A GROUP of Bolton Wanderers fans have shed a combined 22 STONE between them in just 12 weeks with the help of the club.

Not so much a case of “who ate all the pies?” as “who ate all the salad?” – a group of 30 supporters started out on the Fit Trotters programme in January, 22 of whom made it to the final weigh-in last week.

The total weight loss of 141 kilograms, or 311 regulation EFL footballs, represented a huge success says course leader, Jack Barnes, who works as a team leader for the Bolton Wanderers Community Trust.

“Genuinely, I am absolutely delighted with how they did,” he told The Bolton News. “And with everything that is going on, they kept it going.

“The biggest thing for me was the camaraderie between the group. They supported each other all the way through, challenged each other, kept each other motivated – I was absolutely amazed.”

Fellow Community Trust employee, Carl Halliwell, added: “I just think that the first cohort has been a massive success, the lads have been fantastic and they have changed their lives. I can’t wait for the next Fit Trotters to start and engage with even more members of the community.”

Launched in January 2020 at 30 clubs around England, the EFL’s Fit Fans programme is supported by over £2.25million of National Lottery funding from Sport England and aims to use the magnetism of football to tackle obesity levels in more than 10,000 supporters across the UK.

The programme was split into two – part being taught in a classroom setting, providing participants with information on how to reduce portion sizes, swap sugary and fatty foods in their diet for fruit, vegetable and high-fibre foods, and reducing alcohol intake.

The rest of the time was taken up with practical sessions, which included walks around the UniBol pitch, visits from players including Wanderers midfielder Ali Crawford, and circuit classes – which continued online after the lockdown.

One of the participants, Jason Barnes, weighed close to 20 stones at the start of the year.

“Scrolling through Facebook I’d seen an advert for Fit Trotters being run by BWFC and apprehensively I applied, what did I have to lose?” he said.

“Anyway, I got an email from someone at the club saying the group was full but that if someone didn’t meet the criteria that I’d be on the reserve list. That someone was Jack Barnes, someone that a few weeks later would become a massive inspiration and a life-changer.

“Arriving at my first meeting I was a little anxious but I was soon put as ease as I saw a few faces I’d seen at the match, plus an old schooldays friend, Mark, who would over the coming weeks be as big an inspiration as Jack and Carl.”

Jason’s first waist measurement was 127 centimetres, his weight 125.9kg and BMI 33.1 but by midway through the course he had shed 8.7kg.

The lockdown threatened to derail the group’s progress – but thanks to the wonders of modern technology and the bond between the group, they managed to stay on track.

“For the first week I’d taken up bad habits, binge eating to make up for my disappointment of missing the meetings,” Jason said. “Miraculously, Jack and Carl then set up a WhatsApp group to continue the good work through the sessions.

“It was the inspiration I needed and the chats and challenges posted on that group drove me on.”

Jason finished the programme 12.8kg lighter with 26cm off his waist and a BMI 3.7 lower.