She was the go-to for women hoping to lose weight in the eighties and nineties with her low-fat recipes and exercise techniques.
But Rosemary Conley is now suffering from her own health issues.
At 76, the former fitness guru, who lives with her husband Mike in Leicestershire, has both bronchiectasis and arthritis and repeatedly suffers from chest infections.
Due to embarrassing symptoms – including coughing up an egg cup worth of phlegm a day, Rosemary believes there’s a ‘conspiracy of silence’ around the illness.
‘It was only later that I felt the fear – it’s a horrible feeling being diagnosed with an illness that has no cure and nobody seems to know about. There is no cure for asthma either, but people at least understand what that is and how dangerous it can be,’ she told the Mirror.
Rosemary Conley has both bronchiectasis and arthritis and repeatedly suffers from chest infections
Due to embarrassing symptoms – including coughing up an egg cup worth of phlegm a day, Rosemary believes there’s a ‘conspiracy of silence’ around the illness. Rosemary is pictured in 1988
Rosemary is pictured with Kevin Kennedy, who played Curly Watts in Coronation Street
Rosemary added that she’s always taken her health ‘very seriously’ and still goes to the gym twice a week (pictured in the 1980s)
Rosemary, often named as the ‘face of diet culture’ rose to fame after her 1988 book Rosemary Conley’s Hip and Thigh Diet became a best seller.
She then built a fitness empire, which rivalled Slimming Wold and Weight Watchers before low-fat diets fell out of fashion and carbs were demonised instead.
Rosemary added that she’s always taken her health ‘very seriously’ and still goes to the gym twice a week.
She also does ballet lessons and goes for walks every day.
‘I’m currently sticking to my physiotherapy sessions religiously as I recently had a partial knee replacement. It’s the same with asthma. I’ve always taken the recommended medication exactly as it’s prescribed. My asthma is severe, but I’ve managed it well and I haven’t had a serious asthma attack for 40 years.’
Rosemary was born with underdeveloped lungs and spent most of her early childhood in hospital.
She built a fitness empire, which rivalled Slimming Wold and Weight Watchers before low-fat diets fell out of fashion and carbs were demonised instead (pictured with Kevin Kennedy on a TV show)
Rosemary was a huge star in the late 80s and early 90s with many loving her diet books and exercise classes
Rosemary, often named as the ‘face of diet culture’ rose to fame after her 1988 book Rosemary Conley’s Hip and Thigh Diet became a best seller. She then published dozens more
What is Bronchiectasis?
Bronchiectasis is a disease of the bronchi, tiny branches that deliver air deep into the lungs.
The bronchi are coated with sticky mucus that catches harmful particles and bacteria – the mucus is then passed back up to the throat and swallowed, rather than staying in the lungs.
In bronchiectasis, damage to these branches causes them to widen abnormally, and mucus starts to build up.
Patients often have a persistent cough that causes tiredness, shortness of breath, wheezing and brings up phlegm.
There is also a greater chance of infection, as once the bronchi branches have been damaged, it’s more difficult to clear any bacteria, says Professor Brown.
Bronchiectasis may not be something you’ve heard of before yet it’s surprisingly common. One in every 2,000 hospital admissions is due to bronchiectasis and a study published last month by University College London showed it affects more than one in 100 pensioners in Britain.
Along with breathlessness and a cough that never goes away, the condition means sufferers are susceptible to chest infections.
Every year, about 1,000 people in England and Wales die from bronchiectasis.
Bronchiectasis tends to occur as an after-effect of a chest infection such as whooping cough, tuberculosis, pneumonia or measles – particularly if the infection was not treated with antibiotics.
Damage to the bronchi takes years to build up and symptoms don’t tend to start until middle age, even if the original infection was years earlier.
Doctors told her parents she might not make it but she defied all odds and made it to adulthood.
She still wears masks when travelling so she doesn’t pick up colds or viruses and avoids smoke and air pollution.
Now trying to raise awareness for the illness, Rosemary admits that she had never heard of it when she was first diagnosed.
Rosemary has since said there’s a lack of awareness around her lung condition
Still fit as a pensioner, Rosemary appeared on Dancing on Ice in 2012
Rosemary received a CBE in 2004
Speaking to the Daily Mail in 2017, Rosemary said that slimness is ‘very important to her’.
‘I hate being fat. I enjoy being slim. It all comes down to that,’ she says. ‘Yes, I am prepared to do my exercises and yes, I’m prepared not to overeat.’
Whereas once, in her early 20s, Rosemary used to love food and was greedy and unhappy, and ‘so wide I couldn’t see my feet over my tummy’, since losing weight she regards food only as fuel.
‘I’m not excited by it, which people might think is terribly sad, but that’s how I am.’ It’s a sacrifice she is prepared to make in order to continue to look good’