“Never think you can't do it” - 3 inspiring weight loss stories

Shaista Khaliq

New Year diets don’t always last, but determination and long-term changes can help you lose weight. Sarah Brealey speaks to three people who’ve made those changes and transformed their lives.

“Never think you can’t do it,” says Shaista Khaliq, whose life has changed for the better since losing more than four stone (26kg). Shaista, 40, started to put on weight when she had her four children, now aged 13 to 19. In 2001, she had a hysterectomy.

Afterwards she wasn’t able to be as active, and gained even more weight. Daily life became a struggle. “I could hardly do anything. I couldn’t lift things. I couldn’t work for long without feeling tired and out of breath. I couldn’t do the gardening, which I love,” she says. “I felt quite depressed.”

My message for anyone who thinks they can’t do it is: ‘Yes you can. You can do anything’

She didn’t want to go out: “I thought people would be looking at me and talking about me.” But with the support of her husband, Jawaid, 44, a former welter weight boxing champion, and the BHF, she turned things around.

Shaista began attending boxercise and Bollybeats sessions organised by the BHF in conjunction with Bright Ideas Nottingham. “Once I started getting into exercise, it made me feel better,” she says. “Losing weight motivated me.”

She aimed to lose the weight gradually – which is usually a more successful way to keep weight off than crash dieting – and shed her four stone over four years. She has cut back on fried foods, fizzy drinks and sweet treats, and uses a BHF cookbook to make healthy meals. She also exercises frequently, enjoying running, cycling and swimming. She says: “I still have the occasional piece of chocolate cake, but I make sure I go for a run as well.”

Shaista Khaliq and her familyIn September 2014 Shaista achieved a lifetime ambition: she ran a half marathon. “I was so excited,” she says. “I couldn’t sleep for three days afterwards! I am already planning to do it again this year.” Jawaid, who now runs a boxing academy in Nottingham, is thrilled with the change in his wife.

“I have seen a massive difference in her health and in her confidence. She tries everything now – she does things that most Asian girls don’t do, like biking and swimming, and we recently walked up Snowdon on holiday with all the children.”

Shaista wants to inspire others to reach a healthy weight and exercise regularly. She says: “Lots of ladies put on weight when they have kids; they think they can’t do things. I used to think that. “I still can’t believe I have got to where I am and can do the things I do. My message for anyone who thinks they can’t do it is: ‘Yes you can. You can do anything.’

“I needed to change if I wanted to see my son grow up” Iain Bryson: lost three-and-a-half stone since his heart attack

My heart attack was the worst thing that happened to my family and friends, but the best thing that happened to me,” says Iain Bryson. “It pushed me in the right direction. I needed to change if I wanted to see my son grow up.”

Iain BrysonIain, 44, a civil service statistician from Belfast, has lost three-and-a-half stone (22kg) since his heart attack by eating healthily and taking regular exercise. “I have much more energy now,” he says.

Iain uses food labels to help make healthy choices. He avoids processed food and makes his own bread to control the sugar and salt content. He says: “Before, breakfast was a sausage roll or toast with butter. Now I have porridge with nuts and seeds.”

Iain admits he used to drink a lot, but has now cut back on alcohol, which is high in calories. He also avoids sitting down to watch television. Instead, he walks four miles most evenings and goes to Zumba twice a week. He says: “It’s a great way to keep fit. It’s enjoyable and sociable, and I’ve made friends. There is a real feel-good factor. I don’t like the gym, but I exercise at home and practise some tai chi routines. It’s relaxing and it sets me up for the day.”

I don’t like the gym, but I exercise at home and practise some tai chi routines

Iain says support from loved ones and health professionals is vital. His family and friends, especially son Joe, 13, encouraged him and have now been inspired to follow healthier lifestyles themselves.

Iain met Paula, a cardiac rehab nurse, in hospital the day after his heart attack. She explained the changes he could make to reduce his chances of having another one. With support from Paula and other professionals, he attended a cardiac rehab programme. “They talked me through my goals and any concerns I might have, and I could ring them when I needed to,” he says.

“Without their encouragement and support I would not be where I am now.”

These days, many people only have a short stay in hospital after a heart attack, and Iain thinks it’s easy to underestimate the importance of what’s happened and of making lifestyle changes. “When I had the stent fitted, I felt better straight away. You could go home and go back to your old habits, but it’s important not to do that.”

“Remember you are doing this for yourself and nobody else” Ged Oliver: lost three-and-a-half stone

Ged OliverGed Oliver, 51, an NHS manager from Leeds, dropped from 17st 7lb (111kg) to under 14 stone (89kg), a weight he hadn’t been since his 20s.

Ged has a family history of heart disease and had bypass surgery himself when he was 38, followed by an angioplasty when he was 45. He also has diabetes and sleep apnoea (a condition where breathing is affected during sleep, because the throat tissues relax, obstructing the airway), both of which are linked to being overweight.

“I had lots of reasons to feel sorry for myself,” he says.

But he set himself an achievable eating plan, with smaller portions and regular treats. He also took part in a BHF Health at Work pedometer challenge, which inspired him to start walking more. “The pedometer challenge came at just the right time,” he says. “It gave me the focus I needed.” Ged, who is married with two children, has now set himself a new target weight and says he feels like “a different person”.

My tip is to set yourself realistic targets

He says he has “yo-yo dieted” in the past, but now understands it’s long-term changes that matter. “My tip is to set yourself realistic targets,” he says. “And remember you are doing this for yourself and nobody else.”

Weight and your health

Everyone can benefit from eating well and maintaining a healthy weight. Being obese increases your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Research shows reaching and keeping to a healthy weight can cut your risk, because it helps prevent and manage conditions like high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, which also put you at greater risk of CHD.

If you are overweight, losing 10 per cent of your body weight can also improve your mobility, reduce breathlessness and reduce strain on your joints. Further, it can help improve your mood and self-esteem.

Related publications

More useful information