‘I was fat­ter than Mickey Mouse!’

When Clare Ship vis­ited Dis­ney­land Paris, she was so shocked she was big­ger than the star at­trac­tion that she went on a mag­i­cal weight-loss jour­ney…

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It’s meant to be a place where dreams comes true, but as I stood next to Mickey Mouse in Dis­ney­land, I felt like I was in a liv­ing night­mare.

‘Get a bit nearer,’ my friend urged, ges­tur­ing me closer.

Sup­press­ing a sigh, I forced a smile and pressed my­self up against the cud­dly char­ac­ter. As a huge Dis­ney fan on my third trip to the Paris theme park, a snap with the main man should have been my idea of heaven. But I felt noth­ing but dread.

Ex­am­in­ing the photo, it was as bad as I’d feared. Although Mickey was in an over­sized cos­tume, my size 26, 5ft 5in frame dwarfed him.

Grow­ing up, I had al­ways been a slim child. My mum made healthy, home-cooked meals and I en­joyed run­ning around out­side.

But things changed in my teens. I suf­fered with anx­i­ety dur­ing my A-lev­els and, when­ever the exam stress got too much for me, I’d tuck into choco­late bars for their sweet, sug­ary sup­port.

By the time I left for univer­sity, I was a size 16. And I was hardly go­ing to lose weight there. In my catered halls, break­fast, lunch and din­ner, along with a moun­tain of snacks, were avail­able all day, ev­ery day.

‘ What will I have to­day?’ I’d muse ex­cit­edly over the menu.

And when­ever I felt groggy af­ter a night out, pizza was my go-to meal. Or Pot Noo­dles. Or chips. And, of course, crisps. Ba­si­cally, any­thing carb-heavy to soak up the al­co­hol.

Be­cause my de­gree was in lan­guages, I was lucky enough to study abroad dur­ing my third year – Ger­many for a term, then France. The lat­ter was def­i­nitely my favourite leg of the trip, as I fell in love with the cul­ture, the land­scape, and, most im­por­tantly, the food.

My class­mates and I would head out for break­fast ev­ery morn­ing, try­ing ev­ery­thing the Parisian bak­eries had to of­fer. ‘Bon­jour, mon­sieur. Un crois­sant et un pain au choco­lat, merci,’ I’d say cheer­fully.

Dur­ing that trip, I vis­ited Dis­ney­land Paris for the first time, but I avoided cam­eras the way I was avoid­ing the scales. At a size 22, I didn’t want the magic to be ru­ined by re­al­ity.

Af­ter univer­sity, I moved back in with my par­ents in En­field, north Lon­don, and started my first job, in me­dia mon­i­tor­ing. It in­volved a lot of ad­min work and I spent the ma­jor­ity of my day tucked away in the back of­fice.

Be­cause I didn’t have to deal with clients, I didn’t need to make much ef­fort with my ap­pear­ance, which suited me per­fectly. When I did ven­ture out, it was only as far as the lo­cal McDon­ald’s or Chi­nese take­away for lunch.

Stuck in ter­ri­ble eat­ing habits, I wouldn’t dream of cook­ing from scratch and, most evenings, I would eat what­ever I wanted, when­ever I wanted it. Although I’d fin­ished with ed­u­ca­tion, I was still liv­ing a stu­dent life­style.

In 2015, a friend of mine sug­gested we re­visit our youth and head back for a nos­tal­gic trip to Dis­ney­land Paris. We went in De­cem­ber and we had so much fun that we booked again for Feb­ru­ary 2016.

But now I’d been caught on cam­era, all my en­joy­ment in­stantly evap­o­rated. I’d known for a long time I wasn’t the fairest of them all, but it was clear I had to start look­ing in mir­rors again.

So I signed up to my lo­cal Slim­ming World. The first meet­ing was ter­ri­fy­ing, but I forced my­self through the doors and onto the scales.

When they fi­nally set­tled at 20st 11lb, I was hor­ri­fied. How had I let things get so out of con­trol?

At home, I vowed to cut out my take­aways and, fol­low­ing ba­sic recipes, I be­gan teach­ing my­self to cook. I’d even weigh out my pasta and ce­real. ‘If I’m do­ing this, I’m do­ing it prop­erly,’ I told my­self.

It worked. In my first week, I was 10lb lighter and the weight loss that had seemed so daunt­ing sud­denly seemed achiev­able.

And the more I lost, the bet­ter I felt. I had more en­ergy, my knees were aching less… It was as if I’d been sprin­kled with Tin­ker Bell’s fairy dust.

I even de­cided to join a gym, where I dis­cov­ered a new pas­sion for run­ning. I’d pull on my train­ers and go three or four times a week. The old me would never have thought it pos­si­ble, but here I was, do­ing it!

That’s when a friend of mine sug­gested that I take part in Dis­ney­land Paris Run Week­end, which had 5km, 10km and half­marathon races.

I couldn’t re­sist the op­por­tu­nity to re­turn and take some pic­tures I was proud of so, in Septem­ber 2017, I com­pleted the 5km race. Then, this year, I did the 10k. One day, I aim to do the half-marathon, too.

Now, at 41, 10st 10lb and a size 10, I feel as beau­ti­ful as a Dis­ney princess.

Cin­derella fa­mously said that a dream is a wish your heart makes – and I’ve worked hard to make my dream a re­al­ity.

‘Now, at 10st 10lb, I feel as beau­ti­ful as a Dis­ney princess’

I knew things had to change when I saw this snap of me with Mickey

I didn’t ‘duck’ the chal­lenge and com­pleted the 10k race this year at Dis­ney­land Paris!

Slim and fit: I’m proof that dreams can come true

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