Northern Ireland

New year, new you? How a healthy lifestyle changed our lives

Jeanette and Steven Hanna Image copyright Urban Fitness
Image caption Through healthy eating and exercise, the couple lost a combined 15 stone

New year's resolutions can be easy to make but often far too easy to break.

Eleven years ago Jeanette and Steven Hanna, from Dundonald in County Down, didn't see the point in making any.

Steven, now 47, was 20 stone while 41-year-old Jeanette, weighed in at 17 stone.

But, in the second week of January 2009, after finishing off the last of their Christmas chocolates, they decided that now was the time for change.

'The fattest parents in the playground'

"We both had no confidence and low self esteem - we just hated how we looked and how we felt about ourselves but it was like no one could help and no one understood," Jeanette told BBC News NI.

"We were the fattest parents in the playground and we knew we had to do something - if not for us, then for our son."

Through healthy eating and exercise, the couple lost a combined 15 stone.

Image copyright Urban Fitness
Image caption Jeanette had been bullied about her weight from a young age

"Losing weight, we believe, has brought out the real us," said Jeanette.

"We are so happy and have a lot more confidence."

They are now qualified personal trainers and last year Steven completed his first marathon. They also recently became the proud owners of Urban Fitness gym.

A few years ago, they wouldn't have even dreamed of those things.

Image copyright Urban Fitness
Image caption Steven ran the Belfast Marathon in 2019

Steven says he spent all day feeling tired, walking any distance was "a struggle" and climbing a flight of stairs left him fighting for breath.

"It made him feel miserable, self conscious and very uncomfortable in his clothes," said his wife.

"He would feel paranoid, as if everyone was looking at him."

'The key is not to give up'

As for Jeanette, she had been bullied about her weight from a young age.

"I hated how I looked, I could barely bend over to tie my shoe laces," said the mother-of-one, who worked as a slimming group consultant before turning to personal training.

"Unless you have been there you will have no idea how it feels."

Image copyright Urban Fitness

Jeanette says the couple still struggle with food at times, but the key is not to give up.

"If you hit a hurdle, get over it and move on. Once you get a few weeks over and start seeing results that will inspire you to keep going.

"Exercise and healthy eating is not only good for the body but the mind too."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe County Down pensioners getting a sweat on

Her sentiments are echoed by Elma Davis, who is in her 80s.

For the past 18 months, she has been taking part in Sit Less classes at Bangor Aurora Aquatic & Leisure Complex.

"I thought: 'I'm sitting too much, I definitely need some exercise so I'll see how it is,'" she told BBC News NI.

"You couldn't help but enjoy it. We do upper body, arms, legs, and everything."

Image caption Elma Davis started exercising last year after her friend suggested she try the fitness class

The pensioner has noticed a huge improvement in her mobility.

"I dread to think what it would be like if I hadn't come," she said.

"I've met some lovely people and made some very good friends, and after the class we go up to the café and have a coffee.

"It definitely does help, you know it's doing you good."

More on this story