Like so many mums, Marian Way put on weight when she had her two children. Like most, she wanted to lose it.
She did – more than two-and-a-half-stones in five months – and it marked a dramatic turning point in her life.
For shedding those 38lbs set Marian on a course which would see her eventually set up her own company.
It was a move which would turn her into an international jet-setter, coaching people how to come to terms with their demons. All with a little gentle prompting.
Marian was teaching maths at Bishopsfield School, Fareham, when she had Charlotte and Jonathan and took time out to raise them.
‘That’s when I put on weight and with a friend for moral support joined Weight Watchers in Portsmouth in 1985,’ says the 56-year-old who went to the Northern Grammar School in Portsmouth, now Mayfield.
‘I liked the fact you got weighed every week. Everything about it motivated me and I managed to keep the weight off.’
That success inspired Marian to a logical conclusion. She had enjoyed teaching, so why not teach others how to lose weight?
‘Weight Watchers were looking for leaders for their meeting and I thought I’d love to do that so I ran the Portchester group for many years, the Southsea one and other people’s all over the area.’
She did that for eight years and in that time became an area trainer and during that period – the late 1980s and early 1990s – in conjunction with a friend, developed the revolutionary points plan on which Weight Watchers became based.
Marian, of Anson Grove, Portchester, used her Pure Maths background to help produce it. ‘One of the problems people have with dieting are that the numbers are so big – 500 calories for this, 700 for that, adding it all up every day.
‘Most people just can’t keep all that in their heads, so we thought why not divide it down.’
After months of work Marian and her colleague came up with a points formula which would take into account calories, bad fat and good fat such as Omega 3 in fish.’
For example it meant an apple might score half a point, a slice of bread, one and a bacon and egg sandwich, 10.
‘We developed a special calculator for which we got a patent. This meant that members could go around a shop, look at a packet of something which would contain, say, 350 calories and five grams of saturated fat, put it into the calculator and tell you how many points it was worth.’
The idea was submitted to head office in the United States and examined by nutritionists before it was adopted worldwide.
‘It took off like wild fire in 1996,’ says Marian. ‘Weight Watchers cancelled their marketing campaign after it was launched. They didn’t need it because word of mouth spread it.
‘It just went crazy. After all the hard work it was so satisfying.’
Suddenly Marian found herself commuting between Portchester and the US as she was asked to write 10 booklets for members about losing weight. One of them was called Points to Ponder. It was all about the motivation required to diet successfully and it marked another turning point in her life.
‘I’d been interested in what motivates people ever since I’d started running Weight Watchers classes and I now believe it depends on whether you are ready to do something, whether you have the ability to do it and whether it’s important enough to you.’
She began studying the subject and went to a conference in London at which there was a demonstration of a topic called Clean Language in which, by asking gentle, non-specific questions of a person you can get them to see how they can improve their life.
Marian volunteered to be put through the process for about an hour on the stage in front of the conference-goers.
She continues: ‘The next day I was walking around Tesco with Charlotte. She was 17 and probably had a Saturday job so was earning some money.
‘She was putting things in my trolley and I suddenly realised I was resentful of this and I had a pattern of being resentful running through my life.
‘I was resentful of her putting things in my trolley which I was expected to pay for.
‘There was this pattern of me thinking ‘‘I don’t like what that person is doing’’ but I would never tell them.’ So Marian booked herself into therapy with a couple called Penny Tomkins and James Lawley.
‘During the session and without them putting any words into my mouth, but just by asking non-combative questions, I described how I felt as though I had a stick in my hand on which I had a speck of dust.
‘I whipped up the dust with the stick until it got bigger and bigger until, to me, it was the size of a chair, a metaphor for a problem.’
But instead of confronting it she would place the chair above and behind her in ‘an attic’, out of sight. ‘I kept doing this with several problems, covered them all with a metaphoric cloth until, of course, they all came tumbling down.
‘In this session I realised there was a pattern and the key was the stick and instead of swirling it clockwise, if I went the other way, that represented doing something about the problem rather than letting it grow bigger.
‘I no longer have an attic, but I still have a stick and if I have a problem I’m now able to make a decision whether to confront it or let it go without a care.’
That revelatory experience convinced Marian about her new path in life – as a Clean Language coach running her own company and with clients around the world.
‘The key to motivation is that it needs to come from within and Clean Language is an ideal way to elicit that because it does not impose any ideas but draws them out instead.
‘So I did some more training with James and Penny and eventually I left Weight Watchers and set up my own company called Clean Learning.’
That has now taken her to clients in Russia, Australia, the United States and New Zealand. In December she will coach in Japan for the first time.
‘Who would have thought that little old me would have ended up doing something like this?
‘It’s strange how things turn out, but if it hadn’t been for putting on that weight after having the children none of this would have happened.’