A CHEF shed seven stones after signing up to a football scheme that encourages players to earn goals on the pitch and the scales.

Richard A'len's mammoth weight loss has been so successful, he's now coaching other men on the Man v Fat programme - and ran his first marathon.

Richard, 36, signed up to Man v Fat, at Colchester United, weighing 18 stones after reading about it online.

He said: "I joined from its start in September 2016 and played right up to Christmas 2018. Then I got offered a place as a coach.

"Now I am helping out the others to get to their target."

It was seeing a photograph of himself as his top weight that prompted Richard, of West Street, Coggeshall, into action.

"I thought something needs to be done," he added.

"Being a chef I am supposed to know how to eat properly but it is physically doing it."

The idea of attending a typical slimming group also did not appeal to Richard, who is head chef at Poplar Nurseries in Marks Tey.

"I saw this come up and thought 'actually it is the ideal opportunity to lose weight' as if you don't lose weight you are letting your team down.

"I wasn't sure what to expect when I first turned up.

"I was wondering 'am I going to be the most unfit? the fattest?' but when I got there everyone was welcoming and really nice and made me feel comfortable straight away."

Man v Fat works by attendees earning virtual goals for losing weight each week but also having them deducted if they gain weight.

This is coupled with actual goals scored by playing a football match, at the weekly sessions held at the U's JobServe stadium.

As players progress on the 14-week programme, their fitness improves and the weight should shed.

By last April Richard had slimmed to 15 and a half stones and ran the Brighton marathon, raising £2,000 for Alzheimer's Society.

He said: "That helped with the weight loss. It is the hardest thing I have ever done but when you get over the line it is amazing."

At his slimmest Richard was 11 stones but now is a comfortable at 12 stones and keeps fit by attending the gym and coaching Man v Fat at Colchester.

"Personally I don't see it but everyone says how they have got respect for me for what I have done for helping them get to where they want to be."

For more information email richardalen@manvfat.com or visit http://manvfat.com/.