WHEN Matt Fruci was just 11 years old, he was diagnosed with anorexia and hospitalised.

Now 27, Matt is not certain why the eating disorder overwhelmed him at such a young age, explaining that genetics, an obsessive personality and an allergy to wheat might all have been influencing factors.

He remembers a family holiday to Butlin’s as the low point – when instead of enjoying a special time with his family he avoided involvement, focused on not eating and felt very low indeed. His parents were so concerned, they sought medical intervention.

It is hard to imagine now, as Matt is a picture of health — he is a personal trainer and in 2014 came second in a National Physique Association contest.

But he is using his earlier struggles with eating, and his keen awareness of people’s thought processes and tendency to self-sabotage, to help women improve fitness, lose weight and tone up.

“I’m in charge of that now,” he says. “I developed a way of managing it, and I think it has made me a better coach.

“I have ideas that can work with clients about how to set goals and overcome obstacles. That’s where you can get your breakthrough.

“Everything I have been through has helped me create a system, so I can help others.”

Matt, who has lived in Marlborough for the last four years, was born and grew up in Swindon. He went to the Ridgeway School, and as a boy was keen on football.

Coming from an Italian background meant pasta was a key ingredient in meals, and he suspects an allergy to wheat, which was not diagnosed till later, contributed to the development of his dislike of eating.

“I lost interest in food and became quite obsessive. It was a control thing, and I had low confidence and self esteem – I was quite shy,” he said. “I became scared of eating.”

He received help from a consultant in child psychology.

“It is hard to understand why people will not eat, but I would try to avoid it, I would play around with it. You have a rational side which thinks this is ridiculous.”

Matt credits his older brother Tom for helping him recover, as he could see his brother was eating and enjoying himself. “Tom was living life,” he said.

But soon after, the family suffered a devastating loss. Matt’s mother Maria died suddenly, following a brain haemorrhage. His father Frank was left with two sons, aged 16 and 12, to bring up alone.

“I am so grateful to my dad for what he did for us,” Matt said.

The loss of their mother meant the boys had to be more organised and responsible, contributing to the running of the home. Matt also got into the habit of training, and achieved his black belt in Tae Kwon Do at the age of 13.

After A-levels, he went to Loughborough University, where he gained a Master’s degree from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences.

He worked in football coaching and started work as a personal trainer, but aged 24, went back to university and gained another Master’s in Human Nutrition at Oxford Brookes University. Matt began blogging and writing about food and exercise, and found more people were asking him for advice.

Matt is determined to help people achieve their health and fitness goals without making them feel they are giving up the good things in life that make them happy.

“I want people to be doing the least amount of exercise and eating the most you can, while getting the results they want,” he said.

To illustrate the point, when Matt was taking part in the Natural Physique Association competition, he took part in the heat a week before his stag do and two weeks before his wedding – then had the final a week after his wedding, with all the associated celebratory drinking and dining.

At the end of 2014, he set up Fruci Fit and decided to focus on a personal training practice that focused on helping women improve their fitness and lose weight.

“I resonate better when working with women,” he said. Now he has a 10-month-old daughter, Ottile, and says he understands what a challenge it can be, fitting in healthy eating and exercise when you have a job and children to care for.

He admits he tried fad diets, compared himself to others and did not like what he saw in the mirror – and that this affected his life and relationships. Now he wants to help others make positive changes.

Matt’s approach is to make small but consistent changes, by choosing simple daily habits that can be added even on the busiest and most stressful day. That might mean starting with just a three-minute work-out – if you do it every day. The all-or-nothing approach to exercise and dieting is what causes many problems, he thinks, and we need a more moderate and manageable approach.

“Half assed is better than no assed,” he said.

“I really put everything into this job, for every client’s issues and their struggles, I always listen,” he said.

Matt has around 35 clients on his books now, with two groups in Marlborough as well as online clients – including one in Australia.

He has also written a book called Shift: Helping Busy Ladies Think Differently And Get Their Bodies Back, which is available from Amazon.

For more information, visit Matt’s website frucifit.com.