FIVE Mail readers whose combined weight is more than 85st have won "a heaven-sent opportunity" to get back into shape.
The three women and two men won a Mail competition in which they become honorary members of Springs health and leisure club.
The competition was launched after the Mail and Springs agreed to join forces to carry out Hartlepool's own Drive Against Obesity.
The five will now undergo an intensive three-month course of fitness training, nutrition guidance and encouragement to help them shed their excess pounds.
And the man or woman losing the most weight at the end of the course will receive a 2,500 life membership to Springs to continue the good work on their own.
The winners – Colleen Craggs, Scott Llewellyn, Julie Robson, Peter Smith and Beverley Williams – collected five Mail tokens to enter the competition and wrote letters to the editor describing their reasons for wanting to win.
All five winners have gathered at Springs to meet the professional team which will supervise their twice-weekly sessions of personal training and provide them with nutritional guidance.
They also received their three months free memberships of the club and were given a guided tour of the facilities and a rundown of what they can expect in the next three months.
With their free memberships all five can make use of the gym, private swimming pool and other free health and fitness amenities on their own and as often as they like.
They also have access to the beauty and hairdressing salons, the bar and other facilities. There will be regular reports in the Mail on the progress of the lucky five, all of whom say they are determined to make the next three months at Springs a success.
THE five winners of the Mail's obesity competition are:
COLLEEN CRAGGS, 48, a mother of five from Hartlepool, is a qualified teacher is currently a support worker with deaf students.
Colleen weighs more than 13st and wrote: "I would love to get down to a size 12. It would give me a great confidence boost and have a positive impact on my life and health."
SCOTT LLEWELLYN, Hartlepool United's monkey mascot, weighs 14st 6lb, and said: "I'm starting to creep into the obese weight category and it's a place I don't want to go. I need to be a fit Hartlepool United mascot – a better cheeky monkey rather than a chunky monkey."
JULIE ROBSON, 34, from Horden, is only 5ft 4in tall, but weighs almost 16st.
Julie, who has a five-year-old daughter, said: "I've always been ashamed of the way I look. I would love to show people it is possible to lose weight and not cry and feel ashamed."
PETER SMITH, 43, of Hartlepool, weighs 23st.
Failure to lose weight left him suffering from depression, an ailment which he said had cost him his job.
He said: "I know if I can get fitter I will be able to get myself out of the hole I am now in. I don't normally ask anyone for help, but I really need this sort of help."
BEVERLEY WILLIAMS weighs 19st and is 5ft 3in tall. Beverley, who has been married for 17 years, has six children and four grandsons.
"I always feel ashamed because of my size," she said. "I know the support I will receive from Andrea (Andrea Douglas, head of the team of personal trainers at Springs) will help me. I dream about being healthy and fit."