Published: 14:53, 01 March 2021
| Updated: 16:36, 01 March 2021
A couple from Dartford, who both work for the NHS, have shared the secrets behind their weight loss journey after shedding eight and a half stone between them.
Martyn Heather and Paula Bennett, both 58, say they feel on top of the world and are more "loved up" than ever after committing to a healthier lifestyle.
The key workers first met each other at school in 1976 but reconnected years later.
It was only when Martyn’s weight started to affect his health they both decided to do something together to "turn their lives around".
In 2018 the pair started attending their local Dartford branch of Slimming World and discovered a love for fitness and healthy eating.
They were surprised to find friends losing weight while continuing to eat normal lunches consisting of pasta bakes, curries and other food favourites.
With their support it was not long before the couple were celebrating huge weight loss milestones and were named the slimming "couple of the year".
Between them they lost eight and a half stone and Martyn was named man of the year after shedding seven since joining.
Paula said: “We love being a part of a Slimming World group, it’s such a caring community that we feel a part of.
"Our passion for food can still shine – no food is banned, a few simple swaps and we still enjoy our favourites – Prawn, chilli and lemon linguini being our all time favourite!"
Martyn and Paula now enjoy an active lifestyle running around after four grandchildren.
But like lots of key workers the couple, who both work for the NHS, have struggled during lockdown.
Martyn has a very physically demanding job as a contractor for the Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust which runs community health services across Bexley and north Kent.
Meanwhile, Paula works busy shifts for the admin team at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford.
And while they have been thankful for the kindness shown towards the NHS in the form of food deliveries they have found being surrounded by tempting food challenging.
Martyn also misses the camaraderie of physical groups and says he "cannot wait to get back when it is safe to do so".
The couple say the support of the group helped to strengthen their commitment to make life changing habits around food and activity.
They described Slimming World as a "caring group we could feel part of" and explained how important it was to have a "powerfully-supportive environment".
Their Dartford group consultant, Sarah Cafora, said she believes being kind to ourselves can help protect both our mental and physical health.
Her top tips are to show yourself some love, get support from a group if you can, and let go of negative self-talk.
She said: "While there’s no doubt that losing weight is easier with support from friends and family and fellow members at Slimming World, your biggest supporter can actually be you.
"Recognise your achievements and praise yourself regularly.
"Planning and preparing your favourite meals for yourself, then taking the time to really taste and enjoy them, or doing an activity you enjoy, such as a dance class or cycle ride, are wonderful ways to show yourself some love."