Three councillors are showing their support for Wolverhampton’s fight against obesity by publically tackling their own weight issues.
Councillors Paul Sweet, Stephen Simkins and Daniel Warren have set themselves the challenge of shedding the pounds – and they’re taking to social media to chart their experiences along the way in a bid to inspire others to do the same.
The proportion of adults who are overweight in Wolverhampton is far too high and the city’s Director of Public Health Ros Jervis used her 2014 Annual Report as a “call to action” for organisations, businesses and individuals to team up and try to tackle the problem.
Obesity is associated with a number of serious medical complications – from diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, respiratory problems and liver disease to stress, anxiety, depression and infertility.
National surveys estimate that some 69.8% of adults in Wolverhampton are overweight or obese, compared to a national average of 64%, and rates may rise still further.
Councillors Sweet, Simkins and Warren are about to embark on personalised weight loss programmes, tailored by health trainers from the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust, after undergoing a healthcheck earlier this month. During that session, the trio underwent a health assessment – having their height, weight and BMI measured and cholesterol levels checked – and discussed exercise and healthy eating.
Bushbury South and Low Hill Councillor Paul Sweet said: “Weight problems have been an issue for a few of us in the family, but mine really got out of hand in my late teens when I began to gain weight rapidly. Dieting worked for a time, but invariably I would gain the weight and slip back into bad eating habits.
“It’s always bothered me that I couldn’t do every day activities with my family that many people take for granted – and I often feel quite self-conscious when out and about.
“I’m very excited about the weight loss programme and being able to share my experiences – and hopefully other people will be inspired to tackle any weight issues they may be facing at the same time.
“I know I need to make a big change to my diet and to exercise more, so I’m hoping to get support with meal planning and advice about how long, and often, I should be exercising.
“Ideally, I want healthy eating and regular exercise to become something I do as the norm, and not plan for. I’ve also set myself a milestone of taking part in next year’s Wolverhampton Cycle Marathon for charity and eventually climbing Mount Snowdon and completing the Coast to Coast cycle challenge with my wife, Debbie.”
Bilston East Councillor Stephen Simkins said: “I’ve been overweight since I was about five years old. I was the only kid in my class at St Martin’s Primary School who couldn’t climb to the top of the rope in PE.
“You name the diet, I’ve tried it – but none of them have worked. I’m getting close to 50 now and I’m well aware of the risks I am creating to my health.
“This will be my first proper attempt to get in shape. It’s not going to be easy, but I’ve already given up smoking and found that very easy, and so I’m confident I can apply the same determination to this challenge.
“It’s important for me to understand that this isn’t a diet, rather a lifestyle change. It’s also important that I am still able to enjoy my life – just not to the detriment of my health.”
Bushbury North Councillor Daniel Warren said: “I had periods in primary school when I was overweight but I lost of lot of it in secondary school; at the time I was playing a lot of football.
“However, since then I’ve put on a lot of weight, not least because I’ll pick up a takeaway on the way home from evening council meetings. I also worked behind a bar for a number of years which didn’t help and recently saw an old picture on Facebook which showed me just how much weight I’d put on.
“I had a gym membership at one point but never used it because I had no one to go with and so was very unmotivated. I’ve tried dieting which hasn’t worked either.
“I’m determined that I need to lose some weight and I’m going to give it my best shot. I’m going to have to get more active, reduce food portion sizes and cut back on alcohol, fast food and junk food.
“As well as losing weight, I’d like to get myself back to my physical peak when I was 18 or so and be able to play football regularly again.”
Councillor Sandra Samuels, Wolverhampton City Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Obesity is a ticking time-bomb and the rates of obesity in Wolverhampton, particularly among our young people, are far too high.
“Being overweight or obese has a fundamental impact on people’s lives, not only in terms of their health but also their quality of life. It’s therefore vital that we as a city face up to the problem and do all we can to address it.
“I am really pleased that my fellow councillors are taking part in this challenge. Admitting that you have a weight problem can be a very hard thing to do – and admitting that you need to do something about it is even harder. I hope their efforts over the coming months inspire others to do the same.”
People can follow Councillor Sweet’s experiences via www.twitter.com/slimlinesweet, Councillor Simkins will be tweeting via www.twitter.com/slimmingsimkins and Councillor Warren will be providing updates at www.twitter.com/dietingdan. People can also watch a short film as the trio embark on the challenge at http://bit.ly/cllrweightloss.
In her Annual Report, entitled Weight? We Can’t Wait, Mrs Jervis called on organisations like the city council, businesses, charities, health professionals, families and individuals to work together to help tackle the obesity epidemic in Wolverhampton.
She said: “There is no silver bullet to reducing obesity and it won’t be a quick fix, but we know that by getting organisations like the NHS, the city council, schools, businesses and the voluntary sector to work together with individuals and parents and families, we can make a real difference.”
Organisations across the city will come together to discuss the problem at a special summit about obesity in Wolverhampton in the autumn.
To read the Director of Public Health’s Annual Report, please click here: http://bit.ly/1kOrSiP. For healthy living advice and tips, please visit the NHS’s Change4Life website at www.nhs.uk/change4life.