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Cyclist who slimmed from 39 stones to 13 tells road.cc of his personal odyssey

Gary Brennan, who took up cycling three years ago in a bid to lose weight after tipping the scales at just shy of 40 stones, has been nominated to carry the Olympic torch when it passes through his home city of Manchester next year. If he is selected for the honour, it would represent the culmination of a remarkable transformation for the 30-year-old, who now weighs a much healthier 13 stones.

Gary was jolted into action after being told by his doctor that he would need a gastric bypass operation, and was also suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure and  undergoing tests for high blood pressure.

Since getting on his bike in April 2008, when pedalling half a mile left him fighting for breath, he now rides as much as 200 miles a week. Along the way, his body mass index has dropped from dropped from over 70 to 24.2.

“It feels like I have almost reached the end of my journey,” Gary told road.cc. “In three years, I have gone from someone who was sat watching the Olympics in total awe of the British cycling team, to someone who potentially could well be involved.

“Sure it’s not the same level, but still, coming from where I started at just three short years ago it’s amazing and if I do get to carry that torch, then wow, what an end to this story it will be!”

Father of two Gary, who has charted his successful efforts to lose weight over the past three years on his blog, describes the reaction to his transformation from friends and family as one of “shock and awe,” adding, “no-one, not least myself, expected me to do what I have done”

He continues: “Sure people have been supportive but at the same time, I was 40 stone, we all agreed that if I could lose a HUGE 50% of my body weight and get down to 20 stone, then at 6ft 3" that would be a remarkable achievement. Yet once I hit 20 stone, all it did was add more and more fuel to that fire in my belly for success.”

As his weight has reduced, Gary’s focus has changed from shedding the pounds to now looking to get the most out of his cycling, a change in emphasis that will resonate among many who bought a bike initially as a means of keeping fit but have been drawn further and further into cycling for its own sake.

“I used to say in the beginning it was the hardest thing I have ever done, but to be honest, I look back at the start and it was okay, I didn't need to push 150% to get the weight loss started,” explains gaz.

‘But in the last 12 months,” he adds, “I have put so much effort in, I have pushed harder than in the days at the start – it’s not about the weight any more, it’s now all about becoming the best cyclist I can be.”

In July 2010, however, Gaz was hit by a van while out riding which left him injured and unconscious in the road and led to a crisis of confidence that almost saw him abandon cycling.

“The accident affected me badly,” admits Gary. “I was off the bike for around a month, I couldn't walk for a couple of weeks as I'd taken a huge impact on my knee (writing off a brand new Cube MTB frame).

“I gained quite a few pounds, I felt that I was about to slide back to where I'd come from, but I didn't, I got up and I did what I do best, I got on my bike and I went for it as hard as I could.

“I recall coming up to ‘the junction’ [where the accident took place] about eight weeks after it happened and I totally froze. I couldn't pedal though it, I just hit my brake and stood on the pavement, going though it all in my head again, how it could have been so much worse had I not managed to unclip my SPD's moments before the impact.

“That day did me the world of good as I have never looked back since, its now been over 12 months since and while my hip and back are far from okay, I can still do what I need to do.”

Besides riding his bike to and from work, Gary has also ridden the Manchester-Blackpool sportive, helping him find a focus for his efforts on the bike. It's a direction he’s keen to continue moving in, and his ambitions aren't confined to the north west of England.

"Short term I am riding the Bruntwood Ellipse this weekend, it's got more climbing than I have done as a group before and I want to push myself against others in that environment," he says.

"It will also tell me how close to the 'long-term' goals I am at, I missed out on the Manchester-Blackpool 3 hour target I'd set myself as my riding buddy got a puncture [he finished in 3 hours 10 mins], so next year I'm going all out for that."

Nor are Gary's ambitions confiend to the nortwest of England, as he explains: "Once my kids get a little older and I can take time away, I'd love to do Mont Ventoux and Alpe d'Huez as well as ride over the Golden Gate Bridge. I also intend to run a Marathon and Triathlon before I'm 40."

Given the determination he's shown in achieving his goals over the past three years, few would doubt that Gary is capable of doing all of those. So what would the old Gaz say to the new one if they happened to bump into each other?

"Good question," he reflects. "I'd like to think that 'I' would believe in 'myself' to get the job done but back then, I don’t think I would have believed what I could do. I think the old me, upon seeing the new me, would have said 'Nurse, there is a crazy man here, pretending to be me,'" he concludes.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

20 comments

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Felix [111 posts] 6 years ago
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Anything we can do to support his nomination?  39

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chatty31 [78 posts] 6 years ago
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I've followed Gaz for a while now and he is a great positive and motivational character.
A big thumbs up and with any luck the extra publicity will help Gaz get everything he wants to fully complete his journey.

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gazzaputt [232 posts] 6 years ago
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Really sorry but cannot see what entitles him to carry an Olympic torch.

Well done for the weight loss but it isn't like overcoming a disease. Being obese is a lifestyle choice.

I don't understand in this country why we are obsessed with people that radically loose weight.

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spaceyjase [54 posts] 6 years ago
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gazzaputt wrote:

Really sorry but cannot see what entitles him to carry an Olympic torch.

Well done for the weight loss but it isn't like overcoming a disease. Being obese is a lifestyle choice.

I don't understand in this country why we are obsessed with people that radically loose weight.

It's a shining beacon of responsibility to others who may be suffering from the same 'lifestyle choice'. Anyone can sit idly by and think they should make the choice to loose weight and never do yet here's an inspiration to anyone struggling and it may push them that little bit more; him carrying the torch will inspire others to do the same. It's more than the weight loss -- he choose to make a difference.

That's good enough for me.

(I know of others who would have resigned themselves to surgery and a continued life of obesity).

edit: quotation.

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pashda [15 posts] 6 years ago
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gazzaputt, I partly agree with you that being obese is a lifestyle choice but you have to applaud the man for taking it upon himself to change that lifestyle. He has removed himself from the stats of being obese and taken the potential burdon from the NHS that being obese usually leads to.
I hope his story will inspire a few of the many thousands of overweight people to get of their couch and get fit. I showed his story to a mate at work who is heading towards 35 stone fast and it made him realise it was possible to change.
Well done Gaz B and good luck with the nomination.

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Tony Farrelly [2911 posts] 6 years ago
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gazzaputt wrote:

I don't understand in this country why we are obsessed with people that radically loose weight.

Perhaps because they are the exception in a country where the majority would seem to be radically putting it on?

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shrinkinbggaz [100 posts] 6 years ago
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gazzaputt wrote:

Really sorry but cannot see what entitles him to carry an Olympic torch.

Well done for the weight loss but it isn't like overcoming a disease. Being obese is a lifestyle choice.

I don't understand in this country why we are obsessed with people that radically loose weight.

Not here for an argument or protracted debate, however obesity is a disease and a mental one at that, would you say a drug addict was making a choice ? a alcoholic ? people really need to wake up to obesity NO ONE chooses of there own free will to have a BMI of over 70 !

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TheHatter [770 posts] 6 years ago
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Well done Gaz, far better that you carry the torch than another inane celeb (Konnie Huq I'm looking at you).

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PJ McNally [592 posts] 6 years ago
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Well done Gaz, you are awesome!

(I've been following your amazing transformation since before I became a doctor. Obesity is a disease - and you've kicked its ass).

Also - let's not feed the trolls, shall we? People who don't understand that there's more than one kind of disease, I mean. Obesity's a disease that most of our society needs to face up to.

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shrinkinbggaz [100 posts] 6 years ago
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I never knew you were a Doc these days PJ, but then, I dont know you  4

Am not intending on feeding the trolls but, as a society we do need to be educated on Obesity, If the poster is a troll then I've wasted a few seconds, if the poster is simply un-educated then MAYBE, just maybe, we have helped educate one more person.

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Cauld Lubter [135 posts] 6 years ago
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I was never at 40 stones, but 143kg was enough for me and two years ago I started to lose it. I've lost 30kg so far and I have some idea of what Gary went through and have the same determination to never put it back on. Cycling has helped me immensely in my pursuit of an Adonis-like body  1
Well done, Gary and good luck with the torch thing.

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JonyEpsilon [10 posts] 6 years ago
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shrinkinbggaz wrote:

Am not intending on feeding the trolls but, as a society we do need to be educated on Obesity, If the poster is a troll then I've wasted a few seconds, if the poster is simply un-educated then MAYBE, just maybe, we have helped educate one more person.

I think it's really great to do what you've done, not just for yourself, but to do it publicly for the benefit of others. Too many people don't understand why it's not as simple as "just eat less". I've gone in a few minutes of reading your blog from never having heard to a fan! Hope you get to be a torch carrier ...

Jony

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gazzaputt [232 posts] 6 years ago
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shrinkinbggaz wrote:

I never knew you were a Doc these days PJ, but then, I dont know you  4

Am not intending on feeding the trolls but, as a society we do need to be educated on Obesity, If the poster is a troll then I've wasted a few seconds, if the poster is simply un-educated then MAYBE, just maybe, we have helped educate one more person.

I am not trolling I am offering a personal opinion.

For my view some who should be entitled to carry the Olympic torch is someone with outstanding service to their community or some who has shown great courage in over coming adversity. Such an example are the brave soldiers we see returning from Afghanistan who have horrific injuries that they have overcome. Jane Tomlinson would have been a fine ambassador.

Sorry I do not see someone overcoming obesity, as commendable as it maybe, being deserving to carry an Olympic torch. The benefit is for the individual and for the tax payers. Please don't get me wrong I do applaud what you have done to help yourself.

I standby by my view point of saying this is a lifestyle choice that then causes diseases to develop. Your post has not shown how obesity can be classed as a disease.

Good reading here: http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v25/n10/full/0801790a.html

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Matt_S [297 posts] 6 years ago
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Good on him for changing his lifestyle.

Chapeau, Gary.  1

Aside:  26

I personally don't think the 'less burdon to the taxpayer and NHS' thing makes much sense. The poor guy has been involved in a RTA that would no doubt required Police, Ambulance, and hospital treatment. As is sadly the case with a large number of cyclists on London's roads.

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Simon_MacMichael [2504 posts] 6 years ago
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One of the aims of London bidding for the Games was to improve the health of the population by encouraging people to get active and take up sport.

Britain already has a serious problem with obesity and according to current projections it is only going to worsen.

In that context, I don't think there are many better candidates for showing what the ordinary person can achieve than Gaz.

Perhaps one in 5 million British people will win an Olympic gold medal next year.

But I reckon what Gaz has achieved is more valuable, and what's more it's a goal that millions could reach if they set their minds to it.

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DanGot [27 posts] 6 years ago
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gazzaputt wrote:

Really sorry but cannot see what entitles him to carry an Olympic torch.

Well done for the weight loss but it isn't like overcoming a disease. Being obese is a lifestyle choice.

I don't understand in this country why we are obsessed with people that radically loose weight.

Being obese is a life choice for some but for many they don't even know that is happening till is too late, not everyone is aware of a healthy life style and millions of us can't even afford a green or two a day!!!

It is not easy to lose few pounds here and there but this chap lost 27s, got himeself into shape and save himself from a journey to an early grave. That's important, more important than the torch, carrying the torch or even the olympics itself.

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OldRidgeback [2826 posts] 6 years ago
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Losing that much weight thru cycling is a major achievement and Gary Brennan is exactly the sort of person who should be a torch holder. He's shown major weight loss CAN be achieved and is a great example to those who need to do the same for the sake of their health, not to mention the saving to the NHS. Yes I'm sure there are plenty of veterans from Afghanistan too who have suffered appalling injuries and who should also represent the UK by being torch bearers, and I'm sure they will also figure in the plans.

Well done Gary, you've got a lot of respect from MOST of the people posting here.

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ortonangel [14 posts] 6 years ago
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Loving the before and after photos!

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ortonangel [14 posts] 6 years ago
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gazzaputt wrote:

Really sorry but cannot see what entitles him to carry an Olympic torch.

Well done for the weight loss but it isn't like overcoming a disease. Being obese is a lifestyle choice.

I don't understand in this country why we are obsessed with people that radically loose weight.

So would you say that anorexia is also a 'lifestyle choice'?

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Gunders [5 posts] 6 years ago
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Awesome effort. Well done you!