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Alison Purvis-Gisborne’s story

I did it! In the space of 19 months I went from weighing 20st to running the London Marathon in 4 hours and 20 minutes.

I’ve lost 9st and now practice what I preach

Despite being well versed in how exercise benefits the body, sports physiology lecturer Alison Purvis-Gisborne chose to ignore that knowledge in favour of eating ice cream and biscuits.

Her daily job involves teaching 300 students about how exercise affects the body. At nearly 20st, Alison was more aware than anyone else in her class that she wasn’t taking notes on her own lectures.

But finding out she had dangerously high blood pressure forced Alison to take action. And after joining our site she went from 19st 12.5lb to a healthy 10st 12.5lb in just 14 months and is now a shining example to her students.

Vicious cycle

“I’ve had problems with my weight since I was a teenager, but in the past five years it really started to pile on,” says Alison, 36, from Derbyshire. “I lost 4st at university and slimmed to 11st and a size 14 simply because I was eating less.”

By the time she married her husband Stephen in 2003, she weighed 13st. Even though Stephen was highly active, Alison’s weight began to creep up because she was overindulging.

“I ate far too much simply because I love food,” she says. “My weakness was ice cream. I could eat a whole tub in one sitting. I’d snack on chocolate biscuits throughout the day at work, and I’d still eat three decent sized meals on top of that.”

While Alison never received any negative comments from her students at Sheffield Hallam University, she felt like a hypocrite.

“By the time I was in my early-30s my weight was such a negative force on my life that I ate to feel better, which kick-started a vicious cycle,” she says. “I never bought new clothes because when you are overweight you never feel great in anything. I lived in my favourite pair of size 24 black baggy work trousers.”

Early grave

Alison’s health scare came on 14th September 2010 in the form of high blood pressure. “My reading was 150/95, which is hypertensive,” she says. “I was not only horrified but frightened. An early grave seemed a whole lot closer, but luckily I was given the chance to reduce it through weight loss rather than medication.

“As I’d tried to lose weight before using Weight Watchers, Slimming World and calorie counting and only managed to lose 1st, I knew I didn’t want to yo-yo diet again. I chose Rosemary Conley because it combined both diet and exercise.”

As her local class was over five miles away she signed up to our site. Says Alison: “I am always on the net and decided that way of slimming was a better fit for me. I had all the resources, advice and support at my fingertips.”

She started on the Amazing Inch Loss Plan for vegetarians. “My husband is a vegetarian, so I opted for that one to make my life easier,” she explains.

After entering her height of 5ft 6in, measurements and starting weight of 19st 12.5lb she decided on a target weight of 11st because she knew that’s how much she would have to weigh to be a size 12 and to have a healthy BMI.

For the first two weeks Alison stuck rigidly to the 1,200-calorie-a-day limit. She says: “The website makes it hard to fail because it gives you all the tools you need to succeed.”

10,000 steps a day

Alison soon started using the website several times a day to check her food plan and update her diary. She filled herself up with bran flakes, soup, Quorn Bolognese or vegetarian sausages and snacked on strawberries. “If I didn’t like a particular food on that day’s menu I could click on a link for more options,” she says.

Being a keen walker, Alison invested in a pedometer and aimed to walk 10,000 steps a day. “It’s much easier to do than it sounds,” she says. “I also played on the Wii Fit every other evening.”

In the first week Alison lost 7.5lb and 5lb in the second. “It was satisfying inputting my weight loss into a progress table, which turned the data into a graph.”

Within the first month Alison had lost 1st 4lb. “The hardest part was controlling my hunger. When you are an overeater you never feel hungry, so I had to get used to that feeling.”

During Alison’s weaker moments she knew she had a whole network of online support waiting to help her. “If I was struggling I’d post on the forum and have live chats with other slimmers,” she says. Alison also made good use of the online coaches. “It was because of this support system and my determination that I lost weight every single week,” she says.

The more weight Alison lost the more she upped her exercise regime. She started running for 10 minutes at a time until she built up to 30-minute intervals and has now signed up for the 2012 London marathon.

Countdown clock

Alison reached her target weight on 8th November 2011. She says: “Seeing I had no more weight to lose on my online countdown clock was incredible and I’ve been buying new clothes ever since.”

With the support of customer care manager Pauline, Alison worked up the courage to apply for the Slimmer of the Year competition. “I knew I had a good chance of getting to the regional final, but hearing my name called out as the online slimmer of the year was a shock,” she says.

Alison admits seeing the photographs from her Rosemary Conley shoot was also a surreal moment. “I’ve always hated having my photo taken, but when I saw my pictures I got really emotional because I never thought I could look at a photo and think I looked good.

“My blood pressure is now a healthy 117/78, but the biggest reward is knowing I now practice what I preach to my students.”

Alison’s top tips

  • Plan ahead. You are much less likely to be tempted when you know what you are going to eat for the rest of the day
  • Invest in two sets of Portion Pots®. Keep one set together on your counter and put a red one in your cereal and a blue pot in the rice container so you never forget to use them
  • Be honest with yourself. Put any mistakes in your food diary. If you put on weight you can work out why and amend your diet accordingly
  • Keep a pair of big trousers to show you how far you have come

What Alison used to eat


Nothing or a large latte, chocolate chunk shortbread

Mid-morning snack

4 biscuits


Cheese and coleslaw baguette, crisps, chocolate bar


Huge portion of Thai green curry

What Alison eats now


Bran flakes, skimmed milk, banana

Mid-morning snack



Tuna and sweetcorn salad with low-fat mayonnaise


Prawn stir-fry with basmati rice

Alison’s top food finds

  • Activia Intensely Creamy yogurts – they feel like a treat because they are extremely creamy but have only 110 calories
  • Meat eaters should try Quorn because it is so low in fat and freezes really well
  • Sainsbury’s Be Good To Yourself bacon medallions are low in fat and calories. They work great on a cooked breakfast with a dry-fried egg and mushroom
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