Julie Stone on her exercise bike ready to teach a class. Arohata Prison’s Fitness and Wellness Instructor Julie Stone has developed and implemented a new food, nutrition, mental health and fitness programme – and the results have been nothing short of outstanding.

Julie says several women have lost in excess of 20kgs, while her gold star student has lost 32kgs – completely reversing potentially life-threatening type 2 diabetes.

“Not only has she improved her health, the change in her attitude has been phenomenal. It’s done wonders for her self-confidence.

“She says it herself – she’s reinvented herself and changed her life. She’s gone from being a difficult and troublesome person to a happy, helpful and valued member of her unit,” says Julie.

When Julie first started her role, she says women constantly complained about their weight gain since being in prison. She says they incorrectly put it down to the bread and potatoes they were being served.

“It’s mostly the junk food they get at their weekly buy-ups and the cakes and fudges they make in the wing. I realised I needed to educate them on how the body works and make them understand the calorie content of food and how it affects them.”

“When you put on weight you feel horrible and it’s bad for your mind. It can be difficult when the women have to see their families. The first thing they say is, ‘woah, you’ve put on weight’, and it makes them anxious before their visits.

“It’s an incredible feat to lose weight for anyone; but to lose weight in here in the mindset they’re in, is really impressive. I’m super passionate about the work I’m doing here,” says Julie.