Diane putting obesity battle behind her as she celebrates fitness degree
A mature student who battled obesity for most of her life has graduated from the Ulster University with a BSc Honours in Sport, Physical Activity and Health.
Concern for her wellbeing prompted Diane Gillon to seek help, so she joined a gym at the age of 40, where she discovered a passion for fitness.
After training as a gym instructor, the mother-of-six went on to study and achieve a HNC and HND before enrolling for her degree course at the Magee campus.
A decade ago, when at a peak weight of 24 stone and struggling with her health, Diane took action and joined a gym close to her Londonderry home.
It was there that she not only transformed her physical appearance, but began her educational journey that will take her on the road to helping other people who struggle with their health and fitness.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Diane said: "Ten years ago I was a housewife and mother-of-six and my weight had gone up to 24 stone; I was working in the local Chinese takeaway, where the owner of a local gym used to come in.
"We got chatting over time and he became a great influence on me joining the gym. I had been trying to lose weight on my own and had managed to get a couple of stone off, but it wasn't noticeable.
"I started going to the gym and that's what really made the difference to me because it changed how I looked, and that inspired me.
"It reached the stage that some people didn't even recognise me when they met me in the street until I started speaking to them."
Diane went on to train as an instructor in the same gym and found a real affinity with people who perhaps found coming in to exercise a bit intimidating.
However, the unexpected and unforeseen closure of the fitness suite six years ago was a knock to her confidence.
But, determined to forge ahead, Diane sought, and this week achieved, formal qualifications in health and fitness that will allow her to pursue her dream of helping others.
Diane continued with her weight loss unabated and has shed an impressive 10 stone while studying and looking after her family. She said: "I know how hard it is to stay fit and healthy, particularly after dealing with setbacks.
"When things go wrong, it is easy to put the weight back on and I understand that, and people I worked with in the gym seem to relate to me because of that.
"When I was working in the gym I did a lot of work with older ladies, who maybe couldn't walk up the stairs when they first came in, but would have that 'lightbulb' moment later when it all clicked into place.
"That made me want to get involved more in the public health aspect rather than general gym work and that's what made go for my formal qualifications.
"It was an amazing feeling when I graduated with three of my daughters there with me.
"I would definitely encourage anyone who thinks they can't do something to go ahead and try, because if I can do it anyone can."