With at least another three months before the height of summer, there is still time to shed the extra pounds that have built up over the winter.

Experts helping people to lose weight say it is not enough just to suddenly stop eating things that are bad for you; exercise is also important.

Why a person eats the way they do and what their habits are also need to be looked at as part of a holistic approach to losing weight.

Lisa Jones from Brighton plans to start a series of weight-loss classes from the middle of this month called the Fat Club.

Although the name is the same as the TV series, the formula is very different and avoids the routines seen in most diet clubs.

Miss Jones said: "Obviously, some things work better for some people than others but I am trying something different.

"There is a need for different approach to weight control which considers how much help supportive people can be.

"We all know how to lose weight but it is staying motivated and in control that seems to be a problem.

"The very word diet has connotations of deprivation and punishment for some people so we have devised a way for people to meet up for encouragement and motivation and shed their excess pounds.

"I have experienced the weekly weigh-in, the patronising talks about calorie counting and exercise when attending other classes in the past.

"It was after attending this type of class myself that I decided the real issues were not about weight loss or how many pounds you'd shed that week but motivation, self-control and support."

Miss Jones, an independent Herbalife distributor, tried running her first club last year when a group of seven people met for six consecutive weeks.

She said: "The first meeting was primarily concerned with discussing what everyone wanted to achieve and feeling comfortable about discussing really quite difficult issues, including why diets are so difficult to stick with.

"From there we progressed to talking about ambitions and how we were holding ourselves back, through to other people's misconceptions and supporting each other.

"There was not a set of scales in sight.

"The members of the group got on very well and since coming to the end of our six-week programme, we've all kept in touch with each other and are determined to maintain the boost in confidence and weight management."

Being overweight can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease and strokes.

Even losing a small amount of weight can reduce the chances of developing problems in the future.

Overweight people are twice as likely to develop non-insulin dependent diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a common disorder that most often affects the joints in the knees, hips and lower back.

Extra weight appears to increase the risk of osteoarthritis by placing extra pressure on these joints and wearing away the cartilage (tissue that cushions the joints) that normally protects them.

If a person is carrying to many pounds, losing as little as five to ten per cent of their body weight may improve many of the health problems linked with being overweight.

Slow and steady weight loss is the safest way to diet and making long-term changes in eating and exercise habits will help people lose weight and keep those extra pounds off.

For more details about the Fat Club, call 01273 711314 or email lisa@preferredliving.co.uk