On 19th November when the world comes together on International Men’s Day to raise awareness of mental health issues and male suicide, a thirty-three-year-old businessman from Manchester will be reaching out to men who are on the brink of despair.
Thirty-three-year-old property developer and owner of Manjaros restaurant in Preston, Ibby Aslam didn’t always know happiness and success. He suffered years of depression.
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.’
A few years ago, the death of two family members almost completely derailed Ibby’s life.
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, got into trouble 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.”
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’.
Chantelle, a make-up artist from Manchester, 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.
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 Tyson Fury’s physio Matt Towey 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 men 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.
“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.
“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 I call myself The Fitness Motivator by offering physical fitness training and mentoring to men who are suffering from depression and anxiety.
“I am not a professional counsellor but by sharing my experience and offering support 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!”
If you would like to reach Ibby, DM him at Instagram @ibbysk8 and Facebook Ibby Aslam.