Hartlepool dietitian leads way in fightback against obesity

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A dietitian has launched a campaign to help the region’s children win their own personal battle of the bulge – with help from a new women-in-business organisation.

Dawn Shotton gave up a successful career in the NHS to form her own community interest company dedicated to helping people lose weight by changing their diet and adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Dawn, 47, of Carisbrooke Road, Hartlepool, worked as a dietitian in the NHS for more than 20 years. She said she became increasingly disillusioned as the workload spiralled.

“I saw the number of people needing help increasing all the time – and we didn’t have the resources to cope. Everyone was working very hard and doing their best, but we couldn’t offer the kind of comprehensive intervention patients needed. A ten-minute consultation just wasn’t enough.

“People didn’t need to be told not to eat junk food; they knew it was wrong. They needed help to change their behaviour. I felt powerless.”

Dawn quit the NHS and set up Dietwise, which is dedicated to providing one-to-one support for children and their families.

It’s no good just educating children about healthy eating and a good diet. We need to get their mums and dads on board, too. By educating families – not just children – we can make a huge difference

Dawn Shotton

Levels of childhood obesity are already at record levels across the North East.

In Hartlepool, one-in-four reception children are classed as overweight or obese. By the time they are ten, 38% of the town’s youngsters are revealed to have weight problems.

In County Durham, 9.1% of youngsters aged between four and five and 21% of children between ten and 11 are categorised as obese.

Dawn said: “Over six weeks I go into schools and teach children about the foods that are good for them. We learn about fruit smoothies instead of sugary fizzy drinks, how to make pizza from healthy ingredients and experiment with new fruits that many of them haven’t seen before.”

But the Dietwise programme goes further – Dawn also runs cookery and diet classes for mums and dads.

She is one of the first recipients of grant aid from the North East Foundation for Women in Enterprise, a new organisation set up to support women in business.

She has used the grant to buy a play parachute which shows the eat-well plate – a national healthy diet tool which highlights the different foods that make up our diet and shows the proportions we should eat them in.

Dietwise also offers help and advice to adults looking to lose weight. Dawn is an expert in the mindfulness technique for mental wellbeing and has applied it to eating.