Goodbye asthma – hello active me!

Goodbye asthma – hello active me!

70-year-old Joan Wilkinson’s breathing difficulties threatened to prevent her playing the golf she loves – now 2st 1lb lighter, she’s scored a healthy hole-in-one. 

She lives in Tanfield, County Durham, with her husband, Barry, and has a grown-up stepdaughter. 

"As I struggled up the hill on the 12th hole, gasping for breath, I had to stop. Wheezing, I took a puff of my inhaler and waited for my lungs to feel normal again. I felt like I was completing a marathon rather than a leisurely game of golf. My twice-weekly sessions had been getting more and more tiring, and my asthma seemed to be worsening. Would I have to give up my hobby?

"I’d been slim most of my life and, until the local mines closed, I’d worked in administration at the National Coal Board. The busy days had seemed to keep the pounds at bay, as there was no time for snacking. Then I retired, and suddenly I had so much more time to indulge my passion for baking.

"I noticed my clothes getting tighter – first going from a 12-14, then eventually finding size-16s wouldn’t zip up. From time to time I’d go on a quick-fix diet to lose a little weight, but it never stayed off for long.

Game over?

"I fell in love with golf when I joined South Moor Golf Club 40 years ago, which is where I met my husband, Barry – we’ll be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary next year.

"My heart sank at the thought that I might have to give it up. True, my asthma had turned into a bit of an extra handicap on the course, and my joints were being troublesome, but I was sure that once I stopped carrying around that extra 2st I’d gained since retirement, things would be different.

"I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to actually get around to it if Barry and I hadn’t gone out for dinner close to Christmas 2014 and posed for what should have been a lovely photo of us together. When I saw the picture, I was horrified: who was the big woman sitting beside my husband?

"Then, soon afterwards, I was at a party when one of the guests started talking about his daughter, Carole. She’d lost weight with Slimming World and had since become a Consultant herself. As luck would have it, her group was in Burnopfield, a village not far from me. I took this as a sign that I should join and do something about that 2st once and for all.

From my very first night at Carole’s group, I felt completely at home. She gave me a warm welcome and I felt ready to take on the challenge of trying out a new way to cook. You’re never too old to learn, after all!

"Before, I’d always used glugs of olive oil, so it was a shock when I found out just how high in Syns it was. I soon discovered how to make a tasty oil-free risotto or casserole by being clever with tinned tomatoes or stock.

"I planned a month’s worth of lunch and dinner ideas, then batch-cooked and froze portions of Food Optimising-friendly macaroni cheese, Chinese-style chicken or vegetable quiche. I decided that I didn’t want to use all of my Syns on my favourite cakes – and it was worth it to see the numbers on the scales go down each week. In fact, the only time I didn’t have a loss was when we were away on a cruise!

"I achieved my Club 10 award in April 2014 and by June I was at my target of 11st 2lbs, fitting back into my old size-12 clothes and feeling better than I had in years. I started baking again, too – though just as an occasional, Syn-counted treat rather than a daily indulgence!

I’m proof you can have your cake and eat it, as I’m still at target more than two years later. I love going to group every week – losing weight has made such a difference to me and it’s great to know I’m helping others to do the same.

"Even before I’d reached my target, I realised I was moving much more easily, including up and down stairs, which used to make my knees hurt and leave me breathless. I found I was using my inhaler less and less, and at my annual check-up the specialist asthma nurse told me that, unusually for someone my age, my lung function levels have stayed stable. She said that could be because my lungs actually have more space to function – and it certainly feels like I have more room to breathe.

"These days, I stride up the hilly parts of the golf course without getting out of puff and zoom across the fairway faster than some ladies 20 years my junior. Golf is about so much more than hitting balls: you’re out in the countryside, enjoying the fresh air and catching occasional sightings of deer and birdlife. I can hardly imagine that just a few years ago I thought I would have to give it up forever. Being slim has let me hold on to a real joy in my life, and that’s why I’m determined to stay this size for keeps." 

*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose

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