MUM Michelle Ward has tackled her weight problem head-on – and saved her family a fortune.

For not only has she started visiting the gym since winning an Examiner competition, Michelle and her family have sliced their food bill in half by dramatically reducing their portion sizes and are now £400 a month better off.

As a working mum and carer for her husband, Francis, who has spina bifida, Michelle used to say that she didn’t have time to look after herself.

But by the end of last year the 40-year-old nurse, who weighed over 18 stones, knew that she was putting her health at risk.

She made a resolution to lose weight and embarked on a diet.

Then 41-year-old Francis saw an Examiner competition offering the winner the chance to work out for a year in the gym at the Cedar Court Hotel at Ainley Top.

It seemed like the perfect fit for Michelle as the family lives in Birchencliffe close to the hotel.

When nominating his wife, Francis said: “Michelle does a great job supporting me but I feel she needs some support to lose weight herself.”

And so the mother-of-two, who is a senior training officer for the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust, began visiting the gym on a regular basis.

“I found it hard at first,” says Michelle, who weighed in at 18 stones 2lbs on January 1. “I’d never been in a gym in my life before. I was exhausted.”

But senior instructor John Rathwell, who has been personally training Michelle, says he has been impressed by her dedication and motivation.

He said: “Michelle actually had a good base level of fitness because she is quite active so we have had to keep changing the training programme to challenge her.

“She was willing to try anything we asked of her and it was good to see her still smiling even when she was aching afterwards.’’

In the first three months of gym training and following a nutritional programme, Michelle lost 9kgs (1st 6lbs) and improved her Body Mass Index from over 38 (morbidly obese) to 34.9 (obese).

Although Francis has restricted mobility and therefore finds it difficult to exercise he has also lost around one stone in weight. The family is enrolled on the Kirklees Weight Management Service programme and sees a dietician on a monthly basis.

A welcome side effect of their new lifestyle is that the Wards now spend much less on food.

“For us it was never a question of not eating healthily, it was about portion sizes,” says Michelle.

“Francis and me are now having 1,500 calories a day and our portion sizes are down to a quarter of what they were. We have three meals a day and there’s no nibbling in between.

“Our weekly food bill has halved from £200 to £100.”

Michelle is also pleased that their two daughters, Chloe, 13, and eight-year-old Kaitlyn – neither of whom has a weight problem – are learning sensible dietary guidelines.

“The weight management programme includes the whole family so they’re finding out what is healthy and what isn’t,” said Michelle. “It’s good for their future. We’re much better organised now and plan our weekly menu and shopping.

“One of the big changes has been that we all get up earlier and have breakfast now. We never had breakfast before. Chloe had the good idea of putting out bowls of cereals and setting the table at night so that we’re all ready in the morning.”

As well as working out in the gym Michelle also attends an Aquafit class at Cedar Court and has made changes to her everyday lifestyle.

“I always use the stairs at work now,” she says. “And it is seven double flights from the basement of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary to the top floor where I work. And when the weather’s better I’m going to walk to work.”

Since starting her training schedule Michelle has been blogging about the experience on the Cedar Court website (, then click Our Blogger).

It’s clear from reading her early posts that she had made an enemy out of the cross trainer.

“I really hated it because I always felt like I had jelly legs after I stepped off it,’’ said Michelle. “The most I could do was 10 minutes.

“But now I’d say it’s my favourite piece of equipment and I’m doing 20 minutes at a time. It’s the treadmill that I don’t like now.”

Michelle currently weighs just over 16 stones and has made it her aim to get down to 16 by the Spring Bank Holiday.

She has already dropped a dress size from 26 to 24 and is hoping that a few more months down the line she’ll be able to use some of the cash she’s saving on food to buy a new wardrobe of much slimmer clothes.

She’s also hoping that she’s making a real difference to her health. Both her mother and grandmother had diabetes and high blood pressure also runs in her family.

“I am quite surprised by how I’ve adapted and fitted in the gym visits,’’ said Michelle. “People say they don’t have the time to exercise but it’s all a question of being organised and determined.”

According to personal trainer John there’s no reason why she shouldn’t continue doing well.

“She’s a confident person and is very motivated, “ he said. “Now we’ve just to keep challenging her. If you do the same programme all the time your body gets used to it and you find it easy. We’re here to make sure she’s working hard.

“But it’s not just about what you do in the gym. It’s about changing your lifestyle.”

We’ll catch up with Michelle in another few months to see if she has kept up the good work.