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I beat obsession with exercise to fulfil my dreams of motherhood, reveals fitness guru Estelle

By Claire McNeilly

A Northern Ireland fitness guru has revealed that her obsession with exercise nearly scuppered her dreams of becoming a mum.

Estelle Wallace, a nutritional therapist, said her addiction to keeping trim led to her training two hours every day despite holding down two other jobs.

But the Ballymena woman, who has been named new Wellness Ambassador for the SuperValu chain, fell pregnant shortly after she recovered and daughter Charley Mae is now 13.

"I was only interested in cardio-vascular activities; anything that would burn calories," the 43-year-old gym manager admitted.

"I did a lot of road running and, when I was at the gym, it was the bike, rowing machine, running machine, cross trainer... I felt I had to exercise to remain at 9st and my mindset was that if I didn't do this then I would gain weight.

"My periods stopped, and when I went for a hormone check my levels were very low.

"My doctor thought I was perimenopausal.

"That absolutely petrified me because I desperately wanted to be a mum.

"I came away thinking something has to change, and cut back immediately."

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph as she takes up her role with the convenience retailer, Estelle also confessed to another major health scare when a large tumour appeared on her leg.

It turned out to be benign, and the married mother-of-one, who runs her own health and fitness website, said she is convinced it was her faith in God and the power of prayer had helped her on that occasion.

"In late 1999 I was training very hard to be a fitness instructor and I had a pain down my shin," she said.

"It turned into a lump and I went to the doctor who sent me for a MRI scan and I was told there was a benign tumour on my shin that needed surgery.

"At that time my mum had put me on the prayer list at all the churches and whenever I went to see the consultant he said the X-ray showed it had gone.

"I'm a committed Christian and, to this day, I still believe that God healed me. Faith pulls you through a lot in life.

"A tumour could have taken me away from my calling and I believe that's why today I'm blessed with such a following; I believe his hand is on it."

Personal trainer Estelle, who has been married to construction industry foreman Russell (45) for two decades, said that the terrifying incident has made her committed to promoting health and well-being across Northern Ireland.

She said that Pure Wellness in Galgorm, which she manages, has a membership of 250 -including private clients and doctor referrals - stressing: "We're a gym for the broken, not for the beautiful. So many gyms are vanity-based but we're very different.

"We want people with low confidence and low self-esteem so we can help build them up and work on their outer selves as well as their inner emotional issues. Sometimes gyms are very intimidating for people and we want to take that away and make them feel at home and help them get fit and well at the same time."

Her website - shrinkcompletefitness.com - is already a big success and she said she sees her new partnership with SuperValu as another way of getting the positive message out to as wide an audience as possible.

And now, in addition to her day jobs and online business, Estelle will be creating healthy recipes, as well as providing simple nutritional, exercise and advice tips, for the retailer.

"I really want to make people healthier and I think it's fantastic that SuperValu is making so many healthy foods accessible," she said.

In the run-up to Mother's Day the convenience superstore has launched a range of more than 200 new health products in its 36 shops, including 'Free From' meals, benefit foods, supplements and sports nutrition.

There will also be a diverse selection of products on offer, such as kale, goji berries, quinoa, spirulina and chia seeds, for the aerobics and pilates teacher to use in her recipes.

"As a busy mummy who juggles work, fitness classes and health clinics, along with developing my own cookbook, I hope my advice as a Wellness ambassador will help customers balance life better, whilst also eating healthily," she said.

Musgrave NI head of marketing, Desi Derby, said the company's collaboration with Estelle was in response to a growing customer demand.

"SuperValu has a very strong brand vision for health this year as both our consumer research and sales demonstrate that our customers are looking for healthy, convenient inspiration when they visit our stores," he said.

"We are delighted to welcome Estelle on board and her principle of healthy balance and love of real food embodies our brand and supports our mission to help provide customers with tips and advice to make simple, healthy lifestyle changes."

For information, recipes and tips visit www.supervalu.co.uk

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