A yo-yo dieter who was determined to beat her personal battle of the bulge during lockdown emerged four stone lighter with a waist 14 inches smaller – looking so different that her colleagues did not recognise her.
Claire Campbell-Andrews, 59, a mum-of-two, who describes chocolate and biscuits as her “kryptonite,” plummeted from 13st 5lb to 9st 4lb in 13 months, after joining Slimming World in August 2019.
A supply chain commodity manager, when she returned to work in September 2021 with a new hairstyle and wearing stylish size 10 clothes, compared to the frumpy size 18 wardrobe she had before the pandemic, a male colleague with a surprised expression asked: “Claire, is that you?”
Claire, who lives near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, with her husband, George, 69, who has retired from working in IT in the banking sector, said: “That felt really fantastic, as I know I look very different.
“I’ve cut my hair and, while I don’t look like mutton dressed as lamb, I can wear figure hugging clothes now.”
A yo-yo dieter since the age of 15, Claire, whose children from a previous relationship, Lorna, 24, and Guy, 26, are both students, says she “had a little wobble” during the second lockdown in 2020, gaining a few pounds, but then became a mum with a mission.
She said: “When lockdown started, I was doing really well.
“I joined Slimming World, as my brother was getting married, although that has been postponed now.
“I really didn’t want to be the fat one in the photograph.”
She added: “My stepdaughter had given birth to twin boys and there is the most ghastly photo of me sitting holding one and it looks like my stomach is eating the baby.
“I just couldn’t have that again!
“I had a lot of post-menopausal weight gain, too.”
Morning snack: Danish pastry or chocolate and sweets
Dinner: Full fat lasagne, gin and tonic and two glasses of wine
Snacks: Bourbon biscuits, custard creams, Galaxy chocolate bars
She added: “But a friend at work lost three stone with Slimming World and she’s older than me, so I thought if she could do it, I could too.
“But, when the second pandemic lockdown hit, like most people, I got really depressed and struggled with everything – including my diet.
“I felt like I was kind of mentally hanging on by my fingernails.”
She added: “Then I made a decision to keep motivated, not to wallow and to come out of lockdown a winner!”
At 5ft 2.5in, at her 13st 5lb heaviest, Claire had a body mass index (BMI), used to gauge a healthy weight, of 34.4 compared to the NHS healthy range of 18.5 to 24.9 – making her obese.
Now weighing 9st 4lb and with a healthy BMI of 23.9 she slips comfortably into a size 10.
And when the world opened up again, she could not wait to replace her fuddy-duddy size 18 wardrobe.
She said: “A girlfriend of mine runs a preloved dress agency and she took pity on me, seeing I desperately needed new clothes.
“So, about a third of my wardrobe is now preloved, which is brilliant, actually, as it means I can afford really nice things and I’m doing something for the planet.”
She added: “It feels brilliant knowing I can walk into any clothes shop on the high street and slip into a size 10, instead of desperately searching for something in a size 18.”
One of the ways Claire maintains her weight is by not beating herself up if she has a “bad day.”
She said: “It’s just one day and I keep it in proportion.”
She added: “I don’t think, ‘That’s it, I’ve failed, I’m off the diet now.
“I just see it as part of the journey and get back on track the next day.”
It is a major breakthrough for a self-confessed fad dieter.
She said: “I was about 15 when I started dieting.
“I’ve done everything from cabbage soup onwards.
“But, however much I lost, I always put it back on.”
She added: “Then I woke up to the fact that, if I wanted to be healthy in my 60s, I needed to commit myself to a better lifestyle.”
And once she had lost the weight, every bit of Claire became slimmer.
She said: “I went down four ring sizes and had to take my engagement ring to be resized!”
She added: “Even some of my shoes are like boats now, as my feet are slimmer.”
Before she joined the slimming group, she would skip breakfast, tucking into a Danish pastry or sweets and chocolate at work instead.
Then, she would feast on chips for lunch in the canteen.
Getting home, she would have a gin and tonic before dinner, then a few glasses of wine with a carbohydrate and cheese packed dinner, like lasagne.
Also, during the day, she would dunk Bourbon biscuits, or custard creams in her drinks and tuck into Galaxy chocolate bars.
She said: “Chocolate and biscuits were my kryptonite!”
Breakfast: Coffee, porridge with berries and a dollop of Greek yoghurt or eggy bread with cinnamon and vanilla, forest fruits and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.
Lunch: Salad, or chicken and vegetables
Dinner: Lasagne with reduced fat cheese sauce and lean mince, or pasta with lots of veg, or chicken, vegetables and celeriac and potato mash or sweet potato
Snacks: Mini Babybel light cheese with pickled onions, apples.
She added: “I will still eat lovely, cheesy sauces, but all the ingredients will be reduced fat.
“Now, I start my day with a coffee, but while it’s brewing, I weigh out my milk allowance for the day.
“Then, I eat porridge with some berries and a dollop of Greek yoghurt on top.”
She added: “Or my favourite is eggy bread with cinnamon and forest fruits, with a dollop of yoghurt and a bit of vanilla powder added into the mix.
“Lunch is normally a salad, or it might be some kind of protein like chicken or smoked salmon with lots of vegetable, like peas, beans and sweetcorn.
“And if I do make pasta for dinner, I fling in loads of veg, so it fills me up, without being fattening.”
She added: “But dinner usually will be protein, like chicken or pork. Whatever I have, a third of the meal will be vegetables. I also have a much smaller portion of carbohydrate, which tends to be sweet potato or celeriac and potato mash.
“Also, if I do get hungry at about 4.30pm, I have a couple of little mini Babybel light cheeses, with pickled onions, instead of the pile of Bourbon biscuits I used to snack on.
“If I crave something sweet, I have an apple – normally eating two a day.”
Claire’s tremendous progress has even inspired her husband to watch his waistline – losing two stone with a different diet plan.
While a close friend of hers, seeing her success, also joined Slimming World and lost three-and-a-half stone.
Claire said: “We go cycling once a week together and complete a 14-mile round trip and really support each other, which is great.”
Now her mind is turning to Christmas and, after last year’s non-existent party season, she is looking forward to some festive occasions where she can dress up and show off the new look she has worked so hard to achieve.
She said: “I belong to a book club and we’ve been together for 14 years.
“I’m hoping we have a Christmas party this year, as I have a really nice dress that I can’t wait to wear to it.”
She added: “It’s a sparkly three-quarter length sleeveless dress.
“I’ve had some really lovely and very flattering comments about my weight loss, now I can’t wait for the Christmas celebrations, so I can really sparkle.”