The LighterLife

TO the outside world Hazel McGuire had it all. Three beautiful children, a husband with an exciting new job in London and the opportunity to leave behind a stressful job in Yorkshire for a new start in Ely. But within weeks of relocating, Hazel s world ha

TO the outside world Hazel McGuire had it all. Three beautiful children, a husband with an exciting new job in London and the opportunity to leave behind a stressful job in Yorkshire for a new start in Ely.

But within weeks of relocating, Hazel's world had been thrown upside down.

The move hadn't gone well. Her husband was working extremely long hours, there were financial pressures and, with no family network for support, Hazel found herself spiralling into depression.

In desperation. she turned to food for comfort. Her weight spiralled out of control and her self-esteem and self-confidence hit rock bottom.

But, three years on, Hazel has turned her life around. She has shed the weight, regained her self-confidence and started an exciting new business helping others.

Here, Hazel tells LESLEY INNES how she regained control of her life in just 14 weeks.

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WHAT started as an opportunity for the McGuire family to experience new challenges soon proved to be emotionally draining.

Financial pressures took their toll, and 150 miles away from home, mother-of-three Hazel felt isolated and alone.

As the pressures became just too much to bear, Hazel, 45, and her husband turned to food. When the stress became too intense, they opened the fridge and comforted themselves by snacking.

"My husband and I both piled on weight as we were using food as an emotional crutch, rather like a sticking plaster on a wound," she said from her home in Little Thetford.

Hazel's weight shot up to 13st 2lbs and at just five feet four inches tall and a petite dress size eight she suddenly found herself shopping for size 18 clothes. Life seemed out of control.

"I wanted to crawl away and die," she said. "I felt really isolated. We were desperately waiting to be rescued, but the help never came.

"I was blanking out my feelings and emotions and I was rapidly becoming as heavy as I had been whilst pregnant, but this time I had no baby to account for my weight gain."

Eventually, life for the rest of the family settled down and they started to move on. But Hazel was still suffering the intense strain and she and her husband couldn't manage their weight.

"We both felt and looked awful and, although we would start every diet with the best intentions, we always ended up turning to food for comfort and our weight continued to escalate," she said. "I would exercise every day and at my lowest I can remember looking at myself in the gym mirror and bursting into tears. I was so disheartened."

Then Hazel met up with a friend who was excited about a new weight loss programme that she had found.

She had turned to LighterLife and managed to shed the pounds and believed it could be the answer for Hazel.

Determined to give it a go, Hazel was prepared to make a 60-mile round trip to take part in the programme. It gave her hope of getting her life back on track.

After just 14 weeks she had shed an incredible three and a half stone. Her weight fell to just 9st 6lbs and she was back into her size 8 clothes. At the same time her self-esteem received a fantastic boost.

"I learned there are times in your life when you have to put yourself first," she said. "When you travel on a plane the air stewardess always tells you to fit your own oxygen mask first before attending to those of your children, for obvious reasons.

"Being so embroiled in everyday life, I had simply forgotten that I needed to look after myself in order to look after my family."

Through the LighterLife programme Hazel replaced meals with nutritionally complete foodpacks and met with her counsellor on a weekly basis to examine the reasons why she had been over-eating.

"In the same way that an alcoholic doesn't drink because they are thirsty, I wasn't eating because I was hungry," she said.

Now Hazel has trained as a LighterLife counsellor and launched her own business in Littleport to help others lose the weight and regain their self-confidence.

"Three years ago I found it extremely difficult even getting through each day, never mind coping with all the pressure of keeping my family functioning," she added. "I have so much experience from my own weight problems to share, which can only benefit my clients. You could say I've been there, done it and come out the other end!

"I would like to say to anyone considering LighterLife - take this opportunity, grasp it and make it work for you and you'll find the results are simply amazing. This is the first day of the rest of your life."

To find out more about LighterLife and book a free appointment call Hazel on 01353 865571 or visit the website at

Beating the food demons

LIGHTERLIFE was founded 10 years ago by three overweight women who met as they took part in obesity trials at Cambridge's Addenbrooke's Hospital.

As they got to know each other, Jackie Cox, Bar Hewlett and Rebecca Moon realised that they had all faced an uphill struggle to try to lose weight with little success.

They decided to launch a programme for people who were roughly three stone or more overweight.

LighterLife uses a powerful combination of group therapy combined with a very low calorie, nutritionally complete diet to help clients to lose weight quickly and make lasting changes in order to keep off the pounds.

Counsellors work with small single-sex groups to help clients to understand, address and overcome their relationship with food.

LighterLife is an organisational member of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists and British Nutrition Foundation and won an Investors in People Best Practice Award in 2003.