Darren Jones, 50, used to regularly take part in marathons and tough physical challenges all over the UK.
But in 2015 he seriously injured his ankle, leaving him unable to exercise.
Feeling ‘lost’ without a physical outlet, Darren turned to alcohol to ‘numb the physical and mental pain’, and stopped looking after his physical health entirely.
At his heaviest the dad-of-two weighed 18 stone.
Two years ago Darren realised it was time for a change. He now weighs a healthy 12st 2lb after ditching his unhealthy habits and has become a personal trainer.
But equally importantly, Darren has learned to look after his mental wellbeing.
He’s sharing his story to break down the silence around men’s mental health and inspire others to ask for help when they need it.
Darren, from Cwmbran, Wales, said: ‘My obsessive and compulsive attitude prevented me from seeking medical attention when I first rolled my ankle in 2015.
‘I continued to work out every day, run up to 50 miles of a weekend or cycle 100 miles, but the following year I entered an Ironman triathlon and collapsed as my ankle couldn’t take it anymore.
‘I did a good job at breaking it as the three tendons were ruptured, with one also snapping – doctors advised an operation but there was a risk of minimal movement after.
‘I decided to nurse my ankle back to heath on my own, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
‘I felt completely lost without exercise and that is when the floodgates opened, and I became depressed.
‘I was suffering on the inside when I saw people exercising – I felt like people thought less of me because I could barely even run to the end of my garden.
‘I continued to eat 4,000 calories which I would have burned off before and turned to alcohol for comfort, at first it was a glass of red wine but that led to three bottles per night.
‘The weight kept piling on, and it started taking its toll on my family too as I used to be the fun dad who would take my children Sophia, seven and Ieuan, 10, swimming and play with them.
‘But I became too embarrassed and couldn’t take my top off as I was ashamed of my body.’
Two years after his injury, Darren sought counselling from mental health charity Mind, which supported him on his journey to get back on track.
He went on to book himself a sky dive and gave himself the goal of taking part in the UK Ultimate Physique competition. On 19 October he took to the stage and came sixth.
‘I realised I was going through a mental breakdown and decided I can’t let myself get any worse,’ said Darren.
‘My wife Sarah, 44, who is an accountant, knew it was a decision I had to make for myself and she supported me every step of the way.
‘I first booked the sky dive because I knew you had to be 15 stone and I wanted to feel alive again by stepping out of my comfort zone.
‘After the sky dive, I had seven months to get into shape for a physique competition and I did it but I was mindful and listened to my body when it needed to rest.
‘I have been through a lot but I have become a better person, I have been on the other side but now that I am back – I want to help people.
‘I plan to set up a free boot camp next year for people with mental health problems so they can come and exercise but also talk.’
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