Claire Pays was a stereo-typical student. She’d wake up late, stumble into class with a hangover, go home, have a microwave meal, go out, get drunk, eat a kebab and then start all over again.
Her life centred on alcohol, pizza, microwave meals, kebabs, burgers, and anything deep fat fried and easy to grab on the way home.
Claire and her housemates would go out five nights a week, without fail.
Despite being double the size of her flatmates who soaked up all the attention from the boys down the pub, Claire was relishing life too much to worry about her expanding waistline.
But it was at her local when the full realisation of her ballooning size finally dawned on the 20-year-old.
When ordering a drink at the bar, a man looked her up and down, turned to his son and said: ‘You wouldn’t want her son. She’s far too fat for you.’
At only 5ft 5in, Claire was 17 stone and could just about squeeze in to a size 20.
Mortified, Claire fled the pub. It was the hangover-free wakeup call she’d needed.
Claire says: “I just wanted the ground to swallow me up. I felt so embarrassed. I just closed my eyes tight and ran out of the pub crying.
“My friends comforted me, but instead of drowning my sorrows in chocolate cake and double cream, I decided to take his comments on board and finally do something about my weight.
He adds: “When I was in University, there was no point in trying to go on a diet.
“My housemates and I would be out five-nights a week, and we consumed thousands of calories of fattening alcohol.
“On the way home we’d grab some chips and then I’d just eat rubbish the next day as I would feel hungover.”
“I don’t think one piece of fruit or any vegetables passed my lips throughout my whole time at uni, apart from maybe peppers and sweetcorn on top of my large cheese pizza.
“I would lounge around the house in track suite bottoms, baggy hoodies and I would just eat all day long while I completed my coursework.
“I would then reward myself with large bowl of chips. I would never, ever think about exercising.
“When my flat mates and I did go out, the other girls would share clothes, but I was too fat. I would never be able to squeeze myself into a size 8, I would look ridiculous!
“I just used to wear thick black leggings to hold in my fat legs, black baggy tops to cover my fat belly and always flat shoes.
“My weight would be too much to handle in a small pair of heels and my feet would blister within an hour.
“My friends would wear tiny colourful dresses and look beautiful.
“I would look over to my friends shivering in the cold waiting to get inside the club, but I never felt cold as I had layers of fat to keep me warm.
Claire says she felt uncomfortable 24/7.
“I was shy and insecure. I found it hard to make eye contact and would always look at the ground when I walked into bars or even lectures,” she says.
“I knew people were looking at me, especially when I was with all of my skinny friends.
“Once I ate a whole chocolate birthday cake to myself and I still wanted more
“My eating was out of control, I would eat anything and everything I could get my hands on.
“I used to think my friends and I all ate the same, but I was the only person who put on the weight.
“I’d joke that their calories went on to my belly, but looking back, I used to have secret bed time feasts.
Claire, now a trainee solicitor, never used to exercise and would eat over 3,500 a day and drink even more.
She would drink on average of two litres of full fat drinks and fizzy-sugary beverages on a daily basis.
But the moment she was fat-shamed in her local pub was the turning point Claire needed.
Claire says: “I swapped my cakes for cereal bars, my chicken-nuggets and chips to grilled or even boiled chicken and vegetables, and I even started to go to the gym.
“I threw away all the junk food I loved to eat, all the fizzy drinks and my secret stash of bed time sweets were gone.
“The weight slowly but surely fell off and in my first week of dieting. I lost 9lbs, and in the first year I lost three stone.
“I ate clean, balanced meals – no snacks and plenty of salads and it made me feel amazing.
“I’m on a strict fitness regime now.
“I only eat fish, drink water and eat plenty of fruit and veg and I exercise all the time.”
“I mostly run and have become so much fitter than I used to be.
“Before I could only run for 2 minutes, then stop, then 5 minutes then stop. Then I found myself running for 20 minutes without stopping, and now I run 17km every Saturday morning and I have built up muscle, where I’m becoming toned.”
Claire now goes to the gym five times a week and competes in swimathons where she swims for two hours a time.
Her new healthy life style has seen her lose a massive seven stone and seven dress sizes.
“I can’t believe that I used to be so big and eat so many unhealthy foods.”
“I’m surprised I was able to enjoy life with the life style I chose for myself, and I was always so sluggish.
“When I see people I haven’t seen for a while, they don’t even recognise me. It’s amazing. They’re shocked. They tell me I look much healthier and happier.
“I find it hard to understand how I used to eat 3,500 calories a day of junk food, it’s really disgusting.”
Finally, after three hard years of swapping her fizzy drinks for protein shakes and deep fat fried goodies for fruit and veg, Claire has reached her target weight and slimmed down to just 10 stone and slips into a tiny size 8, a size that Claire once thought would look ‘ridiculous’ on her.
“I used to be in the obese category and now I’m really healthy. I can now share clothes with my friends and no longer have to browse the unflattering plus size shops, and sometimes, my clothes are even too small for my friends!”
“If saw the man who told me I ‘was too large,’ he probably wouldn’t recognise me, but if I saw him again, I would remind him of what he said to me, just so I can see his face drop.”