A new Department of Health report says that 24 per cent of women in the country will be obese by 2005.

Siobhan Ryan speaks to a woman who is about to hold regular counselling and support sessions to help people lose weight.

It's the start of another New Year and for hundreds of people in Sussex that means making a resolution to go on a diet.

But for many although they manage to lose weight within a matter of months the pounds pile back on again.

The yo-yo dieting can sometimes go on for years and becomes a never-ending treadmill that people can't get off.

With that in mind a series of new clinics organised by Brighton-based Obesity Lifeline counsellor Claire Taylor are expected to give people the help they need.

The clinics offer a combined weight loss programme with regular counselling sessions and are aimed at getting people to look at how and why they eat the way they do.

Mrs Taylor said: "The idea of the programme is to work with small groups of women who are overweight and want to do something about it.

"We examine people's relationship with food and what is going wrong and we look at the possible psychological reasons behind what is happening.

"Different people react to stresses and problems in different ways and with some it can come out in how they eat.

"People are either serving too large portions, binge eating, eating at the wrong time of day or comfort eating becasue of stress.

"Overeating can be an addiction just as much as alcoholism and it needs to be addressed.

"The course is made up of a small group of people who all understand what it is to be overweight and the pressures that can result.

"Everyone supports each other by relating experiences and events to try and help each other out.

"About nine out of ten people who lose weight often put it straight back on again and this is something we are trying to avoid.

"If we can get at the cause of the eating habits and behaviour then hopefully once the weight is off it will stay off."

The 14-week course starts this month and by the end of it Mrs Taylor hopes that everyone will have lost at least three stones.

Other courses and support sessions are still available afterwards if people are interested in continuing.

Mrs Taylor said there was a large demand for the course.

She said: "A lot of people who come to us have tried almost everything they can to lose weight, such as going to various slimming clubs, but sometimes they just don't work for them.

"Slimming clubs are obviously good for many people but for some they need just that bit more which is where we come in with the counselling facility on offer.

"We aprovide a vital facility and the demand is certainly there."

Mrs Taylor suffered from obesity herself when she was younger so knows what people are going through.

She said: "I have been there myself and so I understand how people are feeling and what they want to achieve."

Mrs Taylor said one of the main reasons she began getting involved with helping people to lose weight was after learning about the health risks.

People who are overweight increase the risk of strokes, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Overweight woman are 37 more times more likely to be diagnosed with minor depression and have a 55 times greater chance of dying from cancer.

Mrs Taylor said even a five to ten per cent weight loss can lead to a significant reduction of potential health problems so every pound counts.

The new course starts at the Rock Clinic in Eastern Road, Brighton this month.

Another course of clinics is being run by Val Parry in Worthing.She can be contacted on 01903 265521 . The courses are specifically for women at the moment but the national Obesity Lifeline organisation is hoping to set up some for men in the future.

For further information call 01273 600154.