England footballer spurs Burnley dad of two to shed an incredible nine and a half stone and tackle challenge of a lifetime

It was former England footballer Paul Merson who made a Burnley dad of two decide it was time to lose some weight.
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For a throwaway comment from Merson, to fellow player Neil Ruddock, was a 'lightbulb' moment for James Hunt as he watched the pair on the hit show Harry's Heroes. The documentary charted the attempts of legendary football manager Harry Redknapp to get a squad of former England international footballers fit and healthy for one last game against a team of German players.

Jame said: "Merson called Ruddock the 'tomorrow man' because he put everything off until tomorrow.

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"I knew right there and then that was me because that's exactly what I do, from losing weight to doing things around the house."

James last year before he lost nine-and-a-half-stoneJames last year before he lost nine-and-a-half-stone
James last year before he lost nine-and-a-half-stone

In that moment James decided he never wanted to be known as the 'tomorrow man' ever again.

"I have lost weight in the past but always put it back on because I gave up," said James (32) who lives in Harle Syke.

"But this time it was different. Although I considered myself fairly fit and played football every week I would be catching my breath running upstairs."

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That was in May last year, two months into lockdown, and James tipped the scales at 23-and-a-half-stone. He was shocked as that was equivalent to 149.5 kilos and his scales only went to 150!

James last year when he weighed 23-and-a-half-stoneJames last year when he weighed 23-and-a-half-stone
James last year when he weighed 23-and-a-half-stone

He ditched the continuous snacking and regular take away meals, that had become the norm during lockdown, and stuck to three balanced meals a day incorporating lean meat, fruit and vegetables.

And, as a chef, James is able to use his professional skills to make sure the meals are tasty and interesting and something he can share with his wife Dominique and their two little girls, Halle (three) and five-month-old Paisley.

He said: "The meals are something we can all enjoy together and also sets a good example to my daughters regarding eating well

"Dom has supported me every step of the way."

Running has helped James to shed the weight and it has now become his passionRunning has helped James to shed the weight and it has now become his passion
Running has helped James to shed the weight and it has now become his passion
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His healthy eating regime, combined with daily walks, soon saw results for James who was shedding two stone a month on average. And as the weight dropped off he began to run, something he had never been able to do before due to his weight and various injuries.

He was joined by his best pals, Daniel Parker and Lee Bispham and this has led to them taking on a challenge of a lifetime to take part in a virtual run from Land's End to John O'Groats for Cancer Research.

But if you had told James nine months ago he would be doing this he would never have believed it!

He said: "This is such a massive challenge, I could not have even dreamed of doing this last year."

A new slimline James has bags more energy to run around after his little girls, Halle (right) and PaisleyA new slimline James has bags more energy to run around after his little girls, Halle (right) and Paisley
A new slimline James has bags more energy to run around after his little girls, Halle (right) and Paisley
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And gone are the days when he would return home from work and flop on the sofa exhausted.

He added: "My job is quite physically demanding and you can be on your feet a lot so I would get home and not want to move or have energy to do anything with the girl

"But now I feel energised when I come home and I am ready to go for a walk or a run or do an activity with the children."

Dropping from 44 inch waist size to 36 has been a major confidence boost for James along with the comments of encouragement and admiration from family, friends and customers at Simply Classic in Padiham where he works as catering manager. And while it may have cost him a fortune to buy new clothes for his new slimline 14 stone frame, James has kept one t-shirt that he he has not been able to wear for a couple of years.

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He said: "It is quite an expensive designer t-shirt in a size medium and I can't quite get into it yet so that is my goal."

James is confident the weight will stay off this time as his new eating and exercise regime is part of his daily routine. And he hasn't banned treats altogether, allowing himself his favourite chocolate 'fix'on a Saturday.

James with his wife Dominque who he credits for supporting him every step of the way as he lost nine-and-a-half-stone in lockdownJames with his wife Dominque who he credits for supporting him every step of the way as he lost nine-and-a-half-stone in lockdown
James with his wife Dominque who he credits for supporting him every step of the way as he lost nine-and-a-half-stone in lockdown

But the difference now is he eats a normal size bar rather than the family sized one he would have snaffled before.

He said: "The runnning has made such a difference also to my life.

"I enjoy my running and it feels great to be out there and I like trying new routes and exploring."