No-pill prescription a life-changer

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 11:56 24/02/2014
Ana Almeida
Derek Flynn
Fit and fab: Ana Almeida, 31, says the green prescription has changed her life.

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When Ana Almeida went to her GP concerned about her eating habits and sedentary lifestyle she found out not every prescription handed out by a medical professional involved a bottle of pills.

The Blenheim mother-of-one had gone to her doctor to quit an eating pattern of takeaways and junk food. She wanted to feel fit and healthy and lose weight.

Recovering from a double knee injury and juggling caring for her 2-year-old son meant healthy eating and exercise had eluded her.

A self confessed "couch potato" she overindulged.

"I had an obese mind. Every time I was hungry the first thing that came to mind was chocolate, chips and pizza," she said.

"I had all the reasons to look after myself and live a healthy life but I wasn't. I have seen other doctors regarding this issue before. I ended up feeling worse, feeling I was being judged instead of helped."

Having suffered from mood swings, she visited a GP again and the suggestion wasn't a faddy diet but a dose of daily walks.

"I was expecting a magic pill, a shake or some quick fix but the doctor prescribed a green prescription."

This was written advice on recommended eating habits and encouragement to become more physically active.

The free service prescribed helps with weight control, depression, anxiety and diabetes control. They usually consist of three consultations four weeks apart, one face-to-face and two via the phone. After 12 weeks should you feel you need continued support you may ask for a repeat prescription.

Ms Almeida was referred to a dietition who set out a healthy eating plan, then it was off to green prescription co-ordinator Deb Healy at Marlborough Primary Health Organisation who provided a patient listening ear and a dose of reality.

Ms Almeida said it put the responsibility on her to take control of her health.

Her first meeting with Ms Healy was a life-changing moment she said. "Deb said ‘just give me five minutes of your day, I will walk with you, go to the gym with you for a week'. Deb listened to me patiently and she emphasised how important my life was to her. She said there wasn't anything that makes her feel happier than seeing her clients succeed and be happy with ourselves."

Ms Almeida started with walking five minutes a day - six months later she had completed a 21km charity walk from Seddon to Ward. She succeeded in a weight-loss challenge and sees a personal trainer three times a week. Next she is challenging herself to walk 28km from Blenheim to Picton and more than 30km from Blenheim to Havelock.

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Having swapped junk food and no exercise for healthy eating and 6am workouts, she has dropped 6 kilograms in two months and gained muscle mass.

Getting fit and healthy has had a positive effect on her family life with her son Tiaago and husband Alan Mabey. "It is bye bye TV and computer, we are outdoor people now," she laughs. "My husband works 70 hours a week but when he comes home he still goes out for a walk with me. He has been massively supportive."

She has taken her journey with a dose of good humour and laughs, "It was great to pick up a pair of jeans that had been sitting in my wardrobe for ages which showed my flabby bits. Now I can shut the zip without holding in my tummy.

"I was very settled being uncomfortable, not feeling happy was tolerated," she said.

"Don't settle with something you are not happy with it, just change it. I eat to live, not live to eat."

- The Marlborough Express

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