POPULAR Halls Gap resident, Ned Leithhead, was the centre of attention when he appeared on the first episode of the television series Bringing Sexy Back on Tuesday night.
Ned was one of thousands of Australians who applied to be part of the series, which aims to change the lives of people who have gained enormous amounts of weight and bring their sexy selves back.
For Ned, his reasons for wanting to undergo the life changing transformation were simple. He had met the love of his life and wanted nothing more than to marry her. He also wanted to pursue his dream job of driving road trains in Broome. The self-proclaimed truck lover had been driving the road trains, but gaining 70 kilograms in just two years, which lifted his overall weight to above 170 kilograms, saw his dream shattered.
The most frightening aspect of the weight gain, was that Ned's body fat content had reached 44%, which put him in the morbidly obese category. It was time for change.
With the assistance of Bringing Sexy Back, in particular host Sam Armytage and personal trainer Cameron Byrnes, that change was about to arrive.
Ned's journey started with a surprise visit from Armytage, who escorted the 28-year-old truck driver into the Sexy Truck, where cutting edge scanning technology was used to measure Ned's weight and body fat.
He was alarmed himself to learn the extent of the damage and how threatening it was to his health, at such a young age.
Always determined, Ned said he would do whatever it takes to strip the weight off and he wasn't kidding.
From the first training session with Byrnes, which involved a brisk walk to the Pinnacle, Ned showed plenty of determination and each day, started feeling better about himself.
Byrnes stayed at the family home, which was hand built by Ned's father Ian and mother Blanche, for an entire week. Along with Ned's sisters Angela and Blanche, there was plenty of support for his mission.
An ice bath following the Pinnacle walk, a rude awakening the next morning for a vigorous training session and a week of Commando-style training regimes were all new to Ned, not to mention the strict change in diet.
Beer, rice cream, potato chips, meat pies and vanilla slices and his favourite, massive beef steaks with mushroom sauce, were all off the menu. Now it was poached eggs, salads and skinless chicken. It all came as a big shock, but Ned himself knew the changes would bring results.
"It's a big change, but I'm prepared to do whatever it takes," he said.
Once the first week was up, Cameron Byrnes left the Leithhead home, leaving the responsibility with Ned himself and his close-knit family to continue with the work and the support.
Mother Blanche took on the role of swimming coach, attending each morning with Ned and Angela to take him through his paces. This resulted from a previous session with Byrnes, where Ned, employed as a lifeguard at the Halls Gap Pool which the family has run for more than 20 years, struggled to swim two laps and then perform a mock rescue.
He was out of breath when Byrnes ordered him to swim back out and bring his loyal girlfriend Becky to safety.
This prompted Ned to stand himself down as lifeguard and commit to continuing with the training.
However, suddenly there was a threat of bringing Ned's hard work undone, as two separate bushfires broke out in the region in January.
Ned, along with other community members, banded together to support the firefighters in their efforts to bring both the Grampians and Black Range bushfires under control. To make matters worse, the entire township of Halls Gap was evacuated as it came under threat. All this time, Ned's main concern was for the family home, the farm and his parents.
"All he could think about was mum and dad and making sure we were safe," father Ian said in an emotional interview with Sam Armytage.
"That's just his nature. He wasn't worried about himself, just us. It chokes me up sometimes."
Ned did resume training and continued to shed the weight. When stylist Jules Sebastian (Guy Sebastian's wife) stepped in to complete the makeover, Ned was down to 125 kilograms, with a body fat content of 28 per cent. He said he felt alive, felt strong.
The community never wavered in their support for Ned throughout his journey, nor did his parents, sisters or girlfriend Becky. They were all on hand and cheering when Sam Armytage introduced the new-look Ned at the Halls Gap Valley Lodges and Function Centre.
The icing on the cake was Ned getting down on one knee and proposing to Becky, which she accepted, bringing a fitting end to a touching story about one of Halls Gap's most popular characters.