A woman is making a weight loss group more accessible to Glasgow’s Deaf community.

Zoe Harvey, 24, runs a Slimming World group in Barlanark Community Centre, and in a unique twist she has herself, sister or partner using sign language throughout the class.

The full-time interpreter joined the weight-loss organisation as a member in 2018 ahead of a holiday with her dad Thomas, 57, who is profoundly deaf.

She asked if he wanted to join the group with her as she knew he would possibly miss out on key information if he attended the class himself as English often isn’t the first language of people who are deaf.

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At the start of September 2019, Zoe, who is from Baillieston, started her own group after attending opportunity events. 

She said: "When I was becoming a consultant and opened the group, I wanted to make sure that I made it accessible to Deaf people.

"Growing up with a Deaf dad, I knew the barriers that are out there for the Deaf community, and there’s quite a lot of them, especially when you’re going to certain groups and there’s not always an interpreter provided or there’s obviously communication barriers if people don’t sign.

"When they asked me to set up a group I thought ‘I’m an interpreter full-time, that’s my job’ and I wanted to make sure Deaf people were getting the same treatment as everybody else in my group because I’m passionate about breaking down barriers and making sure they get the same access to all the information as everybody else.

"My dad was on the social team as well, he would sell the biscuits and the magazine and all the Slimming World recipe books, so he was part of the group which I thought was very nice because sometimes Deaf people can be excluded from a hearing group."

As well as running her group at the Barlanark Community Centre, Zoe also runs a group on Zoom for Deaf people which has members from all over the UK.

Many of her members attended other Slimming World groups previously but struggled to understand the plan fully due to communication barriers.

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Zoe said: "Some of them had maybe gone for a few weeks and didn’t understand, they were just going in and getting weighted and leaving because they didn’t know the plan.

"They got the pack, but obviously if English isn’t their first language it’s hard for them to read through the pack and understand it, so some people were coming in and saying ‘yeah, I’ve done it before, I only lasted a few weeks and then left because I wasn’t getting anywhere with it’."

She added: "I think as well with having a group, a lot of them will come on and say, ‘I found this out’ and ‘this is the bread I buy’, or ‘this is the recipe I’ve tried this week’ and they get so excited they can share that with their own community.

"They like hearing how well everybody’s doing and how well their weight loss is going and if you’re having a bad week, they’re always there to encourage them so I think definitely having the communication there is key.

"That’s what I’ve really heard, that they’ve not had that previously and having that now has made them more excited and more motivated."

On top of running the class, Zoe also spends time doing one-to-one Facetimes with people so she can explain the plan and ensure they have all the information they need.

"Someone phoned me yesterday and she said she’d done it before.

"We had a five/ 10-minute FaceTime and she said ‘see how smooth this conversation has gone because you can sign, it has been a completely different experience to what I’ve had previously with other weight loss journeys’."

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A recent study by Lincoln University into the relationship between weight loss and mental toughness revealed that people who are supported to lose weight in a group environment lose more than those without support, and it can also increase their mental toughness.

Zoe runs the Slimming World group at Barlanark Community Centre on Monday evenings at 5.30pm, while her online group runs at 7.30pm.

For more information, you can visit Zoe’s Facebook page HERE