WHEN Southampton couple Stephen and Mary Rudd decided they wanted to see less of each other, they did not mean breaking up.

They decided it was time to ditch their unhealthy lifestyle and start a new relationship with clean eating.

Now together, the couple from Hedge End have lost more than 10 stone in total.

Stephen, who lost three and a half stone, said: "It can take quite a lot to admit to yourself that you have a weight problem, let alone admitting it to your nearest and dearest.

"Imagine my relief when I finally spoke out and Mary said that she was unhappy with her weight too and thought we should do something about it.

"Having the support of Mary was a really important part of my journey and I feel very lucky to have had her by my side.

Following their successes, fellow group members at the West End Slimming World group nominated Mr and Mrs Rudd for Slimming World’s Couple of the Year 2017 competition.

Food was a central focus in the husband and wife's daily routine, the pair would spend lots of time discussing what they would eat for dinner and which restaurants to dine at.

"Losing weight together has definitely strengthened our relationship – we’re happier, healthier and fitter now and we’ve been on that journey together, which makes it even more special," said the 59-year-old, tanker driver

"People think that losing weight is just eating less and moving more, but there is so much more to it than that. Having the right support in place is essential."

The couple say they became comfortable together, which meant they often socialised with food.

As one of just 30 couples to make it to the semi-finals, Stephen and Mary Rudd believe the secret of their success was getting support from one another at home as well as their group.

Following their selection they were invited to represent Southampton at the national finals at Slimming World’s head office in Derbyshire.

Mary, who lost almost seven stone, said: “We couldn’t believe it when we made it to the semi-finals, it’s way beyond what we could have imagined when we first decided to join Slimming World.

"We already feel like winners because we’ve won the biggest prize out there."

Stephen and Mary weren’t the overall winners of the competition, however they were very proud that they were able to make it to the national finals.

"We feel great and we know we’ve got a long, healthy, happy life to look forward to together now," said the 58-year-old, community nurse.

Kay Godwin, who runs the West End Slimming World group that Stephen and Mary attend, said: “I’m so proud of them both.

"They’ve really taken it upon themselves to motivate not only each other, but the rest of the group, too. I’d encourage any couples who are struggling with their weight to tackle the issue together – it honestly does make the world of difference to have someone you love and trust by your side.

“Anyone who’s interested in finding out more about Slimming World is welcome at the West End group at Hilldene Community Centre or can call me on 07833746532 for more information.”