They’ve been on a hardcore diet and a punishing training regime, but Portsmouth’s Biggest Losers are celebrating now the challenge is over. SARAH FOSTER finds out how they got on – and who lost the most.
There were tears and tantrums along the way. But three months after their punishing diet and fitness regime began, Portsmouth’s Biggest Losers can look back on what they’ve been through with pride.
In January, eight News readers were given a life-changing opportunity to banish their unhealthy habits for good.
Put through their paces by the personal trainers at 24/7 Fitness, at Gunwharf Quays, they had the chance to turn their lives around. All they had to give in return was 100 per cent commitment.
Two of those chosen didn’t make it to the end. But for the six remaining contestants it’s been an emotional rollercoaster they wouldn’t have wanted to miss.
Together they’ve lost more than 19 stones and all know their health and fitness levels have improved. Daily workouts and a super-strict five-day eating plan has meant they’ve all lost weight.
Yet there could only be one winner – and it’s mum-of-three Emma Hine, 34, who takes home the prizes after shedding an incredible four-and-a-half stone.
Emma, from Havant, went into the challenge weighing 15st 7lbs. Son Lewis, now 10, is recovering from a brain tumour and as his main carer, Emma had to juggle taking part with looking after him and his sisters Chloe, 11, and Jessica, eight.
But she was desperate to get fit for herself and her family.
‘I wanted to feel good about myself again,’ she explains.
‘I had got really low and depressed. I knew I wanted to be here in 10 years’ time for my kids, but I had got to the stage where I didn’t want to go to the park with them because I didn’t have the energy.’
Emma impressed trainers Gary Lockwood and Jess Eacott with her determination and focus. She worked hard, stuck to the diet and lost 10 per cent of her body fat, 13.5 inches off her waist, nine inches off her hips and four inches off each thigh.
‘I’d got to the stage where I didn’t care what I looked like, I had no confidence in myself,’ adds Emma, now a size 14.
‘I was really unhappy but my husband, Wayne, says my whole personality has changed. I’m so much fitter. When I wake up after six hours sleep I’m not tired.’
Everyone bonded during the experience and say they couldn’t have got through it without Jess and Gary’s support, advice and expertise.
‘After day one I’m surprised I went back, it was that hard,’ remembers Emma, who wins a 12-month membership and personal training package with 24/7 Fitness, plus prizes from Gunwharf Quays including a hair cut, colour and restyle at Trade Secret and a brand new outfit from Hobbs.
‘I remember doing the first challenge – running along the seafront – and going home in tears.
‘I thought “I can’t do this”. But it got easier. The guys at the gym were fantastic. I wanted to do it for them as much as for me and it helped having a supportive family at home.’
Gary, the gym’s managing director, adds: ‘I’m really proud of everybody. It just proves if you watch what you eat and you exercise you can do it. There are no barriers – you just need to do it.’
Jacqui Martin, 46, from Cosham
Starting weight: 13st 7lbs
End weight: 10st 7lbs
Total loss: 3st
Jacqui wanted to take part to improve her blood pressure. She was worried about her health but after the last three months she knows she’s now heading in the right direction. Her blood pressure has improved and her energy levels have soared.
At times the exercise was as a shock to the system – especially during the first challenge when the group had to run from Clarence Pier in Southsea to Eastney and back.
But she didn’t give up and loved being with such a great group of contestants and trainers.
‘It just proves you can do it,’ she adds. ‘You don’t need pills or silly diets, just a lot of hard work, a supportive family and friends and a good gym.’
Gary Watson, 44, from Copnor
Starting weight: 17st 10lbs
End weight: 15st
Total loss: 2st 10lbs
Gary’s the first to admit he found sticking to the tough diet a real challenge. But he stuck at it and his reward has been a renewed passion for running, lots more energy and a kick-start ahead of the fitness challenge he’ll undertake in May.
Gary applied to take part because he wanted to get fit in time for a two-day charity cycle ride from Bournemouth to Brighton. Now he’s feeling pumped up and ready to go, knowing that he’s much fitter than he was in January.
‘I’m glad I’ve done it,’ he adds. ‘I’m going to carry on now with the cycle ride. I doubt I would have been able to lose that much weight on my own and it’s really going to help me.’
Steve Cox, 30, from Gosport
Starting weight: 18st 4lbs
End weight: 16st 1lbs
Total loss: 2st 3lbs
Steve’s been so inspired by the experience that he’s already signed up for the Bognor 10k and the Great South Run.
He might not have lost as much weight as the others but his fitness levels have improved dramatically and his body fat percentage has consistently gone down.
Steve applied to take part because he didn’t want to be an embarrassment to his two children.
‘I felt fitter about four weeks in,’ he adds. ‘I managed to win the early challenges and I was probably fitter than the others right from the start. It was nice to do the seafront run again and shave just over 20 minutes off my original time.
Amy Street, 29, from Copnor
Starting weight: 15st 6lbs
End weight: 12st 11lbs
Total loss: 2st 9lbs
When Amy celebrates her 30th birthday in June she’s planning to do it in style with a party and a new dress. She had dreaded reaching the milestone overweight.
Her social life has been non-existent for the last three months as exercising for at least an hour every day, six days a week, with a weekly fitness challenge on Sundays, has taken its toll.
But Amy says she wouldn’t have missed the experience: ‘The first week I did think “You must be joking”,’ she laughs.
‘I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. But by the second week it got easier. It’s true what they say, exercise is addictive.’
She adds: ‘It’s definitely changed my life and my attitude towards diet and exercise. I was always trying to lose weight and feel healthy but I know what I need to do now and how much commitment it takes. I was just kidding myself before.’
Katie Shepherd, 23, from Bedhampton
Starting weight: 21st 5lbs
End weight: 17st 5lbs
Total loss: 4st
Despite the punishing exercise regime and lack of junk food, Katie’s enjoyed every minute of the experience – especially the weekly challenges. She loved running up and down the Spinnaker Tower steps and covering the miles on the rowing machine.
As a result she’s never felt fitter and has already signed up to the gym and will work with Gary to set a plan for the future.
When Katie applied to take part she’d had a shock. A dietician had told her she was so obese that unless she changed her ways she’d be lucky to be alive in 10 years’ time.
‘It’s been a great experience, I’ve really loved it,’ says Katie. ‘I’ve got the gym bug now. I know a lot about healthy eating. I know what to eat and that I need to do exercise a few times a week. I feel healthier now so I should be alright.’