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Fixing Challenge: How are the four fixees getting on?

At the start of February, four people were chosen to be part of the Prudential RideLondon Fixing Challenge – the follow-up to the acclaimed documentary Fixing Dad. The project, led by filmmakers Anthony and Ian Whitington has seen Craig Russell, Maureen Webber, Adrian Higham and Cherry Kelly all tackle weight-related issues head on with the ultimate aim of completing the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 on Sunday 30 July.

We caught up with the Whitington brothers – who famously fixed their dad Geoff by reversing his Type 2 diabetes – to see how their new charges are getting on at the mid-way point of their journey.

We are three months into the Prudential RideLondon Fixing Challenge project now – how have you and the four Fixees been getting on?
Anthony Whitington (AW):
It has been a real life-changer for them all. When they all signed up they just thought they were signing up for the cycling. They had seen Fixing Dad, were inspired by that and wanted to do the same. But though Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 is the end target for them all, there are lots of other challenges that we have set them in order to get them on track which perhaps they were not expecting.

Each of them have very different back stories and now we are at half way, they are all at very different stages in their journeys. But all of them are focused on that one goal of completing the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100. For some, completing it will be the starting point to something bigger and a whole new life for themselves. For others their goal is just getting to the Finish Line.

What did you initially get Craig, Maureen, Adi and Cherry working on?
AW: The first six weeks was really about pushing the re-set button. We had some real arguments with some of them and there were some big challenges. We got them on a low-calorie diet to start with and that is really hard. We also took them to see Professor Roy Taylor who is a specialist in Type 2 diabetes where they each had health screenings.

After all the hard work, you took them away to the Highlands of Scotland for a group bonding session - tell us about that.
Ian Whitington (IW):
With everyone on a low-calorie diet, morale was getting a bit low and we thought ‘right, let’s take them away and get them thinking together about what the whole project is about’. We did the same with dad in Fixing Dad. We took him out of his environment and it really does work. It gives people the chance to reflect on what is important to them.

While we were in Scotland we went on some amazing bike rides and the scenery was amazing. It was a bit of a challenge for some of them, some of the hills went a bit beyond what they had been used to, but they made it up them and to watch them do that was really inspirational. 

It wasn’t just about cycling though, was it?
No, we did some tai-chi and taught them cooking and food skills to give them a bit more understanding about where food comes from. The main purpose of the trip was to bring them all together though. They all have their own Fixers or support riders but it was interesting to see how everyone overlapped and started to help each other.

Can you give us an update on how each of their progress, starting with Maureen?
Maureen had a big, emotional fight with cancer over the past couple of years. She has been in remission for some time but the chemotherapy took so much out of her she has a fear of starting something and not achieving it. That is a massive fear for Maureen, as is the cancer returning.

So the Fixing Challenge is very much about prevention for Maureen, preventing the cancer from returning. Although she has not got Type 2 diabetes, she has very high levels of insulin and that has massive repercussions for all cells in the body including the risk of cancer coming back. By reducing that level of insulin we are looking at reducing the risk of the cancer returning.

Craig was a Type 2 diabetic before the start of the Fixing Challenge – how has he got on?
Craig was 24 stone going on 25 stone at the start of the project and within six weeks of the Fixing Challenge he started to show significant weight loss. 

Craig has always been really interested in cycling. He has 16 bikes in his shed and is a real cycling enthusiast but his weight was inhibiting him from enjoying himself. He can now enjoy his cycling and is starting to lose a lot of the weight.

His whole family came up to Scotland with us and for Craig it is very much a family project. He has a wife Rachel, who is his support rider, and three children. They had all been eating, like most people, a high processed diet, but they have all got behind it and tried as much as possible to follow the nutrition plans and there have been such big differences already. It’s exciting for them as a family.

How about Cherry?
Cherry is an amazing, lovely, bubbly character. She is a police officer who works really hard, including a lot of night shifts, but she has always struggled with her weight.

She does not have Type 2 diabetes or any major health problems, but her mother has Type 2 diabetes and the threat is there. So whereas, with the other three, it is all about reversal, with Cherry it is about prevention. That’s why she is such an interesting case. 

Her husband, Ned, is her support rider and together they have changed what they eat and are progressing at such a fast rate. She is also making a huge difference in her community, talking to people about the project and they are right behind her.

And finally Adrian: how has he been getting on?
When we first met Adi he was quite immobile. He even found walking a challenge. He is this really cheery guy but when we dug a bit deeper, we realised that he had a lot of things in his past, especially around his ex-girlfriend who was killed in a really bad accident. Ever since then his health problems have got worse and he got to the point where he weighed about 36 stone which became his identity - he was the big guy called Hoof who sold antiques. 

AW: Adi had a lot more at stake and a lot more to lose than the others. When we took him to Newcastle for his scan with Roy Taylor he did not fit into the scanner. Only now is it starting to dawn on him that he can get over this.

The Prudential RideLondon Fixing Challenge will conclude with the four riders taking on the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 on Sunday 30 July.

They will be the centrepiece of a Fixing Challenge wave that will feature other riders and support riders who initially applied to be part of the Fixing Challenge but did not make the final four.

The Whitington brothers’ Fixing Challenge documentary will be released after the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100.