Fit Factor prompts trio to banish their bellies

Health Reporter Helen Rae speaks to three men who missed out on being in our Fit Factor team but have still gone on to lose weight

Gary Scott, Keith Ellison and Barry Penaluna who lost weight through exercise and diet
Gary Scott, Keith Ellison and Barry Penaluna who lost weight through exercise and diet

In a bid to beat the bulge, The Journal and Real Radio launched its Fit Factor competition earlier this year to help six people change their lives for good.

Hundreds from the North East applied to make the final team, but only half a dozen could be chosen to embark on the challenging 12-week fitness regime.

At the end of Fit Factor in May, the participants together had lost more than 22 stone and are continuing with their weight-loss journey.

Yet for some who narrowly missed out being in the team, they remained fully committed to shedding the weight and decided to seek the help of Fit Factor trainer David Fairlamb nonetheless.

It was a major turning point for Keith Ellison, Gary Scott and Barry Penaluna, who have collectively lost 16st 6lbs this year.

David Fairlamb said: “All three prove that with the right attitude, dedication and a specific goal, lives can be turned around very quickly.

“After missing out on the final six of the Fit Factor, although hundreds entered, they are the stand out few who kept their dream alive and did it themselves.

“I have seen all three on a regular basis at Beach Bootcamp, and their fitness is incredible.

I am very proud of what they have achieved and so should they be.

“They are inspirational to anyone who wants to lose weight and turn their lives around.”

Here, we take a look at the stories of the three men who decided to take on their own weight-loss challenge and are now reaping the health benefits.

Keith Ellison

Keith Ellison initially applied to become a contestant for the Fit Factor as his weight had ballooned to 20st 4lbs and he was fast approaching the age of 40.

The father-of-one was determined to shed the pounds as he had been asked by his sister to walk her down the aisle due to their father having had a stroke and now being housebound.

After being short-listed for The Journal and Real Radio’s Fit Factor competition, the tyre fitter was left disappointed not to make the final six.

Keith, 39, of Consett, County Durham, said: “After been short-listed and interviewed, it was a hammer blow to find out I hadn't been selected.

“For the next three days I got really down about things. I wanted to be part of the Fit Factor team as I had set my mind to it.

“On the following Monday, I had a hospital appointment regarding a few dizzy spells I'd been getting and I had some tests done, including tests on my heart.

“Everything came back clear, but the consultant basically told me I had the body of someone in their 50s and if I didn't change my life now, I'd most likely contract diabetes and heart disease inside six years.

“That was the final wake up call I needed. I went to a gym on the Tuesday morning, signed up and have been going four to five times a week.”

Keith has been attending David Fairlamb’s Beach Bootcamp and it has completely changed his life as he has lost 5st 3lbs.

In just six months he has slimmed down to 15st 10lb, dropping from a clothes size XXXL to large.

His wife Stephanie, 35, who works at Seven Stories in Newcastle, and their young daughter, Sophie, 12, have also lost a stone each in weight as the family has increased its exercise levels and cut out takeaways and chocolate.

Keith said: “I turned a negative of not getting into the Fit Factor into a positive, and it has totally turned my life around.

“I'm sleeping a lot better and mentally I'm in a lot better place. The bottom line is if I can achieve what I have in such a short period of time anyone can.

“My self-confidence is so much better and I’m starting to look good.”

Gary Scott

Father-of-one Gary Scott’s weight was reaching a dangerous level and it was affecting his health and wellbeing.

The chef’s bad eating habits had pushed his weight up to 20st 7lbs and he decided it was time to change his life for the good of his family.

The 39-year-old had heard adverts on the radio for the Fit Factor and decided to apply, with the full backing of his partner Despina Constantinou, 44, a school worker, and his daughter, Maggie, 16.

He also “had a little joke of not being fat and 40” which is still his aim, as he reaches that milestone at the end of this year.

Gary, of Fenham, Newcastle, said: “I didn't even think I would get a call for the Fit Factor never mind an interview - I was ecstatic that I received the call.

“I didn't get picked, but David Fairlamb had invited me to come along to the Saturday Beach Bootcamp on Tynemouth Longsands.

“I felt upset for a couple of days that I wasn’t chosen, but I thought to myself ‘I have to snap out of this and do something really positive about my weight’.

“I went along to the first bootcamp, which I enjoyed greatly. It was well run and the people there were very friendly and welcoming, introducing themselves to me and encouraging me along.

“I also met the chosen Fit Factor six, who were all lovely people. Over the weeks they inspired me to carry on and to never give up.

“I could see the massive effort they were putting in and it pushed me to do it too.”

A month into Gary’s exercise regime, first Fit Factor winner, Ian Gibson, who has lost an incredible 12 stones, gave him the diet that he was on.

Gary has lost a huge 5st 2lbs as is now 15st 5lbs, dropping from a clothes size XXL to large.

He added: “Ian did last year’s Fit factor and lost a whopping 12 stones which inspired me even more. The diet has proved to be the winner in my eyes.

“I don't feel as hungry as I once did, my body feels good and I don't feel bloated all the time. I really feel the food is the key to me losing weight which is enhanced by the exercise too.

“It is giving me much more energy to carry on in my daily routines, which in turn, helps me to workout better. I am feeling so much better within myself.

“I move and walk with ease that I've never felt in such a long time and I've been told my snoring has stopped.

“Although I didn't get into the Fit Factor, I really feel part of something that can only change my health, wellbeing and fitness.”

Gary is doing bootcamps each week and is going to the gym. He even managed to complete this year’s Bupa Great North 10k Gateshead in 1hr 9mins.

“It was totally amazing and I ran 99% of it non-stop,” explained Gary. “I feel great and I'm hoping to do the Great North Run next year.”

Barry Penaluna

Barry Penaluna and his fiancée Helen Drinkall won a mammoth weight-loss bet when bookies paid out £5,000 after they lost more than 10 stone between them.

Barry staked £50 at 100-1 that he and Helen could lose a massive 10 stone in six months.

And after going on a ‘caveman’ diet, they landed the bet to win £5,000 after dropping from a whopping 40st 12lbs to a more manageable 30st 6lbs.

Bookmakers William Hill take about a 100 bets a year on weight loss, but no other pair have lost more than 10 stone with their diet bets before.

The couple, from Killingworth, North Tyneside, decided to lose the weight ahead of their wedding after civil servant Barry popped the question to Helen last December.

They joined thousands of others across the region to get fit after The Journal launched its Great North Fitness Revolution.

And Barry, who couldn’t run around the block before he started, ended up running the Great North 10k – a race our readers were encouraged to take part in.

Strapping 6ft tall Barry, 32, who weighed 23st 3lbs when he placed the bet and now tips the scales at 17st 2lbs, said: “I had tried diets and exercise in the past to  lose weight, but it had never worked and at one point ahead of placing the bet I was up to 25 stone.

“Then I read a story about a man who won a bet with William Hill after losing a few stone and decided that we could do it and the £5,000 would be a great incentive and could go towards our wedding and a holiday.

“I knew it was a big challenge, but with healthy eating and starting to take exercise, I knew we could do it. We went on the Caveman diet and cut out carbs and alcohol.

“I’ve just done the Great North 10k and a year ago I couldn’t even run round the block. I go out running with my younger brother Jamie and he keeps telling me there is more in your legs, so I don’t give up. I do a boot camp at the weekends and a cardio vascular work out session can see me burning 1,200 calories per hour.

“I’ve not had an alcoholic drink for four months and before this I’d have about 10 pints on a night out and a couple of bottles of white wine.

“I’ve got a season ticket at St James’ Park and after the match I go for a Diet Coke now, but the lads all know about the weight loss and there’s been no peer pressure to have a drink at all.

“I’ve won a few hundred on the football and the golf before, but this is my biggest ever win by a long way and the weight loss is priceless.”

Helen, 29, a fellow civil servant, who went from 17st 9lbs to 13st 4lbs, said: “I checked with the doctor that we were okay to take on the bet and we have changed our whole way of life with more exercise and healthy eating.

“Barry is the chef and he’s put us both on the paleo diet – or Caveman diet – where we don’t eat carbs and have increased our exercise.

“We’ve grown together, but we now have two daughters Chloe, three, and 10-month-old Sophie and we don’t want to be big unfit parents unable to play with our children.

“We got engaged before Christmas and then we struck the bet to get extra incentive for our wedding – I wasn’t going to get married being overweight.

“We’ve tried lots of diets in the past, but striking that bet was the best incentive. When William Hill accepted our bet, they changed our lives.”

The couple, whose children are Chloe, three, and Sophie, 10 months, are determined to continue with their weight loss.

Rupert Adams, for William Hill said: “This is a record-breaking first for William Hill as we’ve never had any couple land such a heavy-weight punt at 100-1 on their weight loss. When Helen called to say they had succeeded we were flabbergasted.

“They deserve their winnings.”

All have amazing weight loss has happened for Barry despite the fact he failed to make the final Fit Factor team despite getting so close.

Barry said: "I had lost weight before, but I had never sustained it and I wanted to make sure that this time, the weight stayed off.

"When the Fit Factor applications came about, I knew that would offer a huge help to my goals if I got in the team.

"It was a little bit disappointed not to make Fit Factor, but after not getting through, I decided to target those 12 weeks myself regardless and give 100%"

"The diet and training has been spot on," explained Barry. "I've got myself into a really good routine.

"For my training, I decided to do it similar to Fit Factor to target at least three high-intensity workouts each week. These have come from bootcamps and kettlebell sessions.

On top of this, I'm also cycling and trying to fit in a game of squash when I can."


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