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Inspiring stories from people across the Borders

Individuals from across the Borders are telling us about how the small changes they are making and the difference it is making to their health and wellbeing.

What's so inspiring is that the changes are not always huge but the difference each has made to their lives certainly is. Maybe the next story we feature might be yours !

Lisa's story

Lisa meets a lifestyle adviser regularly and has a programme for the gym at Teviotdale Leisure Centre, Hawick.   Lisa has also been getting out and about by walking. Lisa told us, “I don’t always get 10,000 steps a day but I regularly walk between 6,000 and 7,000 with my longer walks taking me well over the 10,000 mark. I have been using the Map-My-Walk app. I can honestly say that I have been very well looked after by everyone involved in Small Changes, Big Difference. Although I haven’t yet seen a big difference in my weight, I have made changes to my diet, lifestyle, sleeping pattern and exercise regime and these are definitely making a big change to my challenge 2017 v1

Alison's story

Alison is approaching retirement and told us,” I've gained 2 stone, feel sluggish and get out of breath when I climb stairs or go for a short stroll.” She joined the Scottish Borders Council lifestyle challenge to get some support to eat a healthier diet and become more active. 

Alison was given her first appointment with a lifestyle adviser 4 weeks ago. She told us, “ We talked in depth about my eating habits, what I eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus all those little extras I thought I needed to get me through the working day. I got rid of my daily cheese scone and was given lots of tips of what to eat to stop me feeling hungry. The brilliant thing is that the eating plan was designed around what I like to eat. One thing I'm finding a wee bit difficult is to slow down my eating. A lifetime habit of eating as fast as I can will take some time to break, but I'll get there in the end. 

I have now lost 8lbs, an average of 2lbs a week. I know it's not a massive weight loss but I want to do this slowly over the next 18 months or so and develop good eating habits for life.

Wendy's story

One of our lifestyle challenge participants, Wendy, got her gym membership, started some classes but then her car broke down and she couldn’t get there and she never went back. Sound familiar? Gyms and fitness classes are not for everyone. Take heart.

Wendy then decided to be more active by building more walking into her everyday life. She used a fit bit to count her daily steps, achieving 10,000 steps a day more and more often.

Competing with a couple of friends who have fit bits has also helped her. She says, “In a rural area, swimming, gym, exercise classes are not accessible if you don’t have a car and in the spring and summer walking is perfect for me, my dog and my purse!

Ms. C at SBC

A colleague at Scottish Borders Council, Ms.C, joined the lifestyle challenge, because she wanted to, “be more active and lead a healthier lifestyle.” She told us,” Over the years my weight has gradually increased and I’ve become more and more unfit. I used to love to walk but being so overweight makes it difficult. I want to have the confidence and commitment to lose weight, eat more healthily and become more active with the aim of being able to cycle again by this summer.”

Ms.C got off to a good start with an induction in the gym, a swim pass and by walking. A few weeks on, she told us, “I am using the gym but mostly I am enjoying using the swimming pool’s in the area. It does take organisation and commitment to find time for exercise but I feel great when I’ve been out for a long (ish!) walk or swimming (very slowly!) for an hour. It’s about a shift in attitude and making changes towards a healthy lifestyle. 

Annie's story

One of our SBC lifestyle challenge participants Annie, aged 50, has been told by her GP that some high impact exercise would benefit her bone health. Annie told us she was," looking for something to help her start exercising and to be connected to other people who were also keen to make lifestyle changes”. She said the lifestyle challenge, “may just be the ticket!” In her first week, Annie told us, “I went to a class at Tri Fitness last night, excellent but hard work – guess that’s the point.” Now a few weeks on Annie has been building up her confidence on the treadmill and is delighted to have achieved her long term goal of running outdoors, although she admits that the run is still interspersed with walking to recover her breath!  So far the ‘Small Changes, Big Difference challenge looks like it’s shaping up to be the ‘ticket’ to a complete lifestyle change! 

running outside

Liz inspires her colleague to get into jogging

Liz, has been running on and off for a number of years. She decided to challenge herself and run a half marathon. At the same time she inspired her colleague, Kate, to get into jogging.

Kate joined the NHS Borders lifestyle challenge and jogging was one of the small changes she made in her lifestyle to improve her health and wellbeing.Read more about Kate’s story below. Congratulations to them both

 Liz LisleKate Warner

Lifestyle challenge winners

Pat and Anne have been voted overall winners of the NHS Borders, Lifestyle Challenge. Read more about their inspiring stories below.  All participants in the ‘challenge’ had a vote and although there were just 2 overall winners, many participants made changes to improve their health and wellbeing. Thank you and congratulations to you all.   

Lifeastyle challenge winners 2015

Pamela's story

Pamela pledged to become more active to lose weight, prevent ill health and also to reduce back pain and improve her low mood.

Pamela steadily gained weight, became a “couch potato”, withdrew from her social life and battled with depression (on and off) following the death of her mother 6 years ago.

She says, “My family convinced me to get a puppy. My mood has improved significantly. I still have days when I don’t feel like facing the world but I have to get out of bed and walk my dog. I have to talk to people as they approach us as they often ask about her. I walk a few miles every day, as well as 4-5 quick strolls outside the house. I’ve managed to lose approx 10lb, my clothes fit better and I’m wearing smaller size now. Also my flexibility and stamina have improved.”

Pamela J

Sheena Macdonald sets the pace for walking meetings at work

When the ‘Small Changes, Big Difference’ campaign launched on 30 October 2014, Sheena Macdonald, Medical Director at NHS Borders pledged to be more active at work and have walking meetings to encourage a more informal and more active style of work. Six months on Sheena is carrying out her pledge, “I walk to talk to people rather than e mail or phone and invite people to walk with me if they approach me in corridor”, says Sheena. “I clocked up 4 miles one day purely within the Borders General Hospital campus.”

 Group Resize

If you have a desk based job, try adding in a walking meeting to your daily work pattern. It’s a great way to get more active and get a break from your desk.  

Borders Dialysis Team

Liz, a senior sister in the Dialysis unit, tells us about the daily conversations the team has with their patients and how these make a big difference to their health and wellbeing and their families’ too.   

"We build relationships with our patients on a daily basis to help support both them and their families. As dialysis is a long term treatment, we sometimes have our patients with us for many years."  

"We don’t just talk about treatments though, it’s about their 'life' and what we can do to enhance that. We have regular quizzes and we play bingo, (when time allows!). One of our patients is an artist and volunteers to teach others once a month which encourages patients to talk about life outside dialysis and their other interests. We also listen to our patients concerns, how they are coping, how their families are managing and we do what we can to support them."

 dialysis unit photo 2014

Picture - A patient's grandson ran a marathon and raised money for the ‘dialysis endowment fund’.

Pat's story

Pat Grieve head shot (1) 

Pat, works in the Borders General Hospital. She decided to sign up for the lifestyle challenge to re-engage in her life following the death of her daughter almost 2 years ago. During this time, Pat has been grieving and at the same time less active, less fit and heavier in weight. In December 2014, Pat took the brave step to come forward and pledge to get more active and eat more healthily.

Pat says. “Since starting this challenge, I have improved my emotional wellbeing as well as making some changes to my diet and activity levels. I have lost 12lb. My energy levels are up, I am sleeping better and my clothes are fitting much better! I am now in a place where I have started running using the NHS Couch to 5K app with a plan in place to run a 10K run in the autumn in memory of my daughter. “

Katie’s Story

Katie decided to sign up for the lifestyle challenge to lose weight, eat more healthily and increase her energy levels. A key motivator for Katie was to get back into some of her old clothes which were pinching at the waist!

Katie says that she is now much more disciplined in her eating. She also walks more, aided by a pedometer which measures her steps and keeps her aware of being active. Since the start of January Katie has lost 4kg and has more energy.  She’s feeling good that she has not given up and gone for comfort eating despite having to deal with the stress of having a family member in hospital for sometime.

Anne's challenge

Over the past couple of years Anne steadily gained weight and stopped exercising as regularly as she used to.  She also felt she drank too much alcohol. Anne decided it was time to act, so she signed up for the Small Changes, Big Difference challenge.

So far Anne has made changes to her diet, cut out alcohol, and walks regularly. She has also tried the gym at her local leisure centre and has signed up to cycle with a group on Sundays.

Since New Year, Anne has lost 9lb. She says "I may not have hit all the targets I have set myself but I am happy that I am going in the right direction at a rate which is sustainable.  Appreciating all the things in my life including some that I previously hated has made the biggest difference.  I now realise that I have a great life."

Anne Campbell

Lifestyle Adviser Support Service

When Mrs. Wood attended her first appointment with Marie, a lifestyle adviser she weighed 123.2kg and her Body Mass Index was 41.16. She had a poor diet; ate crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks daily. As well as this she was inactive and rarely left her house.

Mrs. Wood began to make small changes by having a breakfast, cutting back on high fat and sugary foods and halving the amount of fizzy drinks that she drank. She also started to have lunch and main meal at night instead of grazing.

In the beginning Mrs. Wood was not confident about getting more active. She felt the gym would be too intimidating and would bring on a panic attack. However she came back to her lifestyle adviser a few weeks later and said she would like to give it a try. Initially she was managing to stay at the gym for about 15 minutes. Now she is managing 1 hour in the gym twice per week. She also bought herself a pair of walking boots and walks 30 minutes everyday.

Mrs. Wood now feels a lot more fitter, healthier and confident. She has made friends with the regulars at the gym who give her lots of encouragement.Her current weight is 94.5kg, BMI 31.57. She has lost four and a half stone in eight months. She was a clothes size 26 but she is now a size 18.

Another success story ! 

Fiona - Community Charge Nurse, pledges to quit smoking

This is a big change for me.I am on day 10 of quitting smoking. It's not easy (in fact harder now than it was in first week) but I’m determined to remain a non-smoker!

Clearly there will be health benefits and my son sees how difficult this is so hopefully he will never go near cigarettes. At least now I am able to advise/inform without feeling like a hypocrite! 

Best wishes to everyone else who is making a small change for a big difference.

NHS Borders lifestyle challenge

Getting off to great start in 2015 are the 10 staff who signed up for the NHS Borders Lifestyle Challenge. All ten are are keen to make a small change in their lifestyle to make a big difference to their health and wellbeing, but need some support to do it.

Lifestyle Challenge participants 2015

We will be following them along their 12 week journey and sharing their stories on our website and our social media campaign pages on Twitter and Facebook. The Borders Sport and Leisure Trust will be sharing these stories too.

Communities get involved

One of the first community groups to make their pledge is the Walkerburn community. Volunteers and agencies who have worked in partnership for ten years, to reduce health inequalities by co-producing a community health programme, are pledging to ‘continue building our healthy living network community’.

Molly McIntosh MBE from the Walkerburn Healthy Living Network said: “The Small Changes, Big Difference campaign is a refreshing approach to encouraging people to enjoy health improving activities.  I am a keen advocate for all ages to get involved; everyone has the capacity to make some kind of positive change and to support others.  Walkerburn is a small village and we hope to continue our positive experience of partnership work and grow our Healthy Living Network community.

walkerburn community

Borders Pharmacy Langlee

The Borders Pharmacy in Langlee, Galashiels has joined the growing number of communities from across the Borders joining the campaign and from 1 March 2015, pledge to support the Langlee community become smoke free. 

Scottish Borders Council staff add their pledges

On 21 January, around 20 SBC staff visiting the restaurant pledged to make small changes to improve their health and wellbeing.Carol, Linda, Karen, Roseanne and Carly work in the resturant and jointly pledged to ‘support one another to lose weight’.

SBC canteen ladies pledge

A further public pledge from the Langlee Residents Association and their partners is also welcomed as they commit to ‘improving the health of Langlee Residents’.

In addition to these community pledges, NHS Borders' and Scottish Borders Council’s very own Healthy Living Network Team has committed to sharing the Small Changes, Big Difference message across all border communities.

NHS Borders staff make their pledge

On 14 January, more than 50 staff members pledged a small change to improve their health and well being. If you pledged, you can tag yourself our social media pages on Twitter and Facebook

Lifestyle Adviser Support Service

In March 2014, Mr Johnstone made an appointment to see a Lifestyle Adviser. He has multiple sclerosis and at time was swimming once per week and doing some seated exercises at home. To get out and about he was using his electric scooter. He stopped smoking 8 years ago and his weight had been creeping up since then.

At the initial assessment, the Lifestyle Adviser and Mr Johnstone agreed that his meal portions were too big.  So his first change was to weigh his food until he retrained his eye to recognise what a portion should look like.This has helped Mr.A lose one and a half stone in 7 months; a 10% weight loss.

To help motivate Mr Johnstone become more active, the Lifestyle Adviser gave him a pedometer. He bought a walking aid and for the first time in ten years he walked in public again. He went on to book himself a holiday in Jersey and instead of taking his electric scooter he took his walker with him and walked all around Jersey!  His blood pressure has fallen and he’s booked the same holiday for next year!

LASS team

Picture: Lifestyle Adviser Support Service Team


 Dawn before

Dawn, a colleague at NHS Borders, made a series of small changes to her lifestyle to lose weight over a number of years. In 2004, she was a size 22. Today she is a size 12. She learned to love exercising and joined an 'aquafit' class at her local swimming pool as well as making small changes to her diet.

Dawn (pictured before and after below) is now offering advice to colleagues that need some help to make a change.

 Dawn after


Joyce works in  Hawick for NHS Borders. After a recent 'landmark' birthday she decided to take stock and do something about her weight gain.  When stepping on the scales she was horrified to learn she had 6.5 stone to lose! 

So far Joyce has lost 17lbs and now has the motivation and momentum to keep going. "Now that I see the weight coming off, my clothes are fitting better and I am just generally feeling better," says Joyce.


Lesley  Horsburgh Walk To Work

I have been walking to work at the Borders General Hospital from Galashiels, 2-3 times per week, since spring this year. It takes about 1 ¼ hrs from my house which means a few changes like getting up earlier, leaving earlier than I would have previously. My motivation was actually the car parking pressures at BGH but actually, the actual benefits to my health are instantaneous – by the time I reach Langlee and just about half way my endorphins have kicked in and I have a sense of well being which sets me up for the day ahead!



I started running at 50. I have never looked back and never felt better


Joy Borowska Cycle To Work

For many years I was reliant on the bus to get to work. When I moved closer to the hospital I decided to buy a bike on the Cycle to Work scheme. I had not cycled since my teens and I really enjoy my cycle of around 4 miles a day. I am no longer working around bus timetables. The time I used to spend waiting for the bus, was probably the time it takes to cycle to work. I feel fitter and am keeping my fingers crossed for a mild winter.