After I swapped the doughnuts for dancing, I couldn't believe the results. By Clare Doyle, 30 

Pulling my work uniform on, I tried to ignore my reflection in the mirror. I loved working in a bakery but I hated the unflattering, high-waisted trousers I had to wear.

As I strained the zip up over my size 22 belly, I left for work - but not before I caught sight of myself in the mirror out of the corner of my eye.

There was no ignoring my hulking reflection, no matter how hard I tried. I sighed as I ran my hands over my flabby frame, tugging at my uniform.

At 19 I’d had the dream figure. I’d been a slinky size 10 and had even tried a bit of modelling. Back then, I was the life and soul of the party and had loved flaunting my fab figure on nights out with my friends.

‘Those days are long gone now though,’ I whispered at the mirror. Over the years, my waistband had expanded.

After falling pregnant with my son, Aiden now seven, my body had changed and working in a bakery meant I could continuously snack on calorific treats.

I just couldn’t resist the sugary pastries and doughnuts I served our customers each day and as a result, I gained a huge seven stone in just over a year.

At a massive 17 stone, I felt terrible about my bulging body. My confidence hit rock bottom and as I became withdrawn I sought comfort in food. It was a vicious circle.

Ashamed of my body, I avoided mirrors and shied away from the camera and instead, I threw myself into being the best mum I could be to Aiden.

Then in 2010, I was relieved when I went on holiday to France. A break was just what I needed and as I boarded the plane, I felt my worries melt away.

But a few days later, my phone rang. ‘Clare, it’s Jodie,’ came my cousin’s voice at the other end of the line. ‘Sorry to ring while you’re on holiday but it’s Nan - she’s died,’ she told me.

I was stunned. ‘Thanks for letting me know,’ I managed to whisper before hanging up in shock. I hadn’t been prepared for Nan’s death and suddenly I realised just how short life is.

I knew then I needed to make some serious changes and on the return journey home, I vowed to overhaul my life.

I couldn’t avoid all the tempting treats at work, but I also couldn’t leave my job at the bakery, I needed the money. Instead, I decided to exercise more and burn those cake calories off.

Confiding my plan in my cousin Jodie she instantly invited me to her Zumba class.

She explained it was a great way to get fit and have fun. I leapt at the chance to get out and make some new friends - and to lose weight too.

I knew I had to make a change and this seemed like the perfect way to do it. I loved shaking away the calories, and once I’d got into the swing of things, the Zumba class didn’t even feel like exercise.

I made a new group of fit friends and when one suggested I try her kettlebell class, I decided to give that a go too.

The class was tough and at points I didn’t think I’d get through it, but at the end of the session I felt elated that I’d finished.

‘When’s the next one?’ I puffed. ‘Sign me up!’

Feeling positive and more like myself than I had done in years, I was determined not to lose this feeling. Soon, I was hooked and after averaging six to eight Zumba and kettlebell classes a week, I began to see results.

I shimmied and shook away the dress sizes and after a year, I’d dropped from a size 22 to a size 18.

I felt fantastic but there was still work to be done. After finding the photos from my holiday to France the year before, I couldn’t believe the person staring back at me.

As I flicked through the album, it was only then I realised just how big I had been and I promised I’d never let it happen again.

So, I joined another gym and as well as Zumba, I started running and lifting weights too. It was difficult balancing my job at the bakery, as well as being a mum alongside my five-times-a-week gym sessions, but I knew I could do it.

I couldn’t believe it when I gradually began to enjoy exercise. And no one was more surprised than me when I even entered marathons!

Finally, after a year of early morning runs and night-time gym classes, I’d shed an incredible seven stone.

At a slinky size 10, I looked - and felt - fabulous. And I was so proud of losing the weight naturally and doing it the hard way.

I’ve scaled back my Zumba and gym classes from eight classes a week to five, but I love my active lifestyle and have even taken up surfing too.

I still love my job at the bakery and allow myself the odd cake as a treat, knowing that my gym sessions will keep my 10 stone frame in trim.

Since slimming down, I love flaunting my new figure. I feel like I can be the person I always was on the inside. Life is short and I no longer have to live it in the shadows.

Now I’ve swapped doughnuts for dancing, I’ve never been happier!

Clare was proud of her super-slimming achievement and was thrilled when we helped her share her success with a glossy women's magazine. If you've recently lost weight and want to inspire others, give us a call to find out how it works


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