Tasburgh woman aims to change her life for good

When Becki Page from Tasburgh was faced with the prospect of having a gastric band fitted she decided to take matters in her own hands and lose weight by changing her lifestyle for good. Emma Harrowing catches up with her as she embarks on her weighty challenge.

As Becki Page sat in the doctor's waiting room near her home in Tasburgh the back pain that had been bothering her for the past few months was not letting up.

She was hoping that her doctor would give her some pain relief to give her respite from the ache, but the diagnosis she received shocked her to the core.

'My GP told me that my back pain was down to the fact that I was obese and that it was advisable that I had an operation to have a gastric band fitted,' says Becki. 'When he told me the reality of my situation hit me. I knew that I was big but I didn't think that my weight was putting my health at risk.'

Becki admits that she was na�ve to believe that weighing 24 stone when she was just 22 years old wouldn't cause health problems, but it was easier to ignore the problem when she previously felt in pretty good health.

'I work from home so it was easy to snack throughout the day,' says Becki. 'I would have three meals a day but I would reach for unhealthy snacks inbetween. I never felt hungry or full as I was constantly eating.

'After having my evening meal I would eat crisps, and not just one packet but a few.'

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Becki has been advised by her doctor to lose 15 stone or face having to go through the risky and extreme operation of having a gastric band fitted.

Says Becki: 'I told my doctor that I didn't want surgery for something that I had caused and so I have decided to totally change my lifestyle by changing my diet and taking regular exercise.'

Becki contacted the Sportspark at the University of East Anglia to see if they could help her in her quest. Here she found the guidance she needed to make the gruelling challenge of losing 15 stone become a reality.

All of the fitness advisors at Sportspark are sports graduates and can provide advice on both fitness and nutrition. They can also give you motivation to reach your goals.

'I chose Sportspark as it seemed the less daunting place to exercise,' says Becki. 'My view of the gym was always one of lycra-clad skinny people who would laugh at my attempts to use the equipment, but the gym is nothing like that. The people exercising are all different ages, shapes and sizes and everyone is too focussed on what they are doing to bother about watching anyone else.

'Saying that I was nervous the first time I went to the gym, but after one session I feel more excited about the prospect of losing weight and getting fitter.'

Before she started her fitness regime Becki went to see Rob one of the fitness advisors at Sportspark. She was asked to fill in a food diary for one week which would show everything that she had eaten and drunk and she also had a fitness test to access her current level of fitness. Both were carried out in conjunction with advice from Becki's GP.

The results were shocking. Becki's diet was high in fat and low in fresh fruit and vegetables. Becki would skip breakfast in favour of a diet cola drink and a slice of white toast and then snack on crisps throughout the day. Cheese, milk and processed food were her staple foods at meal times.

Sportspark fitness advisor Rob put together Becki's new eating plan: 'There are lots of processed foods in Becki's current diet which lack nutritional value. Fresh fruit and vegetables are packed full of vitamins and minerals so it's important they are included in every meal. Soup is an ideal way to eat vegetables in winter.

'Just by making a few changes to her diet Becki will be eating healthier. Making sure that she takes time to have a proper breakfast will prevent her from snacking and overeating at lunchtime. Replacing crisps with rice cakes or a cereal bar will reduce the amount of fat in her diet, as would cutting down on milk products, cheese and chocolate, and replacing white bread with granary.

'The main problem Becki has is overeating out of sheer boredom. As she starts to get active she will notice considerable changes in her body and energy levels.'

The most astounding part of Becki's food diary is that on some days she wouldn't drink anything until about 4pm in the afternoon, or she would start the day with a diet cola drink.

Says Rob: 'Consuming your first drink of the day at 9.20am is not a problem, but consuming your first can of fizzy drink at this time may be.

'There is a massive lack of water in Becki's diet so this should be addressed straight away. The sweeteners in diet drinks will increase energy levels but will reduce fat-burning enzymes meaning that it is harder for her to burn fat.'

This combined with the fact that Becki doesn't do any exercise had turned her into a health time bomb.

Becki's decision to make positive changes to her lifestyle could only reduce the risks to her health.

The Sportspark has come up with a fitness regime that concentrates on cardio exercises that are good for burning fat such as running on the treadmill and using the rowing machine and cross trainer. At first these exercises are low resistance to get Becki's body used to exercising. Gradually the number of reps will increase and her exercise program will increase in intensity as her fitness levels improve.

Once Becki has lost a bulk of her weight her fitness program will include weights which will help tone up her body.

Says Becki: 'The guys at Sportspark have been great and there is always someone on hand to remind me how to use the equipment or answer any questions I have.

'My fitness regime is closely monitored so that I lose weight safely.

'I have been set monthly targets which I hope I can meet.

'I'm not looking for a quick fix and I'm not expecting to lose weight quickly. I don't care how long it takes me to lose the weight I need to lose, I just want to totally change my lifestyle by eating a healthy diet and exercising and I want to keep this up for the rest of my life.'

The fitness advisors at Sportspark have come up with a healthy eating plan for Becki. Gone are the days when she could just sit in front of the television and gorge herself on high-fat snacks, instead Becki would eat three nutritionally balanced meals a day and if she needs a snack in between she can have two snacks a day from foods such as a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts or a cereal bar.

Becki's new diet is based upon the Eatwell Plate, a government initiative developed by the Food Standards Agency which helps you plan your meals around how much protein (meat and fish), carbohydrates (pasta, rice and potatoes), fruit and vegetables, dairy products and high fat foods you should consume.

All of Becki's meals are now based on this idea which will ensure that she has a nutritionally balanced diet.

Says Rob: 'If Becki uses the Eatwell Plate to make up her meals she will be eating the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals. Becki's meals currently consist of chicken dippers and haddock in the same meal or a round of toast – neither constitutes a full meal!'

The fitness advisors are already impressed by Becki's determination to change her lifestyle. Rachael Pellatt, fitness centre manager at Sportspark says: 'Becki has made the first step to improving her health by deciding to get more active. It will be tough for her but we will be with her every step of the way providing specialist advice and encouragement. It will also be a challenging and rewarding experience for our fitness advisors to help someone lose this amount of weight.'

Find out how Becki is getting on with her life changing makeover by reading her online diary. The link is at the top right of this page.