After losing his parents Lee spiralled into a depression that affected his confidence and self-motivation.
For six years Lee retreated into himself - he did very little activity and his mental health was declining, to the point he sought professional help. Daily takeaways and a craving for sugary drinks, coupled with the lack of activity meant Lee’s was unfit, unhappy and overweight.
That was two years ago, but today a, lighter, healthier, happier Lee has set up a Sunday League football team and competes in track and field athletics.
It was seeing an advert for Sunderland AFC’s FIT BLACK CATS programme that changed things for Lee. A very anxious and despondent Lee made the brave step to join the programme run by the Club’s Foundation of Light charity. The free 12-week programme is part of the EFL Trust’s FIT FANS initiative, which is run at over 40 EFL Clubs and provides those aged 35-65 with an opportunity to make a life-style changes, to help lose weight, get fitter, and lead a more active life.
The fact that the 12 week programme was at Stadium of Light was a big motivation for football fan Lee.
Thanks to FIT FANS Lee ditched the daily fast food and learnt how to manage his cravings for his favourite Dr Pepper drink and began changing his eating habits; all of this progress led to him achieving the biggest weight-loss of over 6kg – a feat he never thought he’d reach.
"Training and learning inside of the Stadium of Light was a fantastic experience and so inspiring," he said. "I honestly don’t know where I’d be without the programme. It’s made me have a much more positive outlook and feel more in control of my life."
However, the 12-week programme was only the start of the process. FIT FANS is all about making small sustainable lifestyle changes that can be carried forward. As can be seen with Lee’s journey; two year later he has lost another 6kg of weight, is living a totally different life and doing thing he never thought possible.
Lee explained: “It started with running. I hadn’t done any running in almost 12 years, but I was doing three five-mile runs a week when the course finished. It was the running that sustained me through lockdown. Then when things opened up again, I felt confident and fit enough to play a few casual games of football and I really enjoyed it. There, were quite a few of us that weren’t part of a team and were just playing the odd game here and there. I recognised some of the guys could really benefit from playing more regularly. So, I set up a new Sunday League team. It’s hard work doing all the admin, but I can see the benefit that the guys get from playing and I know from my own journey what a difference it can make – so it’s well worth it”
Not content with one new sport, Lee has also taken up track and field athletics.
He added: “I really enjoyed Athletics in my younger days but really thought I was too old for it now and those day had gone. However, I felt in such good shape, that I thought why not give it a go again? So I did, I was a bit rusty at first but stuck with it and after a few months I was able to be competitive in the sprints and throwing events and so I’ve kept going.”
Lee has also kept up with the healthier eating lessons he lessons learned during FIT FANS.
He said: “I’m not dieting and depriving myself of food, but just eating sensibly and balanced. I’ve not totally cut out all the things that you might consider unhealthy, I have them when I feel like it – they are only unhealthy in excess anyway.
"Most of all my mental health is good now. The dark days seem a long way, away. My life is totally different now and It all started with see a Facebook ad for FIT BLACK CATS. I’d really urge anyone feels like they are in bad place to give it a go because it really can change your life.”