorexia, Bethany hit rock bottom from persistent bullying. As a result, her relationship with food and exercise became unhealthy.

At what point did you feel like you had hit rock bottom?

I hit rock bottom when I was debating what my life was worth. I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t have an identity, I felt worthless.

Can you describe what your relationship with food and exercise was like during this time?

I didn’t eat a lot as I thought that it would help me lose all the weight. Cardio, cardio, cardio. That’s all I did.  

Can you describe how this made you feel mentally?

Mentally and physically drained.  

Please explain your key motivation(s) to change your eating and exercise habits?

I believed that I could take control of my future and create a new path. I believed I would be a strong woman who was happy and healthy. I researched heavily into nutrition and exercise and went onto college to study a HND in sports coaching.

Once you’d highlighted the concerns you had with your eating and exercise, what was your first step to recovery?

Getting out of bed and making a change because I knew that the only person who could make a change was myself. 

What was your first training program once you’d decided to make a change to your exercise regime and how did Xercise4Less facilitate this?

I didn’t have a specific training program but I understood the fundamentals of specific exercises for a certain muscle so I split my sessions to help isolate different muscle sets. Xercise4less has so much equipment which is helpful, some of which I had never seen which funnily enough I love now.

What advice would you give to anybody currently suffering with body image / self-esteem issues?

Believe in yourself. Believe that you have the power to create your own path. Want to change and want to be the best version of yourself. 

Liberty Buxton #ComeAsYouAre

20-year old Liberty Buxton from West Yorkshire struggled with Anorexia Nervosa as a result of anxiety and bullying in high school. After a scare from the doctor, however, she turned her life around by joining Xercise4Less.

During the slump of her eating disorder, she weighed 6st 7lbs, in April 2014. However, she now weighs 9 stone 1 pound. 

At what point did you feel like you had hit rock bottom?

When I went to the doctors and they told me I could potentially never have children due to the damage I had done to my body. This really hit home and made me feel like I was at my lowest.

Can you describe what your relationship with food and exercise was like during this time?

Completely unhealthy. There were days I’d not eat at all and then pass out when exercising, so I’d only eat the bare minimum just to survive. I’d go to the gym for hours just on the treadmill to make up for the fact I had eaten one extra potato than I normally would, or that I actually ate lunch instead of skipping it.

Can you describe how this made you feel mentally?

Absolutely drained. I slept so much and not only was I physically drained but my mental health was in such a bad state. I’d look on Instagram and just cry. 

Please explain your key motivation(s) to change your eating and exercise habits?

Once I had realised the damage I had done to my body. I hadn’t had a period for over a year, and combined with the news the doctor had given me about conceiving, I slowly started to realise that the life I was living wasn’t healthy at all. 

Once you’d highlighted the concerns you had with your eating and exercise, what was your first step to recovery?

The first step was to admit to myself that I had an eating disorder, instead of being in denial. From then on I slowly started to incorporate more food into my diet and tried hard to not feel guilty after doing so. I even quit the gym for a while whilst I got myself back on track and went back once I had a healthy view on fitness. 

What was your first training program once you’d decided to make a change to your exercise regime and how did Xercise4Less facilitate this?

Until I had made progress with my eating habits, I then started going back to the gym. Initially I trained at another local gym, but they didn’t have as much equipment and facilities, nor did were the opening times very accommodating, so I moved to Xercise4Less. 

I’ll be the first to admit when I started weight training I had no idea what I was doing, but Xercise4Less has staff who are always happy to assist if you’re stuck. With it being a much bigger and popular gym there’s always someone around to help me if needed. I used to feel nervous walking into the gym but now I’ll walk into Xercise4Less and be completely in my comfort zone, deadlifting away!

 What advice would you give to anybody currently suffering with body image / self-esteem issues?

Firstly, ignore anything anyone has to say about your body. That is YOUR body for a reason, absolutely no one on this planet has the right to say anything about your looks, so don’t give them the satisfaction. Secondly – STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS. You are your own person and that person is beautiful regardless of what you or anyone else thinks about you.

Remember – true beauty comes from within. Reduce your time on social media and focus more time into yourself; have a long bath, go for a walk, read a book, lift some weights!

Craig O’Brien – Transformation Story

Personal Trainer with hopes of competing in body building competition recalls his journey: Cutting body fat by 30% and restructuring his diet to shed five stone

Craig O’Brien is a 23-year-old personal trainer who works at Xercise4Less Glasgow. However, his life has not always been surrounded by fitness.

“On my lunch break at school, I would buy chippies, sausage rolls, and bags of sweets. You name it, I ate it. Every single day, Monday to Friday.”

(November 2012 to November 2013)

Weighing in at 16st and with a body fat percentage of 42%, Craig realised he wanted to do something about his appearance and finally took a step into the gym. However, after some time at the gym Craig was not making the progress he wanted.

“I had no idea what I was doing and thought all I had to do to lose weight was to do a bit of cardio. I didn’t realise how important diet was, so I would still eat allot of sweets, pizza and other kinds of junk food.

I lost a little bit of weight, but I still didn’t like the way I felt or looked, despite going to the gym for one hour of cardio every day.”

Craig felt like something had to change and it was at this point he discovered a passion for weights and started to enjoy the gym. Just a year after starting weight training as a complete novice, and learning more about training and nutrition, Craig had managed to lose three quarters of his total body fat, dropping from 42% to just 12% and trimmed down to a lean 11st.

“I still believe that first-hand experience is the best way of learning. Throughout doing the weights and going to the gym all these years, I have figured what works best for my body through experience and know what works for me and what doesn’t.”

(November 2012 to November 2016)

Having become a fitness fanatic, Craig decided to channel his weight training into bodybuilding, with the aim of competing in his first bodybuilding competition. To do so, he joined Xercise4Less, which offered more facilities and a greater variety of weights than the local club he was using.

“I joined Xercise4Less and it is when I joined this gym, I started noticing more improvements and better training.

“It has a lot more equipment and allows you to have more choice from machines and free weights.”

It is not only his body which Craig is happier with since becoming a gym junkie, it has helped him mentally and socially as well.

“I go the gym more or less every day. I see the gym as a place I can zone out from everything happening around me. Working out keeps me mentally focused and I just feel great from it.”

“I have gained so much confidence and self-esteem through my training and going to the gym is almost like a type of therapy for me.”

Craig is also hoping to motivate and inspire people through his personal training and Instagram account. 

“I want people to realise that yes, it is totally achievable to do, just believe in yourself first. Yes, it’s going to be a long journey, yes it will be hard work, but yes it will be worth it and yes it will be fun.”

Ultimately, Craig says people must enjoy and love the exercise they do and be proud of the improvements they make.

(July 2018 to March 2019)

“The way I see it is to have fun with your journey, enjoy seeing yourself progressing and be proud of yourself.

“As long as you are improving and becoming a stronger, more confident person in yourself each day then you are on the right path!”

 Not a member? Get an Xercise4Less Gym Membership Today 
Peak membership from 52p per day / £3.69 a week

Q & A with Craig O’Brien

Name: Craig O’Brien

Branch: Glasgow Cambridge Street

Job Title: Personal Trainer

Goals: My own goals are to start competing next year in bodybuilding shows, so I will still be trying gain weight for the next year. My other goal is to inspire and motivate, and to show people that maybe feel less confident in themselves that as long as you believe in yourself and stay consistent with something, you can totally transform your body both mentally and physically for the better.

Before weight: 240 pounds, around 40%+ bodyfat

After weight: 215 pounds, around 12-15% bodyfat

Height: 5ft 10 inches

What motivated you to start your journey?

I was tired of not feeling happy about myself and having zero self confidence due to my weight issues. I remember watching a motivational video on YouTube and saying to myself “I wish I looked like this guy”. I decided to join a gym but was only using cardio equipment, not knowing what I was doing, but then I decided one day I was going to start doing weight lifting, and from there onward that’s when I found my passion and hobby in life.

How did exercising impact on your self-esteem?

I honestly can’t even put into words what exercise, or this whole journey with the gym has done to my self esteem. It has totally transformed me as a person, even my old friends from school didn’t recognise me when they’ve seen me recently. I just have a more positive outlook in life, and the whole bodybuilding and gym journey makes me feel that I have an actual purpose and goal in life, and it’s something I wake up to every day and pursue with a passion. 

How have your eating habits changed? What exactly changed?

Growing up the only thing I ever really ate was junk food, going out for lunch at school everyday and buying chippies and sweets, and even at home I was a really fussy eater. Years of that with zero exercise really did take its toll on my body both physically and mentally. At first when I started my fitness journey to lose weight I was a bit too strict on my eating, but now I’m a lot more laid back with it. Calories in vs calories out at the end of the day, if I want a pizza, then I’ll be eating that pizza with zero regret 🙂

What is your nutrition like now?

My nutrition is good, not great, but good. One thing I have found is finding an eating plan that you’re going to stick to long term and be consistent with. As long as I hit my protein intake for the day and feel good then that’s important for me. I mainly just count calories, I don’t count macros now, as I used to log everything I ate but that got boring very quickly. However because I’ve been doing this for so long I don’t need to log things now, but I do think that when first starting out logging food is very beneficial, just don’t get to the point where you sicken yourself with it and then get stuck in a never ending loop of binge eating due to this.

Would you recommend our gym and why?

I’ve been training at xercise4less Cambridge Street since 2016, it’s a great gym with a great atmosphere and environment, and for the price you can’t really fault it at all! It has all the machines and equipment you need.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2019

There are around 1.25 million people living in the UK with some form of eating disorder, including cases seen in children as young as six years old.

25th February 2019 marked the start of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and this year’s theme was “Come as You Are” – which highlights greater inclusivity and body acceptance. As ‘The People’s Gym’, we want to continue channeling that inclusivity and support our members with their health & fitness goals.

We encouraged everyone at Xercise4Less to get involved and show their support during the awareness week.

Our member stories:

Bethany McManus

Liberty Buxton

Sophia Ellis

James Tanner

Mike Ryan

How can you get involved?

  • Why not hold a Sock It to Eating Disorders fundraiser at work, school or in the community? Don’t forget to put on your best socks!
  • Share your own experiences. Help to challenge stereotypes by talking about what you’ve been through to help give others the confidence to seek the help they need.
  • Show your support on social by getting involved in the conversation and sharing posts around Eating Disorders Awareness Week.  

To find out more about this years EDAW visit BEAT.

To start your health and fitness journey with Xercise4Less join now.