A CWMBRAN woman who used exercise as a way to improve her mental health has now qualified as a fitness instructor and hopes others can learn from her example.
Rebecca Forest, 31, suffered with with body dysmorphia – a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about their appearance.
“At one time I weighed over 15 stone,” she said. “In 2014 I lost three stone, but when I became pregnant again I was terrified of slipping into that dark place.
Rebecca Forest in 2010
Rebecca Forest today
“I refused to eat, got skeleton skin, lost nails and had spots all over me. I was in a real bad place and knew I had to do something about it.”
But, with the help of Bron Afon, the mum-of-two decided after running classes over lockdown to qualify as a fitness instructor.
She started eating healthily and exercising and lost more than seven stone.
“People started to ask me for tips on how to become fitter and healthier,” she said. “I set up a Facebook group and started sharing dance videos. But this couldn’t go any further as I didn’t have the qualifications.
“Last year I met Rachel Knight from Bron Afon’s Helping Families Work project and started volunteering to help others improve their wellbeing and maximise their income, two things that are close to my heart.
“I love to support my community in any way.
“Rachel contacted me when lockdown hit and asked if I could provide some virtual dance and fitness classes to help keep people moving and in ‘good spirits’.
“I teamed up with Emily Smith from Legacy Gym. We’ve had a blast getting people motivated and feeling more positive towards living a healthier lifestyle. There are a lot of people struggling right now.
“Rachel said to me ‘Why don’t you make a business out of this? You could do something really good’, but I could not afford the cost of the qualification.”
Ms Knight said: “We’ve been able to bring support together so her dream can become a reality.
“We have a targeted recruitment and training budget to help people get back into work and this paid £500 for her to take the course.”
Communities For Work is helping Ms Forest to launch the business and will mentor her through the first year of being self-employed.