She spent all day lecturing 300 university students on the benefits of exercise, yet she stood before them weighing in at 20 stones.
“I was a size 24 and it was embarrassing,” says Alison Purvis-Gisborne.
Her sports psychology job at Sheffield Hallam meant that deep down, Alison also knew the serious implications her weight had on her health – but chose to ignore them and carry on munching pizza, ice cream and chocolate biscuits.
Only when her doctor warned her there had been a drastic spike in her blood pressure did it pull her up short.
“I was horrified. I knew it could lead to an early grave and realised I had to change before it was too late,” says Alison, 37, of Dronfield.
She decided to join a Rosemary Conley Slimming Club, but couldn’t find one in her area. So she joined on-line at www.rosemaryconleyonline.com
Within the first month, she had lost 1st 4lb. “I was really honest with myself; you have to be if you’re not visiting a club every week. It’s very easy to cheat, but at the end of the day, you are cheating yourself,” she says.
Religiously, she wrote down everything she ate and never missed her weekly weigh-in on the bathroom scales.
“If I was struggling I’d go to the website’s forum and have live chats with other slimmers. There was also an on-line weight loss and exercise coach.
“I lost weight every single week,” adds Alison.
She started running, at first for 10 minutes at a time but building up to 30 miles a week – and she is even taking part in April’s London Marathon.
After 14 months, she was a trim size 12, having lost 9st5lb.
Alison was crowned Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness Magazine On-line Slimmer of the Year in January and is this month’s magazine cover girl.
“My life has changed beyond recognition and so have I – lots of people don’t recognise me.
“My blood pressure is healthy again too, but the biggest reward is knowing I now practice what I preach to my students,” she says.
Meet our eye-catching slimmers
Slimmers who reach goal weight often need to be given a new appetite for fashion, says Debenhams personal shopper Katy Spooner.
“They have got the body shape they wanted, but many successful slimmers find it hard to know how to choose clothes to suit their new shape.
“They are used to wearing loose things in dark colours to disguise their bodies. It becomes a habit that’s hard to get out of. And also it’s a confidence issue – even though they now look fabulous, it can be hard for them to believe that if they wear eye-catching clothes, people are going to be looking at them for all the right reasons.”
We took our three super-slimmers, Kyle, Alison and Angelina to Debenhams at Meadowhall for a styling session with Katy.
She encouraged them to go for slimmer, body-conscious fits and bold stripes, prints and colours – the very things they had never dared to wear before they lost weight.
Katy selected primary colours and bold florals for Angelina, who was a size 20 and is now a size 10 – a wrap-over blouse at £45 and £38 cobalt-blue cropped trousers, both from the Preen collection, plus blue suede wedges from Red Herring (£35) to add length to her legs.
Alison, who has also halved her size, dieting down from a 24 to a 12, stepped out in £45 skinny jeans and a bright, boho-style scarf-print top, £40, from the Star by Julien McDonald range, plus red patent shoes, £30 from Red Herring.
Kyle, 16, who once had a 37-inch waist and has reduced his BMI from 28.3 down to 20.4, stepped out looking lean and athletic in 32-inch waist jeans from Red Herring (£28). A slimline Ben Sherman striped polo (£40) and grey jacket (£64) from J by Jasper Conran gave him a smart but youthful new image.
Shine Health Academy is based on Alison Crescent, The Manor, Sheffield S2 1AS.
It offers free and confidential support and information and its next 12-week course starts in April.
Tel: 0114 2835955
Now I can wear ‘bold and bright’
Contentment made Angelina Ward pile on the pounds.
Happy in her second marriage, she loved her romantic nights in with her husband and a takeaway.
She took no notice as the pounds piled on, but when she got pregnant, she was shocked to read in her medical notes that the fat on her stomach had prevented the ultra-sound scan from getting a clear picture of her baby.
She vowed to diet after son Harry’s birth, and true to her word, the 33-year-old from Halfway enrolled at a Slimming World class at Birley’s Fairway Inn when Harry was four months old.
She lost a whopping 5lbs in her first week, started to walk with Harry’s pram more, took up Zumba and within eight months had shed 5st 4lbs, whittling down from a size 20 to a trim and shapely size 10.
She’s also become a Slimming World consultant, running a group at the Joseph Stone Centre in Mosborough every Monday.
“My class leader, Michael Longden, was so supportive I never felt I was alone and struggling,” she says. “I became a consultant so I could help people feel as brilliant as I do now.
“I’ve gone from fat and shy to a confident woman who can hold her head high.
“I adore clothes-shopping now, although it’s hard to know what to choose.
“I do find myself picking up the things I would have worn in my past life – baggy things in black.
“Having the Debenhams personal shopper show me I can wear bold prints and bright colours has been a real boost to my image and my self-esteem.”
Mum threw out the chip pan to help us
Rivalry with his little sister was what set Meadowhead pupil Kyle Vanes on the path to a slim new life.
When she started losing weight thanks to Sheffield’s SHINE Health Academy, a weightloss scheme aimed at helping children deemed clinically obese, Kyle realised he needed to do something about his size, too.
At 13, Kyle’s waist measured 37 inches. He could only wear men’s clothes and had to put up with taunts at school.
“People called me fat, but I used to brush it off and carry on the way I was,” he says. “It hurt when they wouldn’t let me play centre-forward in school football matches, but it was only when my sister started to change before my eyes that I realised I ought to do something.
“I suppose I was jealous of her. I wanted to lose weight, too.”
Kyle, of Gleadless, joined the healthy lifestyle programme Self Help Independence Nutrition and Exercise, which helps 200 10 to 17-year-olds a year to not only lose weight but to also increase their self esteem and confidence and to like themselves as a person regardless of their size and shape.
Over two years, he changed his eating habits, increased the amount of sport he did and gradually honed his body down to the perfect size and shape for a boy of his age.
At 16, he has an ideal Body Mass Index - and a 32-inch waist. “My whole family changed their eating habits because of SHINE,” he says. “Mum threw out the chip pan. We used to eat chips every night. Now I actually really like jacket potatoes!”
Kyle plays football and boxes. Sport is a daily activity and he’s taking a qualification to become a sports leader at SHINE, where the younger lads see him as a positive role model.
“I’m really proud to be able to help them,” he says. “I know what it feels like to be too heavy and to get teased for it.”
Kyle’s not only a glowing SHINE success story, he’s now a TV star, too – this month he appeared in an episode of the Channel 4 series Gok’s Teens with Gok Wan.
In the show Kyle and fellow SHINE graduate Jake Martin went to the Houses of Parliament to discuss the campaign aimed at increasing body confidence in schools.