Ibby Aslam suffered years of depression when the death of two family members almost completely derailed his life

In support of recent campaigns to raise awareness of mental health issues and male suicide, a thirty-three-year-old businessman is reaching out to men who are on the brink of despair.

Manchester property developer and restaurant-owner, Ibby Aslam suffered years of depression when the death of two family members almost completely derailed Ibby’s life.

Now Ibby wants to shine the spotlight on men’s health and wellbeing issues by sharing his story and mentoring others, who like him have slipped into ‘the pit of despair.’

In 2010, Ibby’s much loved mother died and then a few years later his youngest brother was killed in a car crash after attending his friend’s wedding. Ibby went into a deep depression and as he puts it: ‘I spiralled down into the worst mental state of my life.’

He explains: “I was grieving for my mother and brother, but the feelings of unhappiness and utter hopelessness wouldn’t shift. I lost interest in the things I used to enjoy like training in the gym, mixing with my friends.

“I couldn’t sleep, I overate, lived off junk food, gained weight, and I couldn’t work. I felt worthless; my life was no longer worth living.

“Worst of all, I simply couldn’t picture a future.

Courage & Inspiration

However, it was Ibby’s passion for fitness and meeting the love of his life that eventually saved him. That, and the understanding that physical health and mental health are inextricably entwined.

“I finally built up enough courage to make change and I knew that I needed to focus on getting healthy.

“Even though I have a qualification as a PT instructor, I hired a very experienced PT called Carlton Macintosh.

“I told him that I wanted to lose my body fat and get into the best physical and mental shape of my life. After all, I’d wasted quite a few years.”

Ibby wasn’t just reclaiming his life, he was motivated to lose weight and get in shape for the woman he’d just met – Chantelle Scott, who he describes as his ‘dream girl’.

Make-up artist Chantelle, was a former kick-boxer who represented the GB team in Europe. She inspired him to throw himself into fitness wholeheartedly and transform his body.

Abby with Chantelle

Ibby explains: “Carlton and I looked at everything I was eating. He cut out the rubbish to create a healthy diet plan. Chantelle got me talking and motivated me.

“I started training twice a day, Monday to Sunday. In the mornings, I was doing heavy weight training and compound exercises like deadlifts, squats, pull ups, chest press, heavy lunge walks and a lot of mobility work.

“In the evening, I did 30 minutes of high intensity cardio work usually on the rowing machine and hill sprints on the treadmill.

“On top of this, I put in approximately 7,000 steps a day, which would take around an hour, five times a week. This really lifted my mood. “I even engaged a physio once a week to give me a deep tissue massage to help my body recover.

“However, meeting Chantelle was the biggest factor in my life changing transformation. She gave me a reason to get in shape and encouraged me to talk about my issues; women are so much better at sharing their feelings than we are.

“The fitness programme really made a difference to my mental wellbeing and although most men will not want to go to the level of fitness training that I have, daily exercise is vital to mental wellbeing.

“Let’s face it, even walking improves mental alertness, energy and mood.

Transformation

“When I started my body transformation campaign, I was 88kg/194 lbs. After 14 weeks I dropped to 72kg/158 lbs losing 18kg /36 lbs in all. I have lost a little more weight since.

“This really has been so much more than a weight loss journey for me,” Ibby adds: “In transforming my body I have been lifted from what felt like the pit of despair.

“I can’t say I will ever get over the premature loss of my mother and brother, but I am not going to waste another day of my life and now I want to help others.

“Life can be mentally challenging for all of us at times. These challenges suck our energy and life force. I now understand that if our mental state is weak, it will negatively impact our self-worth, our behaviour, all our relationships as well as our work.

“Men are particularly bad about seeking help when they need it, they often bottle-up their worries and are far less likely to go to the doctor than women when they need to.

“We all know that physical health problems greatly increase the risk of developing mental health problems, and the other way round.

“Exercise is a great way to keep physically healthy as well as improving our mental well-being because it releases those feel-good chemicals – endorphins in the brain.

“Now as a fitness motivator I am sharing my experience with others by offering physical fitness training and mentoring to men who are suffering from depression and anxiety.

“I am fully aware that many men believe there’s a stigma attached to going to a therapist and talking about their problems.

“I am not a professional counsellor but by offering fitness training and mentoring free of charge to those that really need it, I might be able to help to make a difference, even in a small way!

“Let’s face it, men need to get moving and talking!”

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