A 17 stone woman who pretended her camera was broken during work video calls because she was unhappy with her weight was so inspired by a podcast that helped her to lose six stone.
Former marketing director Clair MacKenzie even swapped careers to become a life coach.
Battling with her weight ever since she broke her hip horse riding, aged 12, the mum-of-two, 46, veered between yo-yo dieting and binge eating until she started listening to a life coaching podcast in September 2017, during the 45-minute school run.
To her amazement, its positive message sank in and with a “new mindset,” losing on average a stone every two months, by April 2019 she had shrunk from a size 22 to a 10st 10lb size 10.
And in July last year, Clair, of Warwick, Warwickshire, who has a son, James, 17, and daughter, Alex, 14, with her project manager husband Jon, 47, started her own life and weight coaching business, saying: “For most of my life, I’ve been unhappy with my weight.
“As a former marketing director, I used to talk to clients over Skype and Zoom for work on a weekly basis.”
She continued: “I was so ashamed of my size that I was forever making up excuses not to turn my video camera on. I’d say that I didn’t have one or that it was broken.”
She continued: “I didn’t want colleagues to realise I had a weight problem.
“Now, I’m making two to three Zoom calls a day to help other women lose their unwanted weight for good and I always use my camera.”
Clair’s unhealthy relationship with food began after she broke her hip in a riding accident, aged 12, and, facing a long recovery, she turned to sweet treats whenever her mood dipped.
She said: “Before the accident, I was very fit and active – particularly when it came to horse riding.
“But I ended up breaking my hip after being thrown off and because my bones were still growing, there wasn’t much doctors could do.”
She continued: “I was, basically, left unable to walk for a year after the accident.”
She said: “But, looking back, the reason for my weight gain was less about being immobile and more about feeling miserable.
“I missed my riding friends and felt very shut off from the world.
“The accident really kick started my bad eating habits. From then on, if I was bored, or needed emotional comfort, I’d reach for the biscuits or make cakes.”
Overweight throughout her teens, by the time she was an adult, at 5ft 6in Clair fluctuated between 14 stone and 16 stone.
Acutely aware that she was overweight, she would diet and lose two stone, but then bad habits roared back and she would gain three.
“I was never happy with my weight,” she said. “I tried every diet you could imagine – point-based, meal replacements – you name them, I’d been on them.”
She continued: “I’d lose weight in the first few months, then I’d break the diet and end up heavier than before.”
Starting the day with brown toast and lashings of butter, she would then have a shop- bought BLT meal deal for lunch, followed by chicken and chips for dinner, with “constant snacking” – which she says was her downfall – in between.
“I was a mindless grazer,” she said. “I would get through an entire pack of biscuits a day.”
She continued: “I’d eat anything and everything to take my mind off whatever I was feeling – be it boredom, stress or anxiety.
“When I hit 17st at 40 I just stopped looking at the scales anymore.”
But, after Alex started secondary school in September 2017, on the journey home she tuned in to The Life Coach School podcast.
After absorbing its message on five days of every week, it started sinking in and she had a “dietary epiphany.”
Soon Clair, who with a body mass index (BMI), used to gauge a healthy weight, of 38.21– far higher than the NHS recommended range of 18.5 to 24.9 – was classed as obese, found her approach to food changing.
She continued: “I started listening to The Life Coach, as I wanted something to pass the time during the drive and thought it might be a good way to change my attitude to food.”
She said: “The podcast is all about your mindset and how our brains are programmed to eat food and choose food which gives us pleasure.
“I realised that was how I was managing my emotions. I was the definition of an emotional eater.
“It helped me to understand the reason why I was over-eating and gave me the tools to combat it. ”
Following the podcast’s guidance, whenever Clair was struck by the urge to eat, she would ask herself, ‘Why do I want to?’
She said: “I soon realised that the reason I was grabbing the biscuits in the office wasn’t because I was hungry, it was because I was annoyed by an email I’d just received.
“I realised my evening snack wasn’t because I was hungry, but I was bored.”
She continued: “After you’ve acknowledged those emotions, you can decide to think differently about the situation. ‘Am I really irritated? Do I need to be annoyed? Should I simply accept the emotion and not react to it?’”
Clair noticed an immediate difference in her attitude to food, although she admits her weight loss was slow and steady – lacking the rapid drops she had seen using diets in the past.
But this time, when she lost weight, it stayed off.
She said: “I felt better straight away. For the first time ever I was able to forgive myself for struggling with my weight.
“There was a sense of relief at understanding why my brain was working the way it was. It was powerful.
“I describe the part of your brain that craves food as a toddler who wants everything in the moment – everything at once.”
She continued: “But every parent knows that giving into the toddler’s tantrums only makes the future ones worse.
“It’s exactly the same with food. The more you stop giving into cravings, the less you get them.”
Steadily shedding weight every month, in August 2018 – weighing 12 stone and well on the way to her goal of 10st 10lb – Clair flew to Dallas, Texas, USA, for a six-day course training as a life coach run by the makers of the podcast, who inspired her to slim down once and for all.
Returning home and still working in marketing part-time, she completed a further three months of remote training, before becoming a certified life coach at the start of 2019.
“It was brilliant,” she said. “If it wasn’t for being a student of life coaching myself, I never would have felt confident enough to fly to the States.
“I learnt about all the philosophy behind the coaching and how to put that into place.”
Reaching her goal weight of 10st 10lb in April 2019, she quit her job and opened her own business, called The Best You Coaching.
Clair charges £29 a month for membership – which includes two weekly group coaching calls, access to online videos, worksheets and a community forum – or £2,000 for six months of private coaching, which, in addition to the perks of membership, includes one-to-one weekly Zoom calls and a daily support via email and text.
Currently coaching 50 members and 10 one-to-one clients, Clair said: “I only work with women, for no other reason than the fact I’ve built my business on my own experiences and that’s tailored towards women.”
“It’s great helping people who felt like I did, knowing I can help transform their lives,” she added.
“Teaching other people what I’ve learnt and giving them the right tools to deal with their weight is so rewarding.”
Now, a year after launching her business, a svelte 10st 10lb size 10, Clair is releasing a diet coaching podcast, called Lose weight, Live life.
“It’s a taster of everything I’ve learnt and everything I offer as a life coach,” she said.
“It’s me, talking about my own experiences and, hopefully, making other women see they’re not alone.
“It really feels like I’ve come full circle, releasing a podcast, when three years ago it was a podcast that transformed my life.”