Mums credit free classes for transforming their health

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Karina Cruz with her daughter Saira

Two free healthy living programmes run by Guy’s and St Thomas’ are helping to transform the lives of residents in Lambeth and Southwark.

When Karina Cruz fell pregnant with her second child she was worried about being overweight and what impact it could have on her unborn baby.

After speaking to a midwife about her concerns, Karina signed up to the Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP) Community based Activity and Nutrition (CAN) programme, which is run by Guy’s and St Thomas’ and receives funding from the Big Lottery Fund.

The eight-week course encourages pregnant women from Lambeth to attend 60-minute weekly one-to-one or group sessions led by a health trainer. Participants are also offered a practical cooking session and can learn how to adapt recipes to find healthier ways to prepare family meals.

Karina, 35 from Tulse Hill, said: “Before I joined the programme in 2016 I did no exercise whatsoever.

“One of the things that really changed my life was being given a pedometer because I started walking to work – up to an hour each way.

 “Even now my daughter Saira is over a year old I constantly think about the choices I’m making.

“I've swapped my Oyster card for a pair of trainers and even volunteered to lead weekly walks around the local park for new mums and their babies – something I would never have considered in the past.”

A person is considered overweight if they have a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29, and obese with a BMI of 30 and above. The LEAP CAN programme is for expectant mothers with a BMI of 25 or more.

Nina Khazaezadeh, consultant midwife in public health at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “The LEAP CAN programme is not about dieting or losing weight. It is based on making small but specific changes to eating and activity to help support pregnant women in making healthy lifestyle changes to improve their health and their baby's health.”

Additionally, Guy’s and St Thomas’, in partnership with NHS Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group, has launched a free weight management programme for people who are registered with a Southwark GP.

Adebisi Osoba, a mother-of-three who had a BMI of 40, struggled with her weight for years but a photo taken with friends finally gave her the push to do something about it.

The 53-year-old nurse from Kennington said: “I love dancing but when I was at my heaviest I couldn’t wear high heels and dancing for three minutes would make me out of breath, which made me feel embarrassed.

“Now, I’m lighter on my feet, get to wear my heels with confidence and try not to show off on the dance floor.”

After signing up to the 12-week course in November 2017, Adebisi lost 7kg in seven weeks (more than a stone) and dropped four dress sizes.

The programme helps people to set targets, keep motivated and minimise relapses, teaches them how to read food labels and how to cook and eat healthily on a budget.

Ele King, specialist diabetes and obesity dietitian at Guy’s at St Thomas’, said: “Losing weight and keeping it off can seem daunting. Many people have already tried to lose weight with diets, exercise or weight loss products and find they can lose a little weight but then struggle to keep it off.

“To see the health benefits of weight loss, it needs to be maintained long term, and this is what the Southwark weight management programme is all about.”

Last updated: March 2022

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