Don’t tell me I can’t…
change my whole life!
For most women, the idea of someone forgetting that they have met you before would be mortifying. But when it happened to me recently, I saw it as a compliment. In the last three years I’ve lost 14st, switched careers and given myself a lifestyle overhaul. and now at 42 years old, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been…
It took me three decades before I finally faced up to my size. I’ve always loved food. As a child, I’d stop off at the sweet shop on the way home from school and I never left anything on my dinner plate. Luckily, dancing lessons kept me in shape – that is, until aged 21, when I started working as a jazz singer.
I threw myself into my work, and I didn’t have time to exercise. By the time I reached 23st – too big for my 5ft 8in frame – rather than confront my weight, I ignored how I couldn’t climb up stairs without feeling hot and out of breath.
I tried every diet – from shakes to counting calories – but nothing worked. On stage, I’d have a smile on my face, but at home, I’d look in the mirror, and all I saw was my big thighs and chubby cheeks.
Then, at 34, I met Anthony through work. Despite my weight ( by then, I’d squeeze into size 32 dresses) he said I was beautiful. I tried to believe him but in September 2012 I was looking at pictures from a festival I’d performed at. Unlike the flattering professional photo shoots, these were taken by the audience – and I looked hideous! I knew I had to change.
So, with Anthony’s encouragement, I went to the doctor. There, I stood on the scales as the dial sprang up to 26st. I felt the tears well in my eyes, but there was one positive – the GP said I was a strong candidate for a gastric bypass. It was so frightening and embarrassing to think I’d need such major surgery but I knew I had to go through with it. It was a long process – I had to have counselling and lose 5% of my body weight before I could be referred – but together, Anthony and I cooked low calories meals and, when my willpower waivered, I focused on the new person I was about to become.
And, it was during this time that I started reflecting on other aspects of my life. While I loved to sing, I craved the routine of a 9 to 5. If I could change my look, why not my career too?
So, I applied to study a business degree and, in September 2013, I had my first lecture. Surrounded by 18-year-olds you’d think I’d feel awkward – but I relished learning from experts. To most students, essay writing is a chore, but I loved it.
Then, in March 2014 – during my Easter break from university – I finally had my gastric bypass. Yes, it was terrifying when I was wheeled down to theatre, but when I woke up, with Anthony by my side, it felt like a fresh start.
The weight melted away quickly – in the first month I lost 1st 4lb! And, as my waistline continued to shrink, I discovered a passion for fashion. I swapped my drab clothes for colourful patterns and chunky jewellery. And, by the time I graduated in July 2016, I weighed just 14st. Since then, I’ve launched my own business consultancy and a health and wellbeing social enterprise. I also do yoga to keep fit. If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d be doing sun salutations, I’d have thought you were mad!
Now, as a stylish businesswoman, I feel so confident and Anthony says I’m always full of energy. Rebranding myself was the best decision – I’ll never go back to the person I was before.
‘when i woke up, it felt like a fresh start’
Claire has walked away from her old life and is now a stylish businesswoman