For many people, trying to lose weight and keep it off is the main focus of their lives.

Apart from affecting such people's health, weight problems can also have an impact on their self-esteem and social life as they become lethargic and depressed.

In some cases, this can lead to comfort eating which exacerbates the whole problem.

Those people who are three stone overweight are classified as obese. Obesity greatly increases the risk of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers and of being diagnosed with major depression.

Levels of obesity in England have tripled in the past 20 years, with one in five adults now dangerously overweight.

The condition costs the country at least £2.6 billion in NHS bills and indirect losses to the economy.

But health and fitness specialist and psychologist Ruth James believes she has the answer for people struggling to lose weight.

She and Chesterfieldbased life coach Becky East, have developed a system called Natural Weight Control which they believe can help people form a relationship with food that supports a sense of energy and vitality.

Miss James, from Burgess Hill, said: "Our system addresses some of the underlying psychological and emotional issues that can lead to overeating.

"The fundamental aim is to help people acknowledge that a life ruled by willpower is not the answer to achieving and maintaining optimum weight.

"It may even create a vicious circle of anxiety and low self-esteem, leading to over or under-eating.

"We concentrate on changing lifestyles in a way that makes people feel good about themselves."

She said the aim is to work in partnership with those in need of help.

"We need to identify their goals, design the future they really want and develop strategies to help make that possible.

"It is not just about getting the weight off, it is about developing a lifestyle and a state of mind that will help keep it off."

Miss James suffered from weight problems herself when she was younger but, after learning more about healthy eating and taking up regular exercise, managed to bring them under control.

Then she developed irritable bowel syndrome which left her with feelings of lethargy and tiredness in the morning.

Developing a new and simple healthy diet helped and she gradually started to feel a sense of freedom and energy she had not enjoyed before.

She said: "I was a fit person doing plenty of exercise but I was not healthy because my diet was not as good as it should have been.

"Combining the two issues helped and heightened my interest in the whole area."

What particularly interests her were the reasons why a person eats badly and puts on weight.

She said: "We need to look at the emotional element as well as the diet health and fitness side.

"The majority of people know what they should be doing to lose weight so it is the reasons why they are not taking those steps that need to be addressed.

"We look at lifestyle issues such as jobs and social life, as well as when and how much people eat.

"When it comes to dieting, some people try to do far too much at once and end up starving themselves.

"All this does is leave them hungry all the time until they finally crack and eat something bad for them.

This makes them angry at themselves and they give up on the diet.

"We always tell people to take small steps at a time.

There is no rush. If you do things slowly, carefully and properly, in a way that fits in best with what you do, theresults will be good. It is all down to the individual."

Miss James provides follow-up support to her clients in the form of regular coaching sessions by phone to help keep them motivated.

For details call 01444480318 or visit