Weight loss wonders
Debbie and Brendan Byrne lost more than 60kg together by binning takeaways in favour of a healthy diet.
Rewind a few years and the Byrne family's diet consisted of Chinese takeaways, kebabs and pizzas. Debbie Byrne, 45, who lives in Essex with her husband Brendan, 41, and their four children, knew this wasn't ideal.
"When you both work full-time, it's hard to find time to cook. Brendan and I had struggled with our weight for years. I could see that three of the children were gaining weight, too."
By early 2006, Debbie and Brendan, who are both police officers, each weighed 104kg (16st 4lbs). On a visit to his doctor, Brendan was told he had high blood pressure .
Meanwhile, Debbie's self-esteem was at an all-time low because of her weight and she was taking medication for depression.
"When we heard about Brendan's blood pressure, we knew we really had to act," she says. "Our eldest child, Rhiannon, is 21. She was 79kg (12st 5lbs) and around 9.5kg (1st 7lbs) overweight."
Their son Liam and youngest child Ciaran, 13, could also have benefitted from losing a few pounds, says Debbie. "I didn't want the children to grow up to face the same health problems as us."
When a friend recommended local slimming classes, Debbie booked a slot for herself and Brendan immediately. "It was quite daunting at first," says Debbie. "But we soon both found the classes an enormous support."
At weekly meetings, a consultant provided advice on diet and exercise, while group members were encouraged to share their experiences.
"At home, I started cooking with less fat," says Debbie. "I changed from white bread to wholemeal and we started eating lots more fruit."
A food system devised by the club consisted of a diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and lean meat. Dieters are also allowed "sins", or small indulgences for which you plan ahead.
By August, Debbie had lost 19kg (3st), and Brendan had lost 25kg (4st). "There's flexibility in the diet, and that was important for the children," says Debbie. "But they could see the good it was doing us."
Soon, Rhiannon, Liam and Ciaran had also started to lose weight. Along with weight loss came an energy boost. The family started running together, and Debbie joined a gym.
By May 2007, Debbie had reached her target weight of 64.4kg (10st 2lbs) and dropped from a dress size 20 to a 10. Brendan had dropped to his target of 80.7kg (12st 10lbs). Daughter Rhiannon had lost 9.5kg (1st 7lbs) to achieve a weight of 70kg (11st), while the other children also lost weight.
"It's so good to know that the children's weight is under control," says Debbie. "Weight loss has done wonders for my self-esteem and I'm no longer reliant on antidepressants. Brendan's blood pressure has dropped to a normal level, too.
"Life is so much better at a healthy weight. You feel great and people see you differently. I only wish I'd done this years ago."
Begin your weight loss journey with the 12-week weight loss plan.
Learn more about a healthy diet in Eight tips for healthy eating.
There's lots more information and advice in Lose weight.