By Janet Tappin Coelho

A couple who celebrate their silver wedding anniversary this year, have defied critics who scoffed at their weight-loss plans by losing an impressive 11 stone between them.

Rogerio and Cecilia Moura, both 42, were facing a lifetime of serious health problems and crippling diseases.

But following a drastic lifestyle change in their eating habits the pair have been given a clean bill of health. They credit their diet success to the same regime that has kept them together for the past 25 years – love, dedication, willpower and persistence.

“We drew strength from our years together to support each other through this difficult period,” said Rogerio, an electrical engineer who admits the couple loved binging on pizzas, pasta and fry-ups while he was addicted to soft drinks.

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“When we decided to re-educate the way we ate, many of our family and friends said we were being ridiculous and laughed at us. They warned we would never have the staying-power to lose the fat because we loved our food too much,” he revealed.

But the teenage sweethearts, who live in Sao José do Rio Preto, south east Brazil, have not only achieved their goal after 18 months of exercise and healthy eating, their sceptics are now turning to them for advice on how to shed the pounds too.

The engineer, who weighed 120.7kgs (19st) at his heaviest, dropped a life-improving 50.8kgs (8st) and is now 70kgs (11st) lighter.

Cecilia, a teacher, lost 20kgs (3.2st), slimming down from 83kg (13.1st) to 63kgs (9.9st) and after taking dress size 44 (UK 16/US 14) for years, now fits comfortably into a size 40 (UK 12/US 10).

The trigger for the couple’s change in eating habits occurred in May 2016 when Rogerio was diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure and medical tests showed his liver had 60 per cent more fat than normal.

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“I walked with a cane and I had a lot of pain in my joints, particularly my knees as I was carrying excess weight,” recalled Rogerio.

“I was also suffering from discomfort in my abdomen because my kidneys were swollen and crushing my other organs.

“Around the same time Cecilia was diagnosed with high cholesterol and the onset of hypertension.  All of a sudden, our future looked seriously worrying.

“We met and married when we were teenagers but now my health had taken a disturbing new direction. It hit home that we might not even celebrate 25 years together.”

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The couple, who mark their milestone anniversary in December this year, decided to confront their bad food choices and embark on living healthier.

They started taking short walks every day and drastically reduced their high-calorie intake which was made up of sweets, cakes, junk food and fizzy drinks.

Today their fridge is packed with freshly prepared salads, fruits, fish, chicken and lean cuts of meat and they’ve added whole grains, protein shakes, sugar-free juices and herbal teas to their shopping basket.

Instead of eating bread, pastries and biscuits for breakfast, they now start the day with tapioca or fruit.

They snack on nuts and vitamin juices and for lunch and dinner, their plates are filled with a variety of sautéed and steamed vegetables, with a high protein intake that keeps carbohydrates to a minimum.

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Since 2016, the couple who have two daughters aged 22 and 11, have increased their stamina and their daily walking distances. They now do 20km (around 12 miles) every weekend.

Rogerio said: “When we started, I lost 10kgs (1.5st) in the first month and a half and felt elated with what I’d achieved.

“However, that was soon knocked back when I posted my progress on a social network group. Some of our pals from schooldays scoffed at our efforts saying we would soon put the weight back on and more.”

But the portly school chum who once sported a trouser waist size of 58 (UK 48/US 48) has had the last laugh and now pulls on a size 40 (UK30/US30), with his friends desperate to know how he did it.

He said: “Their derision spurred me on, but it was hard to maintain better eating habits day in and day out. I was hungry all the time because I craved junk food and Coca Cola.”

In the first year the two stopped drinking beer and ate smaller portions of pizza, pasta and other snacks just once a month.

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They admit they nearly quit for good many times because they found it was difficult control what they ate and drank when they went out with friends.

Cecilia explained: “It took a lot of love combined with iron-will resolve to lose all this weight. But we’ve been together for so long we knew what strings to pull to encourage each other when we came close to giving up.

“When Rogerio was tired and didn’t want to exercise, I would simply put my foot down and insist we could not afford to lose focus.”

Gradually the couple began so see the benefits with the difference not just registering on the scales.

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After a battery of medical tests at the end of last year, doctors declared Rogerio’s health had improved significantly that he no longer has diabetes, high blood pressure or the early signs of liver disease.

Cecilia confided: “My self-esteem has improved, and I feel younger and more agile. I can crouch, jump, get up and run without feeling that fatigue of old.”

The health conscious pair said they have started working on their eldest daughter, Carolina, who has lost 10kgs (1.5st) so far.

“Our younger daughter, Emanuela, is a salad fan and actually dislikes burgers and pizzas,” said Rogerio with deep a sigh of relief adding that he’s thrilled to have lost his double chin and get abs along with a younger physique.