A CHARITY challenge saw a Darlington man lose nine stone in nineteen months.

Stuart Bell weighed in at 23st1lb when he was dared by a friend to embark upon a sponsored slim in a bid to lose three stone in three months.

At his biggest, Mr Bell was a heavy drinker who would eat five takeaways a week, fry-ups for breakfast and three burgers a time at McDonald’s.

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He was short-tempered with his family and struggled to get around, suffering from pains in his chest, legs and feet.

These days, the 42-year-old father is “half the man he was” and has completely transformed his life, maintaining a healthy diet and constantly exercising.

He credits the change to his decision to confront his problems by joining Slimming World, where he lost three stone in three months and raised £1,300 for Newton Aycliffe’s Education Centre for Children with Down’s Syndrome.

Mr Bell, who made the top ten in Slimming World’s national Man of the Year competition, said: “At my heaviest, it was so hard to get started in the morning, it was like I had to jump start my body.

“It was painful to walk for the first 20 minutes of the day but I tried to kid myself that I was alright.

“One of my friends convinced me that a sponsored slim would be good for me and good for charity but I was too big to go on normal scales so went to Slimming World.

“I got a shock when I stepped onto the scales there but it was my first realisation of how much I’d let myself slip.

“I put on a lot of weight after my father died and it got out of control, I needed to put a stop to it.

“In my heart of hearts, I knew if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here for much longer.

“My friends thought I wouldn’t be able to do it, so I told them to put their money where their mouth is and that I’d give them it back if I didn’t hit my goal.”

Mr Bell did hit his goal and kept going, dropping an astounding nine stone in total and crediting his success to cooking from scratch, taking up Metafit and setting himself small targets.

He said: “I’m the slimmest I’ve been in 30 years and it’s an absolutely brilliant feeling.

“Some people don’t even recognise me.”

Mr Bell’s daughter Megan, 17, said: “He had to do this, if he didn’t, god knows what would have happened to him.”

“We are so proud of him.”

In a typical day, Mr Bell will now eat a breakfast of oats, a lunch of stir-fried chicken and vegetables and a home-cooked Slimming World meal while snacking on fruit..