Gill Worsley dieted over the course of two years with Specialist Weight Management Service (SWMS), run by Wigan Council.
The Winstanley resident received the shocking diagnosis about her eyesight late last year, and says it was the turning point in her health battle. She embarked on the SWMS, which she says helped to better understand her relationship with food and how it linked to her own childhood trauma.SWMS has, in her words, changed her life.
“The two year weight management program helped me have a better relationship with food,” she said. “The first year I was up and down with it, but I then got diagnosed with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH).“I was told I had to lose weight or I may lose my eyesight. This definitely made me sit up and listen more.“At the weight management program, you have both group and individual support, from dietitians, doctors, physiologists and occupational therapists.“There are many different courses/groups to join which gives you a better understanding of why you have issues with food. They helped me realise a lot of my food habits were deep rooted from childhood, and ways to help break these chains.“The staff were amazing, and so understanding and made you realise you were not the only person who had these feelings or patterns of secret eating, binge eating, then feeling bad and hateful about yourself, which in turn makes you turn back to food for comfort. I was given the support and encouragement to go and see a private counsellor who helped me with a lot of past trauma.“This made me realise I was hiding behind my weight and using it was almost a security blanket.”This help she received is one of 11 programme pathways run through Wigan Council’s Lose Weight Feel Great Be Well strategy. Lose Weight Feel Great is a free weight loss service to help you lose weight and keep it off.From team sports to one-to-one support, Wigan Council says it aims to help residents find the right way to lose weight and feel great. Using this programme, Ms Worsley now believes she has the knowledge and skills to lose weight and keep it off in the long-term.“I have a totally different mindset and attitude towards food now,” she said. “I use a free online food diary called my fitness pal which keeps me accountable to what I am eating and I joined an online gym called Team RH and they have given me the tools I need to carry on with my weight goal.“It took three years all together with my weight going up and down a lot at the start, but I feel like a different person. Don’t get me wrong we all have bad weeks or even months, especially around holiday time, but I know I can get straight back on it now.“Some of the people on the programme were going down the weight loss surgery route but I wanted to be able to do this and learn for myself so I can help and guide my daughter with healthy food habits. I am sure this program isn’t for everyone but it changed my life.“If I had not joined SWMS I truly believe I would still be on that rollercoaster, feeling depressed, upset with myself, in denial about my past experience, covering up my emotions and in a downward spiral of unhappiness.”Wigan has a history of obesity problems with a high percentage of Year 6 aged children deemed to have obesity in 2019/2020 (885 – 23.9 per cent of the age group). Additionally, back in 2020 NHS England published rates of obesity-related hospital admissions of 3,318 per 100,000 people, one of the highest rates for towns in the country.Prof Kate Ardern, Wigan Council’s director of public health, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic had a profound effect on people’s wellbeing, behaviours and lifestyles but it also further highlighted the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and for some gave them time and motivation to change things for the better. The pandemic also enabled services to explore new ways of working, with staff deployed into different settings, enabling support to be provided in different ways along with development of more digital and flexible options.“Additional government funding enabled us to upscale provision and diversify the offer into new activities such as Dance for Weight loss. In Wigan borough, we adopt a life course approach to healthy weight which ensures a wider reach and more joined up action across the life course.“Our anchor institutions such as schools, start well centres, large employers, local sports clubs and health centres are at the heart of our whole society, whole systems approach.
"We work with key partners to identify individuals who may need help to manage their weight, this includes primary care professionals, who can now signpost individuals to a single point of access.“This will ensure they are then triaged to the most appropriate weight management service for them.”
Programmes such as the one which has helped Gill have continued despite public health funding per head in Wigan having been cut by almost a quarter over six years. Figures at the end of last year showed England’s public health grant has fallen by around £1bn in real terms since 2015-16.