A LOCAL woman who lost seven stone in seven months is being hailed as diet champion by the Harcombe Diet forum, of which she is a member.

But it was an insect bite which helped to set the weight loss wheels in motion.

Sarah Blenkinsop, a 52 year-old environmental educator and organic smallholder of Aylton, near Ledbury, says her wake-up call was lying in a hospital bed and listening to a crash team working all night on a lady across the ward.

Seven months on and seven stone lighter, Mrs Blenkinsop says the diet she decided to follow then probably saved her life.

An insect bite, which turned sceptic, helped to sound the alarm bells for the mother of one.

Mrs Blenkinsop said: "At the end of June 2014 I was rushed to hospital. My arm had turned sceptic after an insect bite and my blood pressure had rocketed to 220/135 – that’s stroke and heart attack range!

"Whilst in hospital I got a serious talk from a consultant about how much my weight was affecting my health - all stuff I knew and had ignored in the past – but this time it was to prove life-changing. Here I was: in a lot of pain, very ill and very frightened in an acute admissions ward, surrounded by some seriously unwell people. Yes, this time, I certainly took note. It was pretty eye-opening and traumatising."

Mrs Blenkinsop added: "After discharge from hospital I spent another two weeks recovering at home, on lots of medication and mostly in bed, with lots of time, and serious reason, to have a good hard think about my life and the way I was treating myself.

"This is all about getting some health back. It's about getting back my get up and go. But mainly I was just frankly terrified that if I did not do something about how fat I had become, I might not be around those I loved much longer. My mother sadly had a stroke, the first of many, when I was only 11 and she spent the rest of her life -another 15 years - in hospitals, paralysed and in a wheelchair, unable to speak and with brain damage.

"The thought of putting my family through what I had gone through as a child, growing up without my mum, finally spurred me into action to improve my own health."

Losing weight, through the Harcombe Diet, meant cutting back on the carbohydrates, including bread; but this led to a surprising discovery for Mrs Blenkinsop.

She said: "My former diet had lots of wholemeal home-made bread and wholemeal pasta, organic meat, dairy and home-grown veg. However, looking back, my food was very heavily carbohydrate laden, with lots of wheat based foods. What I now know is that my food choices were feeding the Candida lurking inside me and my wheat intolerance made it all even worse.

"Seven months in, and I can honestly say that I have not felt this good for more than a decade."

Zoë Harcombe, the diet’s founder, said she was delighted to announce Sarah as her diet champion.

“Her journey has been fantastic, and our club members say that Sarah’s story is a real beacon for them,” she said.