WHEN Johann Lamont walks into the room my chin drops.

I had heard she had lost a lot of weight over the past year but she is a shadow of her former self.

The leader of the Scottish Labour Party has lost almost four stones and dropped from a size 18 to between a 10 and a 12. She is still a political heavyweight - but for all the right reasons.

She puts it down to the cornerstones of our Active 2014 campaign: small steps and simple lifestyle changes.

"I used to run. I ran a marathon and did a lot of 10Ks and half marathons, then my ankle went," she says. "The weight just crept on and got to the point where it was such a huge amount to lose, it was too hard to do it simply by not eating. I would have to stop the bad habits and get active."

For someone who had always been fit, rejoining the gym was simple.

Her son and daughter, Colin and Fay, swim and play netball respectively and Johann had been dropping them off at their local Glasgow Life gym and picking them up. She started arriving an hour early and going to the gym.

"Because Glasgow Life has a network of gyms across the city that works for me," she says.

"Often I go out for a walk on a Sunday morning to Pollok Park or Linn Park. One of the legacies for Glasgow after the Commonwealth Games is the lovely walks - you don't have to go into a gym.

"We are all near a park and if parks are safe, we should encourage people to do that."

Watching Celebrity MasterChef while toiling at the gym sounds like torture but for the MSP for Glasgow Pollok it was the perfect antidote after a day in the Scottish Parliament.

"The gym and walking are good for my mental health. The job I'm in, there's a lot of pressure and sometimes your head feels as if it's exploding. I found with running that I'd write speeches in my head. I'd be worrying about something and by the time I'd come home, it would be written. All the stress just falls away."

Johann found that setting targets helped her achieve more. "The machines all say x amount of calories burned or a distance covered and you can push yourself.

AT THE same time because the television is on you can fill your mind with stuff.

"I watched the whole of the last series of Celebrity MasterChef on the treadmill."

A subscriber to Good Food magazine and someone who enjoys reading cookery books - she discovered Delia Smith in her first job when she lived away from home - Johann enjoys cooking.

That also helped her focus when she pledged to watch her diet. Crisps, chocolate and biscuits were out.

"I treated it the same way as when I stopped smoking in 1985," she says. "I just said, there are some things in this world I like but I can't have."

For someone who believes she isn't disciplined it shows incredible willpower. The only days she allows herself a treat are Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Easter Sunday.

"You get a pride in saying, I've gone all this time, I don't really need it."

With trips to the gym three or four times a week, Johann lost about a pound a week.

"The thing about being overweight and taking exercise is you are self-conscious but I went to a Zumba class which I loved and I got a real sense of achievement from that."

She laughs when I ask her if her weight loss and First Minister Alex Salmond's attempt to diet have added to their competitiveness.

"It's like everything else, there is something human about trying to take a bit of control and you've got to admire that however it's done."

Over the years, she has made no secret of the fact she suffers from shyness. Has the weight loss boosted her self confidence?

"If you are in the public eye it is good not to look like a burst bag of washing," she says in typical self-deprecating style. "All of my life it's probably true I have felt better about myself when I'm slimmer and I don't think that's a good message. I don't think you should judge yourself in that way.

"If you are comfortable, there are so many other things you have got to focus on, particularly now."

Heavyweight political debate has taken on a whole new meaning.

THE Scottish Labour Party leader describes Active 2014 as "a wonderful and important campaign".

Aiming to improve the health of Scots in the year of the Commonwealth Games and build a lasting legacy of physical wellbeing, we are working with partners Glasgow Life and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to create exciting opportunities for individuals, communities and businesses to get active as we bid to improve the health of as many people as possible in the community.

Ms Lamont said: "Glasgow has a proud history of actively encouraging people to get involved in sport and being active themselves.

"If the message of your campaign is that it is for everybody, it's not just for some people, I think that is wonderful.

"If the legacy of the Commonwealth Games is

that people walk a bit

further, eat a little bit more healthily and feel a bit

more confident about themselves then that will

be a great legacy."