Every five minutes, someone in the UK suffers a stroke. It’s the fourth biggest killer and being overweight is one of the most significant risk factors.
The good news is that there are simple things we can all do to reduce our stroke risk, and we’re sharing our five expert health tips to help.
First, though, we’d like to share the inspiring story of Jamie Woodend, 30, who lost 4st 1lb after a stroke scare motivated him to turn his health around…
And if you’d love to lose weight, you can find out more about joining Slimming World here.
Sitting at my desk in the call centre, I felt worse for wear. At first I thought I was coming down with the flu, then I began to sense that something was very wrong. I had a strange sensation running down my left side, and I quickly ended a call with a customer so I could take a breather.
I used to work in a hospital, so I knew what the signs were pointing to. In my head, though, I thought: “I’m too young to have a stroke, aren’t I?” My workmate noticed I wasn’t looking good and insisted that I go to the doctor. The doctor took one look at me and called an ambulance to take me to hospital.
Fortunately, I suffered no lasting effects and left hospital after five days, but the experience left me feeling increasingly concerned about my health. I have cerebral palsy, a group of conditions that affect movement and balance, and I’d been told for years that maintaining a healthy weight could help me manage my symptoms. But at 27, I thought I had plenty of time to get my health back on track before I had to worry about serious illness.
“I knew I had to do something about my weight”
Then, in October 2018, I sat on the bed after getting out of the shower and heard a loud crack. The bed had broken under my weight. A few days later, I told a friend what had happened and admitted that I was getting worried about my weight. “I’d like to lose a few pounds, too,” she said. “Let’s join Slimming World together.”
I’d actually joined a group once before and lost a few pounds. It was a half-hearted attempt, though – I didn’t stay for IMAGE Therapy and soon went back to my usual takeaway burgers for dinner. This time I knew something needed to be done, and I decided to give it a proper go.
“I was heaviest I’d ever been”
When I walked through the doors of Sally Dale’s group in Darlington, I immediately felt at home. Everyone was in it together – sharing ideas and strategies, celebrating the wins and having a laugh along the way! Listening to other people working through their plans, high points or struggles got me thinking differently too – it helped me put things into perspective and stay focused one week at a time.
It had been years since I’d last weighed myself, so when Sally led me over to privately step on the scales, I had no idea what to expect. I saw the number flash up on the screen and was too shocked to speak. I was 17st 10lbs – the heaviest I’d ever been.
Although knowing how much weight I had to lose knocked my confidence a bit, I went home from group that week determined to give it my all. Armed with my new Food Optimising knowledge, I swapped my takeaways for home-made dinners like burger in a bowl, jacket potato with tuna and sweetcorn and cheeseburger pasta. And I never felt hungry once!
All the same, when I went back to group the following week, I couldn’t help doubting whether it was really going to work. Then I found out I’d lost 5lbs! I got a great round of applause and felt a rush of excitement as I realised I could actually do this.
“Snacking was my biggest challenge”
Sally invited me to share what had gone well that week, and then asked if there was anything I’d struggled with. “I think my biggest challenge is snacking at work,” I said. “I’m always being offered chocolates, biscuits and crisps, and sometimes it’s hard to say no.” Sally encouraged me to find Free Food alternatives that I’d be happy to swap to, and the other members gave me some great ideas to try.
It was great to realise losing weight didn’t have to mean missing out. I could still enjoy a snack at work – Slimming World just helped me make different choices. By going to group each week, and learning more about myself as a slimmer, all the preconceptions I had about losing weight began to fall away.
“Rediscovering my love of swimming”
As the pounds came off, I was able to move around more without feeling out of breath and my balance improved. I’d heard the other members talking about activities they enjoyed doing and watched them picking up their Body Magic awards in group – and I decided I wanted some of that for myself.
The beauty of Body Magic was that I could choose any activity that I wanted. I’d had a gym membership for years, but I always found a reason not to go. Now felt like the perfect time to put it to good use, by making the most of the swimming pool.
I changed my route home from work so that I had to walk past the gym, and I packed my swimming kit so that I had no excuse not to go. Although I felt a bit self conscious when I first got into the pool, I quickly realised no one was paying me any attention and I really enjoyed that first swim.
Now I’m at my target weight of 13st 8lbs, and it’s a great feeling to know that I’m doing the best thing to keep my heart healthy by eating well and exercising. And now I’m back in my real-life group, with Sally and the other members there to support me every week, I’m confident that I’ll never go back to where I was three years ago.
I feel fitter and more energetic than I have in years – and I’ve even found the confidence to sign up to a dating app. Although it’s been hard to meet up with people over the last 18 months, I’m enjoying getting out there and fingers crossed I’ll meet a special man soon.
Being rushed to hospital with a suspected stroke was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, but it had a silver lining because it motivated me to lose weight. And I’m so glad it did!