Don’t tell me I can’t…

change my whole life!

Woman (UK) - - Inside This Issue - hbm­com­mu­

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

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