At her biggest, Fit Factor contestant Claire Watson was a size 22 and hated going shopping.
Instead of looking at the clothes, Claire would only browse the handbag and shoe sections, refusing to try on anything which might be too small for her.
Today, she told why she signed up to this year’s competition and revealed how she is already feeling like a new woman.
“I decided to enter because I was sick of being obese,” said Claire.
“I would feel unwell and run-down a lot of the time and I’d always have a bit of a complex when it came to going out shopping. There were only certain shops I would go into and I tended to avoid the rest.”
Claire had read about past Fit Factor competitions and had decided this was going to be the year her life would change.
She said; “This was the opportunity I had been waiting for.”
Claire, 41, spent 13 years working in the Middle East and was living in Egypt at the time of the initial uprisings in 2011.
“I was working in sales and marketing for a hotel out there,” recalls Claire.
“It was an awful time. I’d be lying in bed at night hearing gunfire. The hotel I was working at was attacked. I was stuck in my flat under curfew a lot of the time.”
With internet connections cut, Claire would find herself increasingly isolated and took refuge in comfort eating.
Once she returned to the country, she began working in the Capital Projects department for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.
Based at St Nicholas’ Hospital in Gosforth, Claire’s Fit Factor journey is now inspiring her work colleagues.
She said: “They have been absolutely fantastic and are giving me a huge amount of support. They’ve even launched their own ‘biggest loser’ competition in the office.”
Now Claire, originally from Alnwick, knows she has nine more tough weeks ahead as she tries bring down her 18st 5lbs starting weight.
She added; “I’ve been enjoying the gym week during the past three weeks.
“The team we have this year are really fantastic and I know I’ve already made some friends for life.
“I’m also enjoying the beach bootcamps at Tynemouth every Saturday morning. Because there are a lot of people taking part, they really spur you and hand out the encouragement.
“I can honestly say I feel so much better already, just walking up and down stairs and getting out of the car is easier.
“We’re only three weeks in and this has changed my life, so I’m looking forward to the next couple of months.”