A BURNHAM-on-Sea woman who has run a Weight Watchers (WW) group for more than 30 years has revealed how she lost eight and a half stone and kept it off for nearly 50 years.

Dee Neale, 73, was one the first members to sign up when a WW group launched in Baytree Road, Weston-super-Mare in 1969 and she now runs 15 WW workshops across the county which help around 500 people a week to lose weight and lead healthier lives.

The popular consultant, who is the oldest WW consultant in the UK, went from, 17st 5.5lb to 8st 8lbs in the space of a year and said she was inspired to kick start her weight loss journey after visiting her cousins in Portland, Oregon.

She said: "In 1967, my mother and I boarded the QE1 to cross the Atlantic to visit our cousins in Portland Oregon.

"They had always been known as the ‘fat cousins’ but when we arrived after our 10 day journey, we were amazed to see that they were now the thin cousins as they had lost 100 stone between the eight of them.

"The roles had been reversed and Mum and I were now the new fat cousins.

"The next morning they whisked us off to their Weight Watchers meeting.

"I was astonished to find out I weighed 243.5lbs and was given a goal of weighing 120lbs. That was half of me that I needed to go.

"The coach looked and me and said “You don’t believe you can do it, do you honey? Don’t worry, I’ve got faith enough for both of us."

After the meeting, Dee and her mother decided to stay with her cousins in Portland for six months and the pair lost ten stone between them.

The 73-year-old said she tried to follow the programme for a few years after returning to the UK but she struggled as WW had not arrived in the country and as a result she gained weight.

She said her hopes to lose weight were reignited when a WW class launched in Weston.

"The minute the first class opened in Weston in December 1969, Mum and I were in the queue," Dee said.

"I lost a total of eight and a half stone that year and Mum nine and a half.

"The change was huge – not just physically but mentally too.

"I started eating breakfast for the first time ever. I learned to eat sensibly and took my time. I got into a pair of denim jeans I’d been given in the states and when they fitted, it felt wonderful.”

Dee became a wellness coach for WW in 1986 and said she has never looked back.

"I absolutely love the job. Over the years I must have weighed thousands of Weston residents," Dee said.

"I know everyone and they all know me when I go out.

"It’s been such a rewarding career and I have no plans of retiring anytime soon.

"I can’t believe that 2019 will be the 50th anniversary of keeping the weight off.”