Thirty-eight year old Joanne Liddle had struggled with her weight all of her life. She hated going clothes shopping and was worried about the effect her health was having on her children.
"In February 2009 I decided to take action," says Joanne, a mother of three. "I realised I needed to change my lifestyle for the sake of my own health, and for my children's future health and happiness."
Determined to make herself feel better and to set a good example for her kids, Joanne embarked on a new fitness regime. "I used to get in the car to go around the corner, I never walked anywhere" she remembers. "But I started walking to work. It would take me about 40 minutes."
As she walked more and started to feel fitter, Joanne got herself a pedal bike and began exploring the different cycle routes around Hartlepool and Teesside. Her hard work started to pay off, and Joanne lost a fantastic 1.5 stones through eating more healthily and exercising regularly. She knew that she was doing well, but felt she needed a bit of help.
"I went to see my GP who put me in touch with Pam Cairns, a health trainer at Brierton Community Sports Centre. At our first meeting, I weighed 17 stones and five pounds. Since then, Pam has helped me get my weight down to 12 stones, seven pounds."
A free personal trainer
The successful health trainer programme is completely free. Clients attend 12 weekly sessions to learn about eating a balanced diet and how to make healthier choices by understanding food labels. The health trainers are on hand to keep their clients motivated, share tips to help keep things interesting, and even give out easy, nutritious recipes for clients to try at home. Instead of takeaways and ready meals, Joanne tucks in to delicious food that's made from scratch - by her husband.
"Pam gives me the recipes to try, I take them home and my husband cooks them up. It's cheaper than a shop-bought ready meal or takeaway, and you can still stick some in the freezer for an easy tea later in the week."
Since she stared the health trainer programme last year, Joanne has found that she has lots more energy. She's a member of Brierton Community Sports Centre - and she gets there by bike, of course.
"I used to have high blood pressure and I suffered from arthritis, but not anymore," says Joanne. "I love exercising - it makes me feel happy. I was even down at the sports centre on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. The way I see it, it's one hour out of your day, then you're done. And it makes you feel so much better."
A shining example
The successful health trainer programme has been running in Hartlepool for three years now. Pam - who is one of six health trainers based in community buildings across the town - is thrilled with Joanne's success. With Joanne's permission, Pam even uses her old food diaries to point new clients in the right direction. So why does she think that the health trainer programme works so well?
"Coming to see a health trainer isn't about going on a fad diet: it's about eating healthily. It's about eating in moderation so that it's easier to make the programme fit into your life and work for you. We health trainers are normal people and we understand what it's like to crave bacon butty!"
There's no doubt that Joanne has worked extremely hard over the past year, and now she's reaping the rewards. As well as lowering her blood pressure and making her more energetic, Joanne's new lifestyle has another perk: shopping!
"I love going clothes shopping now. There's a lot more choice, and it's cheaper, too. I don't have an ideal or target weight in mind, I'm just seeing how I get on... but I do have a nice dress in my wardrobe that's a bit too small for me! The thought of fitting into it keeps me going."
Could a health trainer help you?
Hartlepool's health trainers work with people on a one-to-one basis and with groups. If you are interested in joining the programme, visit our health trainer information page for contact details.
You may also be interested in free weekly weight management groups which operate from three different venues across the town throughout the week.