A former teenage growth star who noticed ice bars his “kryptonite” when he jumped to 25 stone after a knee injury has lost 10 stone – after joining a six-vs-soccer team for overweight men.
Superfit when he represented Great Britain as a junior rower, after injuring his knee, it took just six months for Ashley Towne, 31, to fly from Oxford from 13th to 23rd – he dropped his seven-weekly training regimen . still eat like a champ.
Just 19 in 2008, when his Olympic hopes were shattered by the injury, Ashley admits that not only did he continue with his high-carb and protein-rich diet, he soon added on with five takeaways a week and endless ice cream.
He got a good job as a general manager at a recreation center and was happily in love with his girlfriend, teaching assistant Holly Holden, 28, whom he met in 2010, and asked her to marry him in the summer of 2017 – when she weighed 25th – that eventually made him fight his bulges.
He said, “I realized when I was on the beach while on vacation in Alanya, Turkey, I imagined that I wanted to look my best for both of us on our wedding day. I looked at my own reflection and thought, I can’t look like this when I get married.
“I also didn’t want to leave to lose weight at the last minute. I wanted to lose it steadily and hold it off. “
When Ashley wanted to take the plunge in the summer of 2020, at six feet tall and weighing 25th, Ashley had a body mass index (BMI) used to measure a healthy weight, of 44, 9, compared to the NHS recommended range of 18.5 to 24.9 – meaning he was obese.
He admitted to becoming such a gluttonous ice cream that he compared it to “kryptonite” – a substance that diminished Superman’s powers in the comics – because it completely weakened his resistance.
He said, “I’d go by the ice cream freezer and get a few tubs and a pack of Snickers ice cream. Then I’d like to eat all eight of them in minutes, if I’m honest. “
Despite deciding that he needed to change, Ashley was “not sure where to start” when he came across a weight loss program on social media at his old college, Oxford Brookes.
He said, “I had no idea where to start losing weight. Then, by coincidence, I saw an ad for Man v Fat on my Facebook news feed and took it over from there.
“I was drawn to it because everyone is connected through football – so there was a community aspect to it, as well as the fact that I liked the sound of it.”
Started by journalist Andrew Shanahan in 2014, who struggled to lose weight and wanted a program for men, Man V Fat also offers men’s soccer teams with a BMI of 27.5 and above.
When Ashley signed up for their weekly weigh-ins and six-a-side competition in October 2017, Ashley soon established deep bonds with his teammates and began his weight loss journey.
He said: “At first I felt a little worried. But when I came, everyone there was my size, so I didn’t feel like the odd one out. “
Within a few weekday sessions, the squad launched a group chat, where they supported each other and confessed that their progress was poor.
“Yes, there was talk from guys, but more importantly, there was camaraderie in terms of support that was so essential,” said Ashley. “You could say, ‘Sorry guys, I didn’t lose weight this week.’
“Then someone would immediately say, ‘It’s fine,’ and ask if you need help or advice.”
“That sense of community between us only grew as the weeks passed,” he added.
“I started getting out of confidence week after week. I didn’t really care how the people on my team played football – it was their personality. “
His friendships became so close that he has even invited two players to his wedding, which has been moved to the summer of 2021 in Cyprus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Man v Fat also gave Ashley the confidence to join the more mainstream Slimming World in February 2018, where he continued to lose weight quickly.
As he lives with Holly, she became more accustomed to his shrinking body, but his parents Andrew, 72, and Elizabeth, 64, were amazed and incredibly positive about his changing appearance during his visits.
He said, “While my partner was with me every step of the way, she didn’t notice the changes so much because we live together and always see each other.”
He added, “But since I see my parents maybe once every two weeks to every month, when they saw me, they said, ‘Oh, you look good.’
When he lost 7st 7lbs through his combined weight loss programs leading up to Christmas 2018, he treated himself to a new wardrobe.
He said: “Before Man v Fat I started ordering clothes online. I would be either a XXXL or even a XXXXL so high street shops were no good for me. So it felt incredible to be able to really try things over again. “
“I actually bought a whole new wardrobe because all my old clothes were too baggy. My jeans had a 42 to 46 inch waist, ”Ashley continued.
“I had never worn skinny jeans at the time, so I bought two pairs with a 30 inch waist. They felt so good.
“At first I tried a 36-inch waist, but they were way too big. Then I went to a 34in – then a 32in. I eventually managed to fit in a 30in and thought, ‘Blimey, this is actually insane.’ ”
“Instead of Holly dragging me through the shops, I was the one in the locker room asking her to get me another pair of jeans,” he added.
“That was the first time I recognized that I had really lost all that weight.
“It sounds crazy, but I would kid myself that I wasn’t fat at 25 and until the day we went shopping I didn’t really believe I was slim”
Today, Ashley has slimmed down to 15 pounds and while he is still technically overweight, with a BMI of 27.2, he has adopted a healthy lifestyle and is still gradually losing the pounds.
Ashley is no longer with Man v Fat but still regularly meets his friends for runs in Oxfordshire and cycles 10 miles back and forth to his gym job where he is club manager.
He’s even rediscovered his competitive streak – he got into the top 50 when he ran a 10km cross-country race in Abingdon, Oxfordshire last year.
Meanwhile, Holly is a great support, helping him come up with weekly meal plans and making sure there are no more cheeky stops at the grocery store ice cream aisle.
He said, “The camaraderie at Man v Fat has helped me get back to my best. It was there when I needed it and I can’t say a bad word about it. It’s something that I would definitely recommend to other men trying to lose weight.
“It’s helped me get to a place where I can look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘I can get married and look good and I can’t wait’.”