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Foodwise for life inspires Caribbean food business

Johnal Simpson stood outside food truck

A man from Newtown has been inspired to lose weight and start a new Caribbean food business thanks to a NHS Wales weight management programme called Foodwise for Life.

Johnal Simpson had just moved to Newtown from South Wales as lockdown began:

“My relationship with food was rarely healthy during the past four years. Living on my own I found I lacked the motivation to have three square meals a day, usually eating on an evening having bypassed breakfast and dinner.” Said Johnal. “It was an easy cycle to fall into. Takeaways and junk food and bingeing became commonplace”.

"The past few years involved eating my way to a heart attack, that way no one could say it was suicide, such was my mindset. With a lack of exercise and becoming ever more reclusive, it wasn’t long before I was classed as a type two diabetic. A change had to be made. Thankfully, with the support of my local GP and mental health services here in Newtown, I finally felt someone was listening and willing to help. With a change of medication, I have found a new lease of life."

Johnal’s diabetes nurse referred him to the Foodwise programme which is a nine-week course run virtually by Powys Teaching Health Board dietetic support workers:

“It has opened my eyes to nutritional values and the importance of a balanced diet. I am losing weight steadily. I’ve switched from white bread and white pasta to wholemeal. I’ve stopped drinking tea and coffee and I eat so much more fruit and vegetables. And I feel much more positive about myself,” said Johnal. "At the last time of testing, my sugar levels had decreased which is a step in the right direction."

“I was fortunate enough to be a part of the first Foodwise for Life course held online. It’s a group session and we all got on well with each other, sharing tips and ideas and we really supported each other whilst acknowledging our accountability. It has been absolutely fantastic. The dietetic support workers were extremely resourceful. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants some help to lose weight and gain dietary knowledge,” he explained.

Foodwise for Life has had such an impact on Johnal that it has reignited a desire to start up his own food business:

“My Dad is Jamaican and I grew up on Caribbean food. I decided to bring the flavours to Newtown. Foodwise for Life helped give me more confidence.”

The Hummingbird Caribbean Food Truck is due to start serving up Caribbean delights in Newtown later this month.

Karen Wilson, Public Health Dietitian at Powys Teaching Board, explained:

“By focussing on the behavioural element behind people’s habits, we can support you to make sustainable changes for long term health benefits without feeling deprived which is often what leads to the all or nothing approach to weight loss.

“The programme runs for nine weeks but we offer continued support long after the sessions finish.”

The Welsh Government’s Help Us Help You campaign is shining a light on how we can lead a healthier lifestyle. By making a number of lifestyle choices such as eating well, being active and protecting our mental wellbeing, we are more likely to live longer and less likely to develop serious illnesses and health conditions.

Anyone with a BMI over 25 can self-refer to join the Foodwise for Life programme in Powys. It runs online and you can access digital technology support if required.

If you would like to learn more about losing weight healthily, becoming more active, changing eating habits and overcoming barriers, please visit: