The UK government is encouraging millions of adults to kick start their health and reduce their risk of serious illness, including COVID-19.

The campaign unveiled as part of the government’s new Obesity Strategy in July,  encourages adults to introduce changes that will help them work towards a healthier weight, with a suite of free tools and apps supporting people to eat better, drink less alcohol and get active. This includes a new app for the free 12-week NHS Weight Loss Plan, helping people make healthier food choices and learn skills to prevent weight gain.

Hameedah Aswat can attest to the campaign as she herself has been on a weight loss journey, after being overweight for many years following the birth of her children.  Although her weight gain was due to an underactive thyroid, the impact on Hameedah and her mental health was enormous, struggling to leave the house, her confidence was knocked, and even she admits being ashamed of herself.

Hameedah’s journey started in December 2016, when encouraged by her friend to go to her local Slimming World group in Batley. Like many of us when we start a weight loss journey Hameedah was terrified, but after being welcomed with open arms she was ready to begin.

The weekly meetings with other Slimming World members, was encouraging as they shared recipes, supported each other, and saw the change in Hameedah as she lost weight and reached her target goal.

Something that Hameedah says has encouraged her to do more.

“Last November I reached my target weight of 5 stone 4 lbs and I love being part of Slimming World and I always go on about it. My consultant Lynn encouraged me to become a consultant. That in itself has been another fantastic Journey. Now my mission is to help my community to do the same, because when people speak about weight loss, they think it’s all about salads and small portions, It’s not.”

The challenge for Hameedah is to help her community across Kirklees as she laughs when discussing the South Asian diet.

“A lot of the diet consists of lots of oil, we don’t buy the small bottles of oil, we buy drums of oil, we pour it, that’s how we cook. When we cook curries, its fried in oil”

The milestones reached by Hameedah

But through Slimming World Hameedah and her group, they talk about how they can make it healthier by swapping out the oil for a lower calorie alternative.

Throughout her journey, Hameedah has not been alone, her family have been there with her, supporting her decisions as they were aware of how she felt before. They saw the boost in confidence from the weight loss. They have gotten used to the foods that are suitable, but they still have Biriyani’s, Lamb Karahi, and other extra treats occasionally. They are eating healthier and feeling the benefits. With Hameedah’s husband even now struggling to eat foods cooked in oil, rather than the lighter alternatives.

Hameedah’s goal is to help other Asian families lose weight and tackle health problems by breaking down barriers with food.

“We can still eat the same food, it’s about our cooking methods, and the odd habits everyone has as well. Across the region there are lots of takeaways, dessert parlours, we can still have that, it’s about finding the healthy balance, which is important even more so now with COVID, with the links between COVID and obesity and diabetes. Especially as the Asian community has a high level of diabetes, which is so sad. So, I’d love to help my community.”

Dieting doesn’t have to be about salads

Coming out of the lockdown, everyone will have felt sluggish and perhaps comfort eaten a few extra things as we stayed at home more. Slimming World members themselves lost motivation on Zoom chats, rather than in a meeting hall. But Hameedah urges everyone to not feel guilty, we’ve lived through a huge pandemic, which could be the biggest thing we might ever face.

Slimming World are a support of the NHS better health campaign, they are working alongside them and in Kirklees, Hameedah is working with GP’s to refer people to Slimming World to send people needing help and support along to the groups.

Within Kirklees, Hameedah is the only consultant of South Asian heritage and she gets lots of messages on her social media where she posts her Slimming World journey of people asking if its true that she can eat biriyani on her plan.

Hameedah wants to change that though and is urging the community to come to the groups and help to break down the stigma associated with weight loss and to encourage everyone to live a happier and healthy lifestyle.  Hoping to bring through more South Asian consultants in the coming months.