After a period of illness and a series of surgeries, Karen (pictured above, left) found it hard to bounce back to her old self. Although her physical health was generally improving, she was still feeling low.
“I’d always managed to maintain a good weight before my illness,” Karen says, “but even though I’d recovered from my operations, things weren’t the same. I had no energy, I felt low and suddenly I couldn’t seem to keep the weight off like I used to.”
One of the things Karen used to enjoy was cooking. But since her illness, she’d stopped spending time in the kitchen and instead would grab something quick and easy.
“I was tired all the time,” she says, “so I just wanted a quick fix. But those quick fixes had to be cheap, too. So instead of cooking from fresh, I was just grabbing a snack or a ready meal at the end of the day.”
Karen mentioned how she was feeling to her GP during a routine appointment, and her GP asked if she’d be interested in a free 12 week Lifestyle Programme.
“I jumped at the chance!” says Karen. “I’m on my own at home, with quite a tight budget, plus I work all day so I’m short on time, too, but I could fit in an evening class. And it wouldn’t cost me anything! I felt like I was being offered a chance to take advantage of free help with all the things I’d been worried about, so of course I said yes.”
The 12 week course
The Lifestyle Programme is part of the new Solihull Lifestyle Service. It replaces the Solihull Lighten Up service, and is designed to be a distinct 12-week behavioural change course, rather than a slimming group that people continue to go to indefinitely. The group Karen went to was at the Bosworth Community Centre in Fordbridge, North Solihull, but we hold meetings at a number of community venues in the borough.
By the end of 12 weeks, we hope the people who attend won’t only have lost weight (and all of the participants on Karen’s course had indeed lost weight by the final session) but will have made the changes required to keep the weight off. We don’t want the people we work with to be attending weight management groups forever; we want to give them the tools they need to make the changes themselves.
“A real boost”
Karen says that she enjoyed the programme because she didn’t feel pressured to lose weight.
“The course leader was really supportive and I liked the fact that it wasn’t all about getting your weight down – it was much deeper than that,” she says. “It was really educational. It’s not just buying branded diet meals or allowing yourself a certain number of ‘naughty’ foods. I feel like I’ve actually been on a proper course and learned a lot about food and how the body works.”
One of the big revelations for Karen was the fact that her low energy and low moods might be caused by the type of food she was eating.
“I thought I was knowledgeable, but a lot of the things I’ve learned here have shocked me. It turns out I was in a vicious circle. After learning about healthy fats, and salt and sugar levels, I realised that the quick meals were just sapping my energy and making me feel worse.
“I’d also stopped buying some of the things I really enjoy eating, like smoked mackerel and avocado, because I was under the impression that if they contained fat, they must be bad. Now I’ve learned that they’re OK and you actually need some of that in your diet.”
Thinking about food in a new way was the kick-start Karen needed to get back into healthier eating habits and to start cooking again. She says she’s already got more energy than she has had in years, which has stopped her downward spiral and given her motivation.
She says, “This programme has given me a real boost. It’s made me go back into the kitchen and spend time making nice meals again, from scratch, with the type of fresh food that I really want to eat. And the more I do it, the more energy I have to do it – it’s like I’ve found my mojo and I’m doing what I love again!”
Here are some of the things that attendees learned on the course, which they told us were “eye openers” for them:
- The “traffic light” food labelling system, showing how much fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt is in your food
- Portion control, with examples and easy ways to measure out the right portions of popular foods
- The importance of drinking water, and how staying hydrated helps your body to process everything
- Cooking healthily on a budget: simple recipes including a pizza that costs a quarter of the price of a takeaway
- The Change4Life mobile app, which you can use when shopping to scan food items and make healthier choices
The Lifestyle Programme is part of the new Solihull Lifestyle Service, offering a range of tailored health and wellbeing advice and support to help you make positive lifestyle changes. If you live in Solihull, or have a Solihull GP, call 0800 599 9880 and ask about signing up — or complete an online referral form.