WEST NORFOLK: Do Something Different and change your life

West Norfolk Council Do Something Different course, LtoR,  Project leader Jenny Rouse, participant Michele Carey and coaches Colin and Debbie Perriss.
West Norfolk Council Do Something Different course, LtoR, Project leader Jenny Rouse, participant Michele Carey and coaches Colin and Debbie Perriss.
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New Year is the traditional time for people to vow to quit smoking, eat healthily and generally turn over a new leaf.

But we all know those promises have often gone out of the window by February 1.

A new programme being offered widely across the borough for the first time this year aims to ensure that is not the case and it comes with the backing of West Norfolk Council and at a price tag of only £35.

The Do Something Different – Healthy Weight Happy Life programme, has all the same aims as more conventional commercial courses on offer, but attempts to achieve it by ignoring the weighing scales and encouraging participants into shaking up their lives with things like a weekly random act of kindness.

Michele Carey, 52, of Clenchwarton Road, West Lynn, took part in a pilot-run of the course in the summer, lost 4ins off her waist, went from 11st 7oz to 10st 13oz and said her entire family are still feeling the benefits of what she learned.

Mrs Carey, an office-based worker for Norfolk County Council, married mother to two grown-up children and a grandmother of a 13- and two-year-old, said: “What it really does is get you out of a rut. My weight had been yo-yoing for a while and I realised I obviously needed to get myself into a different mindset. This course was more about how you do things than it was about eating.”

Mrs Carey was motivated to take up swimming after a bad back stopped her running and also pushed her into trying something new – Geocaching an outdoor treasure hunting game – and other members of her family now join her in both.

She said: “This course has not only been good for me but for my whole family. My daughter comes swimming with me and we take the children at weekends and we have all been to Reffley Woods geocaching.”

The programme is just one in a range of the Do Something Different-courses the council invests £64,000 a year into to help combat lifestyle problems.

Jenny Rouse, project officer, said; “One person went off and did their neighbour’s garden. It gave them something else to do, exercise and an enormous sense of satisfaction and obviously benefitted their neighbour, too. What I love to hear most is how the course has an impact for the rest of the family and actually brings families together as it did for Michele.”

Elizabeth Nockolds, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, believes the results justify the investment of public funds.

She said: “We are seeing tangible results from the programme, with over 400 local people making sustainable improvements to their lifestyles. Because the programme helps to prevent some of the conditions linked with unhealthy eating habits, smoking and depression it is a cost-effective way of helping to reduce future demand on public services.”

The Healthy Weight Happy Life course has until now only been offered to selected communities and groups but from January will be on offer at various venues across the borough to anyone who wants to take part after nine new coaches were taken on and trained.

One of them Colin Perriss, who has built a business in helping recovering alcoholics from personal experience, said: “It is entirely consistent with what we were already telling our own clients. You chose to get into the place and you can chose to get out.”

Each week participants are challenged to a list of ‘do’s’ like a day without TV, writing about their feelings, cooking something new, tidying a room or a random act of kindness.

To find out more about Healthy Weight Happy Life go to www.west-norfolk.gov.uk/wellbeing

The Healthy Weight Happy Life programme consists of six consecutive weekly meetings of around an hour-and-a-half followed by a month’s break and a final meeting.

Participants have a weigh-in and measure at the first meeting and the last, but in between the focus is on lifestyle rather than vital statistics.

Ronel Erasmus, project manager, said, “Do Something Different - Healthy Weight Happy Life is more than a weight loss programme, it teaches people how to take control of their life. It gives them the techniques to break long-held habits that can stop them from achieving their goals. The seven-week courses are fun, supportive and above all practical. Because Do Something Different focuses on personal behaviour it can be applied to a whole range of life issues, so whether people want to lose weight, quit smoking, develop more confidence or improve their general mental wellbeing, Do Something Different can help them to succeed.”

The idea is that they will become more active, less reliant on comfort eating and more aware of habits like sitting in a chair after work every day and snacking on biscuits.

As well as their weekly ‘do’ challenges, participants are given props such as a credit card sized at a glance guide to help them interpret what food labels really mean and identify the good from the bad, a pedometer and disrupter cards - a pack of cards to turn to in moments of weakness which encourage you to do something else, like counting your teeth with your tongue!