Big interview Jan 07 - Rosemary Conley

Diet and exercise guru Rosemary Conley tells James Hastings why faith and fitness are central to a healthy lifestyle
Rosemary Conley is Britain's Fitness Queen. Her diet and exercise programmes have helped millions of people lose weight, get fit and adopt healthier lifestyles.

The groundbreaking Hip and Thigh Diet and Complete Hip and Thigh Diet alone have sold more than two million copies worldwide while her total book sales exceed five million.

But Rosemary is quick to point to one source for her amazing success - God.

A committed Christian, she and her husband Mike Rimmington give a tithe – a tenth of their income - to God’s work, believing it is not just important but absolutely necessary.

In fact, Rosemary says it was only after she gave her life to Jesus that she realised just what success really meant.

“I suppose I considered myself a Christian but I was really just going through the motions,” she explains.

“I didn’t have a personal relationship with God. After I came to him, my whole life changed. Now prayer is the most important part of my day, not something I rush through mechanically.

“I love morning prayer and reading Scripture. I often pray before important business meetings. God is my guide in every aspect of my life, whether personal or business.”

Rosemary, who turned 60 this year, recently launched her latest diet and fitness programme, the Gi Jeans Diet, her 27th since she started her business in 1971.

“Back then, the diet and fitness industry was in its infancy,” she says.

“Few people knew what a calorie was or the connection between diet and fitness. I first lost weight after I gained two and a half stone after eating the recipes I learned to make on a Cordon Bleu cookery course.

“I had to go to the library and dig out information on dieting and fitness. It was very much trial and error but I roped in the best medical and scientific opinions.

“Soon I was running diet and exercise classes and things began to snowball.”

As her business developed, so did Rosemary’s faith. She says God “steered her” in the right direction. Before long she had her own TV show and was a regular on other prime time programmes such as This Morning with Richard and Judy.

Then came the award-winning diet and fitness clubs, Rosemary Conley Diet and Fitness magazine, the cookware range, the low-fat food, leaving just enough time to pick up a CBE at Buckingham Palace in 2005. Today there are 2,000 weekly classes across the UK for around 80,000 people and the numbers continue to grow.

But amidst all the success, Rosemary and Mike have never forgotten their Christian faith or principles.

“Our faith is central to our business,” she adds.

“I disagree with those who claim you can only be a successful company if you are ruthless and step on people. I am quite driven but I don’t believe that means I have to leave my faith at the boardroom door.

“We are fair in our business dealings. We care for my staff and members. If you do the right thing and treat people properly, you will see rewards. I pray over business decisions and as for tithing that is very important to us.”

Rosemary believes the Bible is the best guide when it comes to how we view our bodies – and what we put in them.

Scripture, she says, has plenty of sound advice, from warnings about gluttony to the dangers of excessive alcohol.

“God loves you whether you are eight stone or 28,” she stresses.

“His love for us does not depend on how we look or what clothes we are wearing. It’s not about vanity, but following God’s advice.

“There’s nothing wrong with eating fish and chips or being five pounds overweight. We should not be paranoid or swallow the secular world’s lies about vanity. However, if you are five or 10 stone overweight, that is not good for you. You are putting yourself at risk of illnesses such as diabetes and heart attacks.

“Remember, God wants us to enjoy life and look after our bodies. He wants us to be well.”

She adds: “Scripture reminds us our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.”

Rosemary shares the dismay of many diet and fitness experts at the rise in the popularity of TV cooking programmes in tandem with a shocking increase in the number of Britons who are officially obese.

“In a sense society is a victim of its own affluence. We have 24-hour supermarkets and more money in our pockets to buy bigger and bigger portions. Children don’t exercise as much and everywhere they turn, food seems to be about fat, salt and sugar.

“As a Christian, I believe we must take a holistic approach to food and exercise. The Bible gives great advice on the need to eat healthily and warns about sloth. It’s a great health and fitness manual if we would only take up its advice.”

Rosemary is a passionate supporter of the Alpha Course. She has spoken about her faith during interviews and always looks for ways to evangelise.

“I know the joy and peace that came into my life since I became a Christian,” she adds.
“I want other people to discover that same blessing whatever they do. I think we should always be looking at ways to pass on our faith, to give it away I suppose.”

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