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Rosemary Conley CBE

This month marks 50 years since I opened my very first class!

I hated being overweight (which I was in the late ‘60s) and I tried everything in my efforts to be slim. I remember buying the chewy cubes called Ayds that were supposed to suppress your appetite. They didn’t. Another gimmick was to wear huge plastic bloomers when we went to bed in the hope that we would sweat off our fat from our thighs while we slept! Thankfully, I didn’t succumb to trying those! Extraordinarily, nobody talked about eating healthily or doing more exercise to lose weight and when I went to the doctor for help he just handed me a 1000 calorie diet sheet which was impossible to follow because it was too strict. I found I’d eaten all my calories by 4pm and then I just carried on eating all evening!

In desperation, I decided to study weight loss in more detail and became really interested in the subject. We decided to get a dog which meant I walked more and I designed my own diet plan based on 1400 calories a day which I found was do-able and it worked.

By 1971 my weight had reduced to a healthy level and I had become fascinated by the whole subject of healthy eating and weight control. I had already been on a Good Grooming course when I was 18 which had significantly boosted my confidence, so I decided to share what I had learned with others.

I remember pinning up 30 bright yellow posters inviting folks to join my first Slimming and Good Grooming Class to be held every Monday evening in our local village hall. Much to my surprise, 29 eager women joined on that first night. The following week, my first ever Slimmer of the Week had lost 11 lbs! It was so exciting and it was fun and that’s when I thought: ‘I’m loving doing this!’ The year was 1972 and little did I know then that I’d still be teaching 50 years on!

Having been interviewed recently by various radio stations about my 50th Anniversary of running my classes, a question I was often asked was ‘How have things changed since those early days?’ My response was simple - back then, we didn’t even think about exercise, it was all about dieting. Thank goodness we know what we know about exercise now!

You may like to listen to my interview with Anita Rani on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour from last Friday. You can find it on the BBC Sounds website. I was on for about 10 minutes and you can skip straight to my interview if you fast-forward 30 minutes from the start of the programme. 

Recipe of the Week

This low-calorie, low-fat and easy-to-prepare wholesome plant-based soup can also be served as a main course with boiled basmati rice.

Serves 4
Per serving: 163 calories, 2.7g fat
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins

1 red onion, finely chopped
1 small red chilli, deseeded and sliced
1 x 200g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 x 200g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
600ml vegetable stock (use a vegetable stock cube/pot if required)
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
Freshly ground black pepper to season.

  1. Preheat a non-stick wok or frying-pan. Dry-fry the red onion and chilli for 4-5 minutes
  2. Transfer to a saucepan and add the remaining ingredients. Simmer gently for 20 minutes. Season to taste with black pepper before serving.
For more recipes click here to visit the website

Fun, Facts & Fitness from Mary Morris MSc.

If you think about it, before group exercise there were very few outlets where women could go to get fit.  If you were sporty at school the chances were that you might have carried on with your sport, but for the majority of the female population there was absolutely nothing. 

Then along came Jane Fonda and she, more than anyone else in my estimation, changed the lives of millions of women.  Now there was somewhere to go besides the Women's Institute (a marvellous institution by the way – but making jam doesn't make you fit!). This was Rosemary's and my hey-day if you like as it was all so new and exciting.  The music industry was also producing amazing pop songs that had us itching to get moving!

In the early seventies I was teaching P.E in a school in Hertfordshire and I started an evening keep-fit class for the kid’s mums and I absolutely loved it.  Despite enjoying teaching children, I found my niche teaching grown-ups and hence the rest of my career developed from there.  For those women it was a lifeline to get out of the house and socialise with other like-minded women and get fit at the same time.  I realised just how much it meant to them and we had enormous fun doing it.

The road was not always smooth in those early days as physio departments were complaining of the number of injuries coming out of the boom in aerobics classes.  The constant jumping on the spot with 'Jumping Jacks' and 'Spotty Dogs' were not ideal for someone who had not exercised since their last P.E. lesson 10 years earlier!  But the industry sorted itself out with proper qualifications and we now have a fully regulated industry.  Thank goodness! 

Fifty years on just look at where we are now.  The enormous choice and opportunity for everyone to find an activity that suits them and to be able to monitor your progress through computer technology is extraordinary. Every one of you who reads this Newsletter each week is probably more health-conscious than you have ever been and, hopefully, trying to balance what you eat with how often you get moving. More than anything we all want to lead fulfilling lives and that means we have to put time and effort in to be the best we can be.  So, for Rosemary and for me, 50 years on, we still get excited about keeping you all fit, we still love new pop songs being released that inspire us to get moving and the only thing left to say is... long may it continue!

This Week's Fitness Challenge

  1. Back to the stairs again folks and this week try spending just 2 minutes going up and down 5 times every day. If you don't have stairs march on the spot with knees high for two minutes. This kind of anaerobic activity (basically meaning you get very out of breath) is very necessary but the great news is it only takes a very short time.  A great 'exercise snack'.
  2. Get outdoors for those daily walks.  We often talk about a 30-minute walk and that is all that is needed to keep you fit and healthy but it works just as well if you split that into 2 or 3 shorter ones...another 'exercise snack'.
  3. Do strength exercises 4 times this week. Look at our Strength and Toning Exercises and pick a strength routine that fits for you.  Most of the workouts do not exceed 10 minutes, so yet another 'exercise snack' in your healthy day.
Did you know…

Mary Morris was one of the ground-breaking team of fitness experts who worked together to create the RSA Exercise to Music qualification with the YMCA back in 1986. This led to exercise classes nationally being taught by professionally qualified teachers.

Well done Mary!

And Finally...

As Mary and I each celebrate our 50 years of helping folks to lose weight and get fitter, it is wonderful that we can now, through our website and this Newsletter, reach folks all over the world at the click of a button. Fabulous!

Have a great week!

With love and best wishes,

Rosemary Conley CBE DL


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