by STACEY HEANEY
20 years on, and a lot of pounds off
leader Bernie Walsh with her husband Robert
in the Culloden Hotel
for the recent 20th Anniversary celebrations
for Weightwatchers in Northern Ireland.
WHEN Bernie Walsh went to Weightwatchers 20
years ago she was delighted when she lost five stones. So
delighted she accepted an invitation to become a leader with the
And now, two decades later, she is still
going strong and finding her work as inspiring' as ever.
Weightwatchers began their classes in
Northern Ireland in September 1987 and they held a special
celebration in the Culloden Hotel on October 5 to mark the
Bernie is one of the few leaders who have
been there from the very beginning, having joined as a member in
After losing five stone herself, Bernie was
invited to become a leader, beginning her classes in Cookstown
and Banbridge. Today, 20 years later, she has between 300 and
400 members in her Lisburn classes alone, with groups also being
held in Banbridge and Lurgan. Throughout the years Bernie has
helped countless people to control their weight, whilst also
maintaining her own.
She commented: "I lost my weight with
Weightwatchers and was asked to be a leader. I never thought
that I could do it. When I had a bit of weight on I had no
confidence, but I gained so much confidence when I lost weight
and after being given instructions on being a leader I found I
was able to de it.
"I just love my job, I've never had a morning
when wake up and think 'oh no, work', there are not many people
who can say that."
Bernie has worked with many different people
throughout the years during her time with Weightwatchers.
"I've had people from age 16 to any age
really, I had one gentleman who was in his 70s who lost nine
stone. Sometimes people blame their age on weight and I always
use that man as an example.
"Another man I had was only a young fellow
who lost seven and a half stone. It is all well and good losing
weight but it is keeping it off that is hardest.
"It is inspiring the change you see in people." she said "I
know the change it made in me. The difference it people's self
esteem is remarkable, you see people coming out of themselves."
The recent 'Size Zero' craze has led
Bernie to be concerned about how people go about losing weight.
She said, "I have more younger members now with girls of 16 and
17. There has been an awful lot about Size Zero, but these girls
are coming to a class and doing it right. On their own people
can go on crash diets and that's where you get into trouble."
She continued, "You can't be a leader unless
you have been in the class and unless you have lost weight
yourself, sometimes people just think well if you'd just stop
eating you would lose weight, but if was that easy no one would
ever be overweight.
"If I wasn't a leader I would still go to a
class, I still have to work on it, but I can't explain how good
"I never thought I'd have a job like this, seeing people's