SLIMMING off the pounds for most people has long been one of those irritatingly frustrating ‘pingpong’ lose it, gain it games – a preoccupation that never seems altogether achievable but one we have learned to live with. Not anymore, the Government has put the issue right up there on their agenda and with the dramatic increase in childhood obesity in recent years introduced a £372m strategy to help everyone lead healthier lives.

To help us achieve this healthy optimism, the Government has set itself an ambition of being the first major country to reverse the rising tidy of obesity and overweight in the population.

In our own county there’s lots of talk, action and results and thankfully, commonsense and practical thinking, too, which draws attention to lifestyle choices rather than diet and losing weight.

The Herefordshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) has recently released their first batch of national child measurement figures and here Slimming World consultant Liz Clarke talks candidly about today’s problems and 10-year-old Poppy Faulkner tells how she shed five stone.

The Government strategy included a national child measurement programme where each child is weighed and has their height taken. Herefordshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) was one of the trusts to roll it out into schools in 2006 and have had their first batch of statistics Figures reveal that one in five reception year child and one in three Year six were either overweight or obese.

PCT obesity manager, Catherine Floyd said the first year’s results are in line with the national increase give a snapshot of overweight and obesity within the county and the data will help assess where to target resources, such as improving access to physical activities.

“Obesity and being overweight increases risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes and causes untold suffering for individuals, their families and cost to the economy as a whole.

“Being overweight has become normal and several times a day individuals are confronted with decisions and environments which have an influence on their weight whether it be choosing what to eat or how active to be. Children, particularly need help and support from all of us to guide them on to a healthier and happier life,” she said.

Obesity rates is one of the most significant public and personal health challenge facing society with nearly a quarter of men and women now obese and trends for children causing huge concern with 18% of two to 15-year olds currently obese and a further 14 per cent overweight with indications that nearly 60 per cent of the UK population could be obese by 2050.

These dramatic figures prompted obesity expert, Philip James who develops policies for the Government, United Nations and World Health Organisation to term obesity a ‘crisis’ equal to the climate change threat.

Slimming World consultant, Liz Clark from Hampton Dene has never been busier at the classes she holds in and around Herefordshire with numbers which include both adults and children reaching an all time high and says people’s weights are increasing because of a combination of fast evolving modern technology, pre-packed food, busy lives and lack of exercise.

“Not so long ago we’d walk most places, we wouldn't dream of taking the car for a short trip and children always walked to school. In the evenings there would be television but only for a few hours and no computers so we made our own entertainment “Our diets are full of fat sugar and salt and these are all things that slow down the metabolism. People have to learn to eat sensibly and that doesn’t mean giving anything up, it means being reasonable about what you do eat. it’s a necessary change in lifestyle, a more active routine and everyone needs to be education.

“I believe that most people who have a weight problem, have an emotional one first and children are no exception and susceptible as anyone else. We think we can fill the hole, the gap or the ache with food but we end up overeating because it’s not food that it’s looking for. We all think food is the answer, emotional balance is the answer,” she said.

Poppy’s story TWELVE-year-old Poppy Faulkner, of Newton Farm, Hereford, began her campaign to lose weight while at primary school and with extraordinary willpower has lost five stone in 15 months.

Poppy took control and adopted new eating habits because she was so unhappy with the way she looked.

The youngster who at the age of 10 would come home from primary school, lock herself in her bedroom and cry fought back with exceptional resolve.

“I was so unhappy and miserable,” she said.

“I couldn’t concentrate in class and when I played sports like cricket, couldn’t hit the ball.” Poppy started losing confidence and both school and parents became anxious and worried.

Her dad, Adam, said they had countless tests carried out at the hospital to find out why the little girl was putting on weight but each one came back inconclusive.

“It wasn’t making sense as we have very healthy food,” he said. “My wife, Donna, is a chef and always cooks from scratch with plenty of vegetables.” To make matters worse, Poppy’s elder brother, Jake, aged 16, and 15-year-old sister Ruth are both slim and ate what they wanted.

“The doctor referred her to a slimming club and told her that it would be tough but Poppy wanted to do it,” said Adam.

Poppy attended Slimming World and with the support of consultant Liz Clark and her new band of friends she started a different eating regime.

“When I first went to the slimming club, I hated my body and I hated the way I looked. I couldn’t do anything as I had no energy and I couldn’t wear any of the clothes my friends wore but most of all I hated feeling fat and not worth anything.

“At first I thought it was my fault but Liz always made me feel good about myself then as I started losing the weight and feeling better, I realised it wasn’t my fault,” she said.

Shy and quiet, Poppy began changing and as she shed the weight, gained in confidence.

“I’m at my proper weight for my height but I know I will always have to watch how and what I eat,” she added.

“I probably have the type of body that can’t take carbohydrates with proteins but I don’t miss any of it because, for the first time in forever, I am happy. I love shopping for clothes and being able to exercise and play games and I feel good about myself.”