A personal fitness trainer who lost seven stones before taking up the profession carries his ‘fat photos’ around in his sports bag and whips them out for his clients when they need a little inspiration or motivation.
Ben Harvey, who teaches Bokwa, body combat and legs, bums and tums classes at Sportspace in Dacorum, has the kind of affinity with his overweight and obese clients that can only come from struggling with his own weight.
The 30-year-old ballooned to 21 stone as a result of a fast food diet he had throughout his teens and early twenties.
He said: “I was finding my feet and socialising and my eating got completely out of control by the time I was 19.
“Convenience and peer pressure made me go to McDonalds and the pub. I wasn’t eating breakfast just gorging on chocolate, burgers, chips and also smoking fags and drinking pints.
“All it gave me was high blood pressure and an embarrassed feeling every time I went shopping because my waist had stretched to 44 inches.
“I couldn’t go to high street stores because nothing would fit. It desperately affected my confidence and I got very depressed.
“I ended up in a downward spiral. I would comfort eat to make myself feel better but that made me put on weight, feel more depressed and eat some more.”
Ben was a healthy weight when he was 14 years old but when his parents divorced and he moved to York with his mum he turned to food to counteract the emotional pain: “Looking back it was the worst thing I could have done,” he said.
As a youngster he was naive about nutrition and weight gain and went about making terrible choices.
One day he had a bolt from the blue when he found he was getting exhausted from just walking down the street.
He said: “I had to do something so I started with incredibly light exercise – just five minutes on the treadmill and a few weight exercises did me in!
“I went to body combat class religiously and worked out at the gym three times a week. I became friends with instructors and people who were also determined to lose weight and in the end I was using fitness to counteract any depression.
“I enjoyed the class atmosphere so much and I made great friends. It opened up so many doors for me, not just professionally but personally as well.”
When the stones and pounds fell off and Ben slimed down to 13 stone there was no stopping him: “One day I asked an instructor how they got into their line of work and I thought I would keep going with my training with the view to qualify as an instructor in the future.”
Ben’s reached his goal in 2009 when he became an aerobics instructor and went on to qualify in body combat, personal fitness. He also teaches spin and circuits.
He said: “I have a lot of people who come into a class and stand at the back. I know how they feel. I try and have a little chat with them and if they say they want to lose weight or are not very confident or feeling their efforts aren’t working, I show them my fat photos. It’s motivating.”
For information about classes at Sportspace visit www.sportspace.co.uk and go to www.new-leaf-training.co.uk for training with Ben.