Leeds woman’s monumental leap to lose weight – and she celebrated with a skydive!

18 March 2015

A Leeds woman has celebrated her new life and nine-stone weight loss achievement after bariatric surgery by fulfilling a long-term ambition to perform a tandem skydive.

Claire Clarke, 42, an insurance claims manager for a Leeds firm, had suffered with a weight problem for most of her life. She weighed almost 21 stone at her heaviest and had a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 48. That was before she had gastric bypass surgery and subsequently lost nine stone. She dropped from a dress size of 28 to a size 12-14 and now weighs around 12 stone.  

Claire Clarke before weight loss surgery at Spire Leeds Claire Clarke after weight loss surgery at Spire Leeds

One of the first things she wanted to do after losing the excess weight was to celebrate – not by eating cake but by doing a tandem skydive. She took the 15,000 ft. leap in June 2013 at Hibaldstow, Lincolnshire. 

“Having the bariatric surgery set me on track for weight loss, and booking the skydive gave me something to aim for and provided the motivation to lose those last few pounds to qualify for it,” said Claire.

“The skydive was absolutely amazing! Something that would have been unimaginable prior to losing weight. It was a life-changing experience,” said Claire, whose new active lifestyle also involves participating in 10-mile charity fundraising walks and is now able to join her partner Bryan on long distance hikes.

Claire’s struggle with weight started as a child. She was the youngest of seven siblings and eating was a big part of the day when all the family came together at mealtimes. 

“I loved food and would eat anything and everything. I got to the stage when I would eat even when I wasn’t hungry. I forgot how to feel full. If I opened a packet of biscuits I would not stop until they were all gone.”

Claire’s weight increased steadily over the years. She would embark on various diets and exercise but always put the pounds back on.

“I think I put on a confident front. I would wear a swimsuit on the beach and show the world I wasn’t bothered about my size but when I was on my own the truth is, it did bother me,” she said.

Professor Peter Lodge, consultant weight loss surgeon at Spire Leeds Hospital performed the Laparascopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery* in October 2012. He explained why Claire was an ideal candidate for this type of surgery.

“Claire took the very mature decision to come and see me at the right time. Like most people with significant obesity, without the surgery, Claire was at risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and also an increased risk of cancer. She was well motivated and understood the operation would be a help but the success would depend on her own efforts too.”

Claire worked hard with continued dieting and exercise to achieve a good long-term result. “People who realize the operation is a start to a healthier new lifestyle do best and Claire is a great example of this.”

Professor Lodge expressed his concerns about the growing need for this type of surgery. “In the UK more than 66% of men and 57% of women are overweight and about 25% of men and women are officially classified as obese (BMI more than 30), many don’t realize there are serious health risks associated with this.”

He said, “Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass seems to be the most effective form of weight loss surgery with the least in the way of side effects compared to other alternatives. The major advance of being able to do the surgery laparoscopically (key hole surgery) means that patients recover more quickly.  Also, with the way I do it, patients are able to eat normally by 10 days from surgery, compared to other techniques where the diet is very restrictive for several months.”

Claire added, “I feel the hard work was done for me in the operation. It’s been a relatively easy time for me since the surgery to shed the extra weight. I want to say to anyone who might be considering the surgery. Don’t hesitate. It can change your life!”

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