Healthy Living: We’re fit for life after centre added extra Zest

Working out: The Unwin family, mum and dad Lisa and John and daughter Katy, aged 15, at the Zest Centre.
Working out: The Unwin family, mum and dad Lisa and John and daughter Katy, aged 15, at the Zest Centre.
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Katie Unwin knew she wanted to lose weight - but as her mum Lisa admits, the teenager was tired of being urged by her parents to change her eating habits.

However, once 15-year-old Katie, from Middlewood, heard about the social enterprise Zest and the health schemes it runs at its centre in Upperthorpe, she decided to sign up and transform her lifestyle.

Lisa said the results have been ‘fantastic’ - and now she and Katie’s dad John have both started to reap the benefits of health and fitness too by joining Zest’s exercise programme.

The centre is a designed as a ‘healthy living hub’, housing a swimming pool, gym, exercise studio and community café, as well as the local library, an advice service and IT facilities.

A scheme called Zest for Health offers help and support to young people aged between seven and 15 who are overweight, while Zest is also commissioned by the council to run the citywide exercise referral programme.

Although the organisation’s programmes are designed to be fun and enjoyable, they have a serious intent, aiming to boost participants’ health through activity and an improved diet.

Nationally, more than half of cases of type two diabetes and almost a quarter of heart disease diagnoses are linked to obesity, while 9,000 premature deaths a year are caused by carrying too much weight.

In Sheffield alone, more than 2,800 primary school children were classed as overweight or obese last year, and in 2011/12 there were 3,555 obesity-linked hospital admissions.

“We were really happy that Katie joined up,” said Lisa, aged 42.

“We were trying to get her to eat healthier and lose some weight, so it was a bit better that she was asking to do it, rather than us forcing her to go, because she is 15 after all.

“She was eating lots of sweets and chocolates, anything she could find around to eat.

“Before I had children I was a chef, and cooked lots of different things, but then everything just slipped.

“You resort to convenience foods and frozen meals and don’t bother about your eating as much.”

Katie saw an advert for Zest on a tram during the summer holidays last year, and signed up for the young people’s weight management programme the next day.

Whole families are included in the sessions, which focus on learning about food - covering topics such as portion control - and building physical activity into their daily lives.

“She enjoyed it and the leaders were making the activities really fun,” Lisa added.

“There was a lot of encouragement. They also did an hour of talking about healthy eating and which foods they could swap or change from their diet.”

Since seeing her daughter’s success, the mum has now lost 5kg in weight through exercise, and John, 56, who has diabetes, is hitting the gym too.

“I’m really happy with the weight loss, I’ve lost 10cm around my waist and hips,” Lisa said.

“I think Zest is a fantastic place, the staff try the best they can to help everybody.

“I’d say to anyone, come and try it - I’ve had the courage to do it, and it’s changed my family’s lives.”

Janet Skirrow, Zest’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted the Unwin family have achieved such great results on our programmes and they should be very proud of themselves.

“They have really changed their lives for the better.

“Our team are incredibly supportive to our families and are very motivating. I am sure many people will be inspired by the Unwins.”

Visit or call 0114 270 2040 for more information.