Amazing Transformations: Noreen’s Story

From fat to fit. Credit: Noreen Manson

Most people wanting to lose weight throw themselves headlong into a diet, shed a couple of kilos in the first week or two and then either give up or battle on to get to the scale weight they want and then return to their former habits. In both cases, the statistical evidence is that over 90% of them will then regain all the weight they’ve lost and even add more.

A few brave souls realise that a diet alone is not the answer and that a vague desire to get into a smaller dress size isn’t motivation enough to lose weight and, most importantly, keep it off. The answer is to change one’s lifestyle, little by little, to lose weight and be healthier and fitter.

The older we get, the more daunting that prospect can be and it’s easy to simply shrug and make jokes about ‘middle-age spread’ or about being too old to try. It can also be easy to pile up excuses for not even attempting to try; unsupportive spouses, too many social commitments, lack of mobility, lack of time, being confused by the advice and more.

However transforming one’s life in increments to adopt healthier behaviours and reaping the benefits in terms of fat loss and increased fitness can be done at any age, at any weight and at any level of fitness. 

We talk to Noreen, a lovely lady living in Turre, Almeria who has lost an incredible 57kgs so far and is an awe-inspiring example of someone who has transformed herself physically and behaviourally. 

Noreen’s Transformation Story

Noreen at the start of her journey. Credit: Noreen Manson

How long have you been living in Spain and, if it’s not a rude question, how old are you?

I’m 61 and I’ve been living in Spain for five years.

You’re a member of Gimnasio Turre, when did you start going and what prompted you to do so?

I joined in September 2020. During lockdown, my weight had increased and I had very little activity. I had seen Facebook posts about the gym re-opening and as I live close by and there was no long-term contract involved, I decided to give it a go. There are lots of lovely people at the gym and a real sense that we are all there for each other.

You’ve had an amazing transformation; are you comfortable saying how much weight you’ve lost and what you are able to do fitness-wise now that you couldn’t when you started?

I’ve lost nine stone (57kgs). When I started, I had minimal fitness and flexibility, I couldn’t walk very far and everyday tasks like putting on shoes were becoming increasingly difficult. Now, I can easily walk five kilometres without stopping and without constant lower back pain.

How many sessions do you do in the gym each week and what sort of activities?

A typical day now starts with a three-kilometre walk followed by the gym. I have been doing three weight sessions each week plus a Private Trainer session. I also do three circuit classes and a Bodytone class.

Away from the gym, do you do other fitness activities or follow a particular diet? 

Outside the gym, I now look for opportunities to walk and aim for 12 – 15,000 steps per day. I follow a calorie-counting diet and monitor protein and fibre intake. I have followed a group called Team RH for 2.5 years, which has really helped with my knowledge about nutrition.

Is there anything else about your lifestyle that’s changed as a result of your transformation? 

I have maintained my weight loss for 16 months despite having a busy social life that usually involves eating and drinking, but I now understand how my body reacts and I know what I need to do to pull it back.

Have there been challenges along the way or times when you’ve wanted to pack it in? What has kept you going?

I never set out to lose so much, I just thought I would lose a bit, feel better and probably put it back on again. 

The motivation to keep going now is that I don’t want to put it back on again and the thought of going backwards is quite scary. It is challenging to keep going as it gets more difficult and you have to work harder as time goes on. I have dieted all my adult life and I have never stuck at it like this before, nor have I done as much gym work.

How do people around you, who may not follow a health or fitness routine, react to you now? Are people generally supportive?

Friends and family have generally been very supportive and are pleased for me. Some say I am obsessive because I weigh everything that I eat but I don’t listen to them because if I don’t weigh my food, I don’t know what I’m eating and won’t be in a caloric deficit, which is the only way to lose fat.

Going out in Spain often involves lots of high-calorie, carby food, how do you navigate that?  

I still eat out, but I compensate on days around that and get back on track straight away rather than allowing one day off plan to become three days off plan.

How important is going to the gym to you and what makes it a place you feel comfortable in?

Gimnasio Turre has played a huge part in my weight loss and fitness journey. You walk in and immediately feel comfortable. There is a wide range of equipment and classes with great trainers. You just get on with what you want to do and help is at hand if you need it. 

Do you have other goals you want to achieve?

Ideally, I would like to lose about another 10kg, but keeping up with fitness and walking is more important and I am equally happy if I just maintain where I am now.

What advice would you give to other people out there who are in your age range and want to lose weight and get fitter?

My advice to anyone around my age, even if they don’t need to lose weight, is to get moving. Increase little by little and you will be amazed at how much progress you make. Don’t be afraid to join a friendly gym where you will be among like-minded people and you will be supported along the way. There is a wide age range of people, including many in their 60s and 70s. Everyone is different and has different goals, but the only way to make progress is to take the first step.

Noreen’s journey. Credit: Noreen Manson

Getting Fit Tips And Tricks

  • Don’t crash diet. Get your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is how many calories you need a day, using a BMR calculator and then eat 500 calories a day less if you want to lose around half a kilo (1lb) a week. If you prefer to be given a more exact calorie intake a day based on your exercise level and how much protein, carbohydrates and fats to aim for use a Macro calculator.  
  • Prioritise protein. If you are exercising and trying to lose weight you need to eat a diet high in protein. You should be aiming for 1 to 1.5 grams of protein for every kilo of weight. For example, if you weigh 80 kilos you should eat 80 to 120 grams of protein a day. Great sources of protein are poultry, fish, beef, tofu, eggs, natural yoghurt and nuts.
  • Count calories. It’s a fact that everyone underestimates how much they eat so if you really want to lose weight you need to count the calories to know if you are in a deficit or not. Free calorie tracker apps such as Myfitnesspal, Carbmanager or Lose It!
  • Smart swaps when eating out. You don’t need to lock yourself away just because you’re losing weight, just learn to make smart choices. Say ‘no’ to the bread and aioli, ask for tapas ‘sin pan’ and ask restaurants to swap out the chips for grilled or steamed vegetables instead. Request meat or fish ‘a la plancha’ instead of ‘fritos’. The vast majority are happy to oblige. 
  • Alcohol awareness.  Unfortunately, alcohol is dead calories, but realistically most of us enjoy it so be aware of the calories. Liqueurs and surgery cocktails are the most calorific, followed by cider and beer, then red wine, dry white wine, cava (brut or brut nature) and spirits. So if you’re going to drink you are best sticking to a spirit with a diet mixer, cava or dry white wine.
  • Don’t be all or nothing. It can be tempting to throw in the towel if you’ve gone out for a blow-out meal; the key is to simply carry on and not be tempted to write off the entire day or week and promise you’ll start again tomorrow or next week.
  • Know your NEAT. If you don’t feel confident or ready for the gym, upping your NEAT is a great way to start exercise. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is all the calories we burn during a day doing non-purposeful exercise i.e. just getting up and moving. Every day we use a little over half of our calories just staying alive (your BMR) and around another 10 per cent metabolising our food, leaving around 30-40 per cent spare. Getting a fitness watch and aiming for 10,000 steps a day is a good way to track NEAT, but also try tricks such as:
    • Parking further away in the car park and walking those short journeys rather than jumping in the car for convenience
    • Taking the steps, rather than the lift or escalator
    • Housework and gardening are NEAT activities; do a little every day
    • Putting on some music and have a dance around your house
    • Taking an evening stroll to the end of your street and back adds steps
    • Try volunteering for dog walks with a local rescue centre

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Written by

Emma Mitchell

Emma landed in journalism after nearly 30 years as an executive in the Internet industry. She lives in Bédar and her interests include raising one eyebrow, reckless thinking and talking to people randomly. If you have a great human interest story you can contact her on