The inspiring weight loss journey of Leicestershire's BBC One Gladiators star Zack George

Composite photo of Zack George as a child and in the BBC's Gladiators
-Credit: (Image: Supplied/BBC)


Leicestershire’s Gladiators star may be a picture of peak fitness now, but he wasn't always in perfect shape. Zack George managed to transform his body - and his life - on a journey that led all the way to him being crowned the ‘UK’s Fittest Man’. But insecurities about his weight dogged his adolescence.

Zack, who lives in Sileby, became a household name earlier this year after bagging a coveted role on the BBC’s reboot of the 90s classic, Gladiators. Zack, who is a personal trainer and runs his own gym in Queniborough, became 'Steel' for the new series - a Gladiator who may look daunting, but deep down is kind and encouraging to competitors.

This may very well be a case of art imitating life. Zack, who was severely overweight as a child and dealt with his confidence and mental health struggles by binge eating, is now an advocate for children's fitness, dedicated to helping young people "take charge of their own health".

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An overweight Zack George as a child
Zack struggled with his weight and confidence as a child -Credit:Supplied

The impacts on a young Zack were severe. The 12-year-old was so self-conscious that he hated being seen without a shirt in any circumstances. Speaking previously to LeicestershireLive, he said: “School swimming sessions were the worst. I just hated having to take my top off. I would avoid that situation any way I could.

“I knew my weight was a real problem but I just put my head in the sand about it. I tried to shrug it off.”

Zack continued to pile on the pounds until a breaking point came in his teens. His dad's offer of a Playstation in exchange for losing weight was the start of what would become a mega weight loss journey and transformation. Teenage Zack changed everything about his lifestyle, ditching the junk food and focusing on getting fit and active instead - something he says he surprisingly enjoyed.

He said: “We did not use scales but you could see the weight had fallen off me and I got the PlayStation. Result. That was great and for the first time I felt good.”

Zack never looked back and continued to train into his 20s. In 2020, he secured the ‘UK’s Fittest Man’ title after winning the UK CrossFit challenge and is so strong now that he can lift 220kg - the equivalent of three-and-a-half washing machines. This year saw his TV debut as Steel on Gladiators - a role he will return to for its second series - and hopes his newfound TV fame can inspire others struggling with their weight.

Zack George now complete with many muscles
Zack hopes to inspire as many as possible with his fitness transformation -Credit:Supplied

That’s why Zack has launched Zactiv - a fitness initiative for school children of all ages. It aims to engage children with the benefits of being as healthy as they can be, with age-appropriate grouping helping children aged between three and 16 learn crucial life lessons. Workshops are taking place across the East Midlands, but there is hope to expand them further and encourage more kids to be healthy.

Zack said: “When I go into schools, the children just go insane. Seeing someone in their school who they may have seen on TV just the weekend before... they just lose their minds. I want to use my story and profile to inspire children and young people to take charge of their own health. The impact of eating rubbish can have such a negative impact on not only physical but also mental health. By promoting exercising regularly and eating healthily we can turn that trend around.”

Zack knows firsthand how improving fitness can open doors to many struggling within themselves - whatever their age. He said: “As a child, I wasn’t happy in my own skin but with the support of my family and my dedication to achieving my goals, I turned this around with exercise and healthy eating. I want to be a role model for children. I hope that my story will inspire any of those children struggling with their weight or fitness and show them just what can be achieved.

“This is an extremely personal mission. I want to give back. I want to show every single kid that anything is possible. If I can make a difference and help even one child to become fitter and healthier it will be an absolute privilege.”

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