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(From August 2013) Slimmers Niamh O’Neill-Munro and Hayley Russell have lots of reasons to celebrate after losing over 3 stone between them.

As well as looking great and feeling fitter, Niamh 18 and Hayley 17 have been named Young Slimmers of the Year 2013 at the Hoo St Werburgh Slimming World group in Hoo. Now their win could see them reach the national finals of the competition, where they will be in with the chance of winning £2,000.

The competition celebrates Slimming World’s bright young things, recognising 16-21 year olds who’ve transformed their lives by adopting healthier eating habits and getting active. Obesity is a huge problem for the younger generation and research shows that overweight teenagers are likely to continue to struggle with their weight as adults and develop weight-related conditions including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol*. So Niamh and Hayley’s weight loss and healthy lifestyle isn’t just great for their health now but for their future wellbeing too.

Life was very different for Niamh and Hayley just a few months ago. They were unhappy with their size, their self-confidence had taken a knock and sometimes they felt like the odd one out with their friends. But Niamh and Hayley joined their local Slimming World group at the Jubilee Hall in Hoo, which is run by Ash O’Neill, and began their transformation.

Hayley says: “I started going to group with my Mum 8 weeks ago and I was really nervous the first time I went, I felt a bit embarrassed and I thought everyone would judge me for being overweight at such a young age. But I couldn’t have been more wrong, everyone was really friendly and kind. I settled in quickly and I’ve made lots of friends – of all ages. I love going to group and seeing everyone each week now and I’m nearly a stone lighter too!”

Niamh and Hayley began following Slimming World’s Food Optimising healthy eating plan, which encourages slimmers to fill up on healthy foods and make small changes to the way they shop, cook and eat that make a big difference to their waistline, like swapping white bread for wholemeal or fast food burgers for homemade. They say: “The eating plan was completely different from what we’d expected. We thought losing weight meant not eating very much or cutting out your favourite foods. Talking to other members in group and sharing ideas, we’ve learned a lot about food and can cook lots of recipes ourselves now. Being hungry isn’t a worry and we can still enjoy favourite meals like burger and chips or Sunday roast, just cooked more healthily.”

Niamh who starts university in September has blossomed since dropping from 12 stone 5lb to 10 stone and she no longer feels like ‘the odd one out’. She says: “I love being able to wear the same clothes as my friends having dropped from a size 16 to a size 10 and enjoy going out with them more now I’ve lost weight. I’ve got so much more energy, I walk everywhere and am looking forward to doing lots of swimming on holidays this summer. I used to feel self-conscious about doing anything physical like that in public but I don’t anymore – I’m too busy having fun!”

Ash O’Neill who runs the group, says: “Everyone in the Hoo St Werburgh group is so proud of Niamh and Hayley. They’re a huge inspiration. They’ve learned healthy habits that will stay with them for life so worrying about their weight is definitely a thing of the past. Obesity in young people is such a huge problem and it affects how they feel about themselves as well as their physical health. Now Niamh and Hayley have the skills to make healthier choices and are much more confident too. I hope they’ll inspire other young people in the area by showing them that there’s no better time to take control of their weight than right now.”

Everyone from the age of 11 upwards is welcome at the Hoo St Werburgh Slimming World group at the Jubilee Hall, Pottery Rd every Thursday at 5.30pm and 7.30pm and young people aged 11-15 can attend for free when they’re accompanied by a parent or guardian and have the approval of their GP. It’s a great way for the whole family to feel healthier. For more information visit www.slimmingworld.com or call Ash O’Neill on 01634 250170 07733 264751.

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