I lost seven stone in a year thanks to the Hudson Leisure Centre at Wisbech

BEN Bray is a changed man. Just how changed, you can see from these pictures. A year ago, at nearly 19 stone he was grossly overweight, miserable and deeply pessimistic about his future. Today, he s a slim 12 stone 4lb, smiling and brimming with confiden

BEN Bray is a changed man. Just how changed, you can see from these pictures.

A year ago, at nearly 19 stone he was grossly overweight, miserable and deeply pessimistic about his future.

Today, he's a slim 12 stone 4lb, smiling and brimming with confidence. And the transformation, he says, is all down to the Hudson Leisure Centre in Wisbech.

Not surprisingly, the 31-year-old's achievement won him the centre's Christmas Challenge for the person making the most visits, giving him a free month's gym membership.

Ben's downward spiral started in December, 2007, when he suffered a bad accident at his workplace. He fell down some stairs, seriously damaging the ligaments and a tendon in his foot.

At the time he was working for the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH). "My job was training horses and I was riding four or five of them a day," he says. "I was on my feet all the time and really active."

Most Read

Then came his fall. Over the next 12 months his weight ballooned from just under a solid 14 stone to a Michelin Man-like 18 stone 11lb.

"I was on crutches for four to six months and inactive for eight. During that time I put on five stone, which wasn't a good look. It was noted by several doctors that I was 'a very large person', which wasn't very kind!

"I got to the point when I would have been 25 stone if I'd carried on as I was. I couldn't have let myself get any fatter.

"It wasn't just that I was really unhealthy, I also wanted to look good and feel good and I didn't. I like clothes and fashion and I couldn't find anywhere I could get anything that fitted. Looking at the pictures of myself was a big shock and a real incentive to do something."

The problem was deciding exactly what to do. Initially Ben just cut down on the amount of food he was eating and started doing a bit of walking. It wasn't until May last year that he first set foot in the Hudson; he had held back largely because he was so self-conscious about his size.

"I thought everyone would laugh and point at the fat man," he says. "But it hasn't been like that at all. I can't speak highly enough of the Hudson and everyone there. The staff have been fantastic - really supportive and friendly.

"Sam Newman, one of the fitness consultants, has been an absolute inspiration and Graham Moore has been great, too. Both have gone out of their way to help motivate me and give me practical tips."

Until last year Ben had no experience of this kind of workout. "About three years ago I did a stint or two in a gym but I was never confident about doing cardiovascular work on treadmills and the like or weights. Now I've been seriously bitten by the exercise bug."

His weekly regime (see panel) is only possible because he is still out of work: he was made redundant last year when it became clear he wasn't going to recover sufficiently to continue at ILPH and he is still seeing a specialist doctor and physiotherapist.

On top of the physical workouts he has taken up yoga: "I've been doing that three times a week for the past six months with Julia Hills - again, she's been a real inspiration."

All this sounds exhausting. So how difficult has it been to lose that amount of weight in a year - and how has he done it?

"I can tell you one thing - it's a lot harder being nearly 19 stone," he jokes. "It's a combination of healthy eating and exercise. I have breakfast every day without fail - porridge with water - and I eat bananas like they're going out of fashion. I've mostly cut out crisps, cakes and biscuits, though I have the occasional one. I was never a big drinker but I've reduced my alcohol intake and drink much more water - about three litres a day. Everything in moderation is the key."

So what next?

"I'm looking to improve more. I've got slimmer; now I'm looking to do more sculpting and toning to get the body I've always dreamed of. I'd like to lose another few pounds and get down to just under 12 stone."

His experience has also opened up the possibility of a new career. "Obviously I can't do the job I had before. Now I'm looking to do a gym instructor's course and maybe become a personal trainer or something like that.

"I know from personal experience how much being overweight or unfit can knock your confidence and mood. I feel I could help other people with that.

"I'm a different person to the one I was last year. Then I had a really low opinion of myself - no self-confidence at all. Now all that's changed.

"I couldn't have done it without the help of everyone at the Hudson - I can't recommend the place enough. What I really want to tell people is that if I can do it with a gammy foot, then anyone can."

Following in Ben's footsteps

BEN exercises for 60-90 minutes each day. He alternates three days of cardiovascular exercise (treadmill, exercise bike etc) plus a yoga session with three days of weights and swimming. On Sundays - "my rest day" - he does a shorter session of weights.

Cllr Steve Garratt, FDC's portfolio holder with responsibility for health, says: "A weekly programme like this is clearly far greater than most people can do, or would want to. Their aims are usually much more modest.

"But what Ben's amazing achievement underlines is the sort of help and encouragement - and facilities - that are available at all our leisure centres. Hopefully, his story will inspire lots of others to take advantage of them."

For full details of what's on offer at the centres, call the Hudson (01945 584230); the Manor, Whittlesey (01733 202298); or the George Campbell, March (01354 622399). Or visit www.fenland.gov.uk/leisure.