After struggling with weight problems throughout their 30 year marriage, Alan and Jan Coupe from Fareham in Hampshire are celebrating losing more than 15 stones between them to be named Slimming World's Couple of the Year 2010.
Fifty-five year-old Alan, who's been overweight for most of his life, has lost 8st ½lb and is now the lightest he has been for 40 years, while Jan, 51, who started gaining weight when they married, has lost 7st 10lbs and is the lightest she’s been for 30 years.
Changing their eating and lifestyle habits as a family has also had a dramatic effect on their children’s weight, as 20-year-old son Chris is 4st slimmer, while daughter Chloe, 25, has lost 2st, taking their weight loss as a family to over 21st. It’s a remarkable change and, for Alan, it came just in the nick of time.
“Since I lost weight my doctor has discovered I have a heart defect,” he explains. “It seems I may have had it for years but it was hidden by my size. It’s a frightening thought but my doctor says if I’d carried on as I was then I might not be here now. I’m so glad we joined Slimming World when we did in September 2006 because it literally saved my life.”
Jan agrees: “Losing weight has saved our lives and given us our lives back at the same time. I have multiple sclerosis and Alan has asthma and arthritis in his feet, as well as his heart condition."
When we were overweight we struggled to walk anywhere at all but now we’re really fit. We go cycling twice a week for 15 miles at a time and we love walking and swimming. We’re so much more sociable and active, it’s like we have a new lease of life.
Running a busy bed & breakfast hotel means the couple are often strapped for time, but while that used to lead to them ordering takeaways several times per week and grazing on unhealthy snacks throughout the day, now they make time to cook tasty healthy versions of their favourite dinners.
Jan says: “It can be just as quick to cook healthy food and it tastes so much better. We love vegetable curries, steak salads, eggs and beans with chips cooked the Slimming World way – baked in the oven – and lots of pasta dishes. Even our customers are seeing the benefits as we give them the choice of having a traditional full fried breakfast or choosing a healthy version like us, which is almost the same except it’s been grilled. They see how much weight we’ve lost while still enjoying big portions and many of them choose the healthy one. And it’s great to know our healthier habits are influencing the rest of the family too. We’re so proud of Chris and Chloe.”
Alan and Jan joined Slimming World after an embarrassing incident on an aeroplane where an air stewardess said they were too heavy to sit together and asked Alan to move to the front so that their weight was ‘more evenly spread.
“It was embarrassing and humiliating, I just wanted the earth to swallow me up,” remembers Jan. “We knew we had a problem with our weight, but now it was clear that other people had a problem with our weight too. We chose to sit separately on the way back to avoid a repeat performance and joined Slimming World when we arrived home, as some of our friends told us it worked for them. We were both nervous about going to a group but we needn’t have worried.”
Alan agrees: “As a man I was horrified at the thought of attending a slimming club. However, Jan and I have always done things together and she was worried that if I didn’t do something about my weight I may not be around for long, so I agreed to go with her. Together we lost 18lbs in our first week and everyone was so friendly. Now we look forward to going to group. We’re on the social team and attend two different groups every week. We’ve made so many friends and it’s become a big part of our lives. It’s great to know I’m inspiring other men to join too.”
So how are they enjoying their new lives? “We’ve been overweight for so long now that we’re only just getting used to the new us,” explains Jan. “But it’s been amazing! We’re so much healthier and happier and losing weight has brought us even closer together as a couple.”
Alan adds: “It’s like I’ve got a new wife! People don’t recognise Jan, but with me the beard gives it away. As an overweight person I’ve hidden behind this beard my whole life, but now I’ve lost the weight there’s no reason to hide anymore. In fact I might just shave it off…”
Typical day before
Breakfast: Jan would skip breakfast while Alan would have the full English he prepared for guests at the B&B, with a typical fried breakfast including sausages, bacon, eggs and mushrooms.
Lunch: Ham and pickle sandwiches on white bread with butter and a packet of crisps. For dessert they would have cake.
Dinner: Chinese takeaway of sweet & sour pork balls with egg fried rice and prawn crackers. Alan would have banana fritters for dessert.
Snacks: Crisps and biscuits throughout the day and chocolate in the evening.
Drinks: Full fat coke, tea with full fat milk and sugar. In the evening Alan would drink lager and Jan would choose wine.
Typical day now
Breakfast: Jan now enjoys poached eggs on wholemeal toast, while Alan has an English breakfast of grilled bacon, poached eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms cooked in low calorie cooking spray.
Lunch: Large jacket potato with tuna and sweetcorn, served with a crispy mixed salad. For dessert, a fresh fruit salad drizzled in fat free yogurt.
Dinner: Steak with chips cooked the Slimming World way and served with carrots, peas and broccoli.
Snacks: The couple say they rarely snack now as they’re never hungry. If they do they choose things like fruit, yogurt or carrot sticks.
Drinks: The couple now drink diet coke or herbal and fruit teas and have cut down their alcohol intake.