"We've lost six stone together and have never felt better"
PUBLISHED: 10:22 26 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:34 26 February 2019
Ipswich couple Allie and Paul reveal how a Suffolk County Council initiative has improved their health and set them on the path to weight loss.
I meet Allie Catchpole-Fisk and Paul Fisk in the Ipswich art gallery and emporium that salutes that 50s and 60s.
The artistic director of Subterranean Boulevard in St Peter’s Street, Paul arrives with a box full of books, He is gradually ferrying in a 2,000-book library which will soon be on the shelves in the gallery.
While they may have gained a lot of books, the couple, who married in 2016, have also lost a lot of weight - three stone each. And it has taken them just five months.
Last year, Allie and Paul made the decision they needed a change of lifestyle and that they would do it together. Paul has Type 2 diabetes and it had reached a critical point.
“I was on the maximum dose of insulin − it couldn’t go any higher.
“They were saying I needed to get it under control - my blood sugar levels were coasting between 15 and 16 and they should be between six-and-a-half and seven.”
Both he and Allie, who suffers badly from neuralgia, recognised that they needed to address their health problems and, in order to do so, they needed to eat a healthier diet and take control of their every day eating.
But they also knew they did not want to go to the more conventional weight-loss organisations and in OneLife Suffolk, a partnership between Leeds Beckett University and MoreLife, commissioned by Suffolk County Council, they found their ideal option. It provides integrated healthy lifestyles services including effective weight management as well as physical activity, giving up smoking and health improvement programmes. Its programmes focus on lifestyle change, concentrating on individual needs. It is not one-approach-suits-all.
In England, 61.7% of adults are either overweight or obese. OneLife Suffolk seeks to help change that, saying that reducing body weight by just 5% to 10%, health risks can be significantly reduced.
Paul and Allie explain that their 12-week course wasn’t about a weigh-in, a pep talk plus a handy booklet listing calories. It was about finding out why they had gained weight through comfort-eating and for each of them, it came down to having been unable to grieve properly for people they loved and lost.
Paul is a qualified addiction counsellor and he could see in himself the displacement of grief that had led him along a path towards too much alcohol and food.
“We looked at OneLife Suffolk and decided it was our best chance.”
The reason the couple decided to share their weight loss and lifestyle story was because they want to talk about the tremendous help and support they received from OneLife Suffolk. The 12-week course was held in a community centre near to their home at the Nacton end of Ipswich.
Early on it became clear to Paul what needed to change: “For me, it was portion sizes.” And there was also the small matter of pork scratchings, which he absolutely loves.
“Now, if I stress out, it’s more like a rice cake and I started eating a lot of highly-flavoured food, which helps.”
Paul says: “I lost my brother a few years back of cancer, and going back to when I was a kid they used to feed me when I was upset. And so food meant I felt better.”
But, recognising that and changing his approach to food has brought fantastic results.
“I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol - my cholesterol is now normal and my blood pressure has been under control since October. My insulin level was at 50 units a day and now it’s down to 18 and my sugar reading is between six-an-a-half and eight-and-a-half. The doctors and nurses say they can’t moan at me any more,” Paul smiles. “I was in and out of the clinic in two minutes.”
The difference is remarkable. He wears his belt 3.5” smaller. Two XXL jumpers that were too small for him are now baggy.
“I was 20-and-a-half stone and now I’m 17st 8lbs - three stone less.”
As well as being physically more healthy, Paul is more able to deal with mental struggles, helped by talking about them rather than battling on alone.
Both he and Allie are very disciplined - though not fanatical - about their eating. Paul says he might have a bit of chocolate as a treat but there has been a marked lifestyle change. “One of the things I have stopped doing is coming home in the afternoon and munching (on snacks). We have nothing with ‘red labels’ (nutritional information on foods).”
Paul hopes his permanent lifestyle changes may achieve his goal of no longer having to inject insulin and, “I want to run around with my grandson.”
Allie, who has also lost three stone in weight, down from 19st 10lbs to 16st 10lbs, adds: “We said we would do it together and we did.
“I was conscious I was burying my grief. I piled on the weight after my mum died (in 2010). We knew what we were doing but didn’t know how to stop.”
Before they decided things had to change, Allie says she and Paul would sit and watch telly and snack. “Meals were bigger and we did like takeaway food and eating out.
“Then, we just decided it was time (to change).”
And now? “I feel better because I feel I can breathe better - before, I felt I was struggling to breathe. I do feel a lot healthier.”
There has also been a “ripple effect” which has seen family members lose weight too. “They (at OneLife Suffolk) are brilliant. It’s about awareness.”
Having both achieved such amazing results, have Allie and Paul treated themselves to a whole new wardrobe of clothes?
Allie laughs and says: “I’m wearing the same clothes − I don’t want to spend money on clothes until we lose more weight.”