“Six months ago, I couldn’t put my shoes on without getting out of breath.  Now I lace up my trainers to run 5k and have my sights set on a half marathon!”

Nominated by advisor, Yasmin, Carl Vernon has lost 24 kilos (20% of his body weight) in six months thanks to getting the right support and his determination to be fitter and healthier.

Despite suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, Carl completed Derby Joggers’ Couch to 5k course last month, graduating with other participants by running the Alvaston Parkrun, and is now training for the Derby Ramathon next June.  The local group is run by former Livewell clients turned volunteer jog leaders. 

Here’s how his life has changed for the better:

When a hospital consultant advised Carl to lose a bit of weight, the 48-year-old business owner from Mickleover knew it was time to change.

He had been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and was struggling to breathe.  With his lung function at only 52%, the doctor recommended Livewell’s weight management programme to see if shedding a few pounds could improve his health and make a difference.

“I’d been on Methotrexate for six years and was battling with my breathing.  The doctor said my difficulties could be caused by one or a combination of three things – a side effect of the medication, my childhood asthma had returned, or my obesity.   Tackling my weight seemed a good place to start so I signed up and started with Livewell’s activation group in Sinfin in February.

Having already lost a few pounds after Christmas, I was in the right mindset and started the programme at 19 stone, with a BMI of 38.

At the first group session, my blood pressure was too high to take part in the exercise section, which was disappointing and shocked me enough to buy a monitor to keep tabs on it at home.  Luckily because of the changes I immediately made, it lowered enough for me to take part in the next week’s activity.

I thought I knew a lot about healthy eating, but it turned out there’s so much more to it.  The educational elements of the six-week new starter meetings were enjoyable and helpful, with Yasmin giving us easy practical tips to make switches in my diet.

Setting a goal to lose three stone, I looked forward to each week, and when the six weeks came to an end, four of us chose to take part in Yasmin’s Move and Tone class on a Monday evening.  I committed to attending every week during my year-long journey and that moment benchmarked the start of improving my fitness.  In the beginning, I couldn’t touch my toes never mind squat or perform a burpee. Now I thoroughly enjoy all the exercises.

Getting started back in the gym, I had my induction at Derby Arena with Casey, who created a simple but effective exercise plan.   

It was around this time I’d seen the article on Livewell’s website about Derby Joggers Couch to 5k course, so I spoke to Yasmin and she put me in touch with the group. 

The jog leaders were all supportive and friendly including former Livewell client of the month, Gary who together with other previous clients who had trained to become leaders, inspired me to get back into running, something I hadn’t done in 24 years.   Working through the weeks as a team made it more enjoyable and helped me feel accountable.  I wouldn’t have reached the end otherwise.

Investing in a Fitbit was one of the best things I’ve done for my motivation.  I walk everywhere I can to achieve my step goal which was triggered by taking part in Livewell’s Move IT Month Step Challenge in March when I completed 80,000 steps a week.  I now aim for over 100k steps a week and use it to keep track of my heart rate, calories, and runs.

I eat sensibly but I’ll have a burger if I want one and not feel guilty.  Being healthy is a holistic balance of calories and activity.  If having a treat means doing more exercise, I’ll have fun doing an activity I enjoy. 

Drinking heavily is a thing of the past.  I stick to a couple of pints now and again and feel so much better for it.

Exceeding my 3-stone goal, I plan to maintain my weight for the remainder of my 12-month plan.  Before Livewell, I played the odd round of golf but relied on a buggy to get up the hills and struggled past the fifth hole.  Since losing weight and becoming fitter, I’m more energized to complete the full course and have even reduced my handicap.  Rather than sitting on the sofa after work, I want to head out for a walk or jog.

The benefits I’m already experiencing are extraordinary.  I’m off my medication, my lung function is back to normal (95%), I’ve had no RA flare-ups, and friends and family are astonished by my transformation, both in how I look physically and by my health and fitness too.  Being recently discharged from the lung clinic makes it even more worthwhile - my consultant was amazed at my improvement putting it down to losing weight, being active, and coming off methotrexate.

I’ve lost 5 inches from my waist, dropped two shirt sizes, and can touch my toes for the first time in 20 years.

Being able to play in the dads and daughters’ football match with my teenage girl was fantastic and I’ve been training for the 5k with my youngest son.  My wife and three kids are proud of the way I’ve turned things around and got them involved so we’re all living healthier.  

To anyone just starting or thinking about losing weight, Livewell is a great way to learn how to achieve the outcomes you want with no judgment, just buckets of support.  If you get behind it, and take others on your journey, you’ll succeed.

Carl’s top tips for new Livewell recruits

Take people on your journey – tell others about your goals and ambitions to lose weight.  They will be invested in your journey, offer more support and they’ll see the benefits to make changes themselves.

Find an exercise you enjoy – try everything on offer even if you’re unsure.  My coordination was all over the place at my first exercise class but taking part in a group is a good laugh and you soon improve.  You can find all the exercise sessions on the activity programme on Livewell’s homepage.

Peer support - The group camaraderie made it work for me.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed meeting people, taking part in exercises with clients in the same boat, and the open communication within Livewell and in Derby Joggers too.  Lean on others for support.

Change your way of thinking - Livewell isn’t a diet, it’s an awareness programme.  The team’s positivity is infectious – all the members I’ve met - Yasmin, Suf, Andy, and Casey – come from a good place with sound knowledge and experience.  They’ve given me the tools and power to take care of myself and be key to my success.  

Carl before and after his weight loss

Carl before and after his weight loss

 Carl with his medal and certificate after completing the 5k parkrun