Jenny BarclayA woman from the West Midlands who has learning disabilities has lost six stone thanks to a combination of healthier eating habits along with a bespoke gym programme. 

Jenny Barclay, 45, had struggled with her weight most of her adult life and experienced related health issues as a result. She had diabetes for many years and until recently had to control it by injecting insulin once a day.

But thanks to her diet and fitness regime, she no longer has to rely on insulin injections and is healthier and more confident.

Jenny’s sister, Karen Johnson, who is Jenny’s carer over the weekends – Karen’s daughter Jo looks after her full-time in the week – said Jenny’s whole outlook on life has changed.

“Our mum used to care for Jenny and, I guess, she was old school, letting Jenny eat whatever she wanted and not encouraging her to exercise because of her condition,” explained Karen. “When mum died two years ago, Jenny was nearly 16 stone, very unfit and quite poorly, so we decided to do something about it – and haven’t looked back since. 

“Jenny is still allowed the odd treat, but we’ve had to be strict to make her better. Jenny is a lot more confident and outgoing now, she helps out at home and even picks her own clothes.” 

Jenny is now a regular at Portway Lifestyle Centre in Oldbury, a centre of excellence for people with disabilities and one of the few Inclusive Fitness Initiative facilities in the Midlands accredited ‘excellent’ – the highest possible rating. It is run by Sandwell Leisure Trust. Jenny has been helped by Sandwell Council’s Adult Services team based at the centre. 

Team member Erica Scott devised a tailor-made gym programme for Jenny, which allows for some unsteadiness on her feet, while the staff at Portway have introduced Jenny to a host of fun sports classes for visitors with learning disabilities like cricket, tennis, basketball, football and hockey.

“Jenny loves going to Portway and the feeling of independence and achievement it gives her,” added Karen. “One of the main problems of being overweight was her ulcerated legs, which meant she couldn’t swim, but now we can’t keep Jenny out of the pool there.”

Jenny added: "Coming to Portway has changed my life. I am much healthier and don’t need to inject insulin anymore. I love all the classes and Erica and Marie help me on the machines – it’s great.”

John Harling, manager of Portway Lifestyle Centre, said: “It’s nothing short of a transformation and this ongoing commitment to regular exercise and a controlled diet has had such a positive impact on Jenny’s life. She recognises the benefits herself and totally buys into it – and it just goes to show that lifestyle changes can be made by anyone at any time.”