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16 March 2010, 12:43 | Updated: 16 March 2010, 13:17
A 55-year-old Hampshire man said losing weight had saved his life as he celebrated winning the Slimming World Couple of the Year award.
Alan and Jan Coupe, from Fareham, won the honour after losing more than 15 stone between them. The couple, who run a bed and breakfast hotel, were spurred into taking action when they were told they were too heavy to sit together on an aeroplane - an experience they described as "embarrassing and humiliating''.
From struggling to walk and do simple things because of their weight and health problems, Mr and Mrs Coupe said they feel they have been given a new lease of life thanks to a regime of healthy eating and exercise. Their lifestyle change has also rubbed off on their children, Chloe, 25, and Chris, 20, who have lost six stone between them.
Mr Coupe, who shed 8st 0.5lb to take him to 12st 9.5lb, said: "Since I lost weight my doctor has discovered I have a heart defect. It seems I may have had it for years but it was hidden by my size. It's a frightening thought but my doctor says if I had carried on as I was then I might not be here now. I'm so glad we joined Slimming World when we did in September 2006 because it literally saved my life.''
His heart is now being monitored by doctors, who are, he said, pleased the strain on his body has been reduced by the loss of weight. Mr Coupe also has asthma and arthritis while his wife, 51, has multiple sclerosis. But Mrs Coupe, who lost 7st 10lb and now weighs 10st 7lb, said slimming down has brought improvements. "Losing weight has saved our lives and given us our lives back at the same time,'' she said. "You don't realise what you are missing out on until someone gives you back your life.''