Claire French toned up and rediscovered her curves when she took up hula hooping naked
Generous dinner ladies and McDonalds breakfasts saw French's weight balloon up to 22 stone
January is the prime-time for exchanging weight loss tips.
However, while few could doubt that Claire French's exercise regime was a huge success, most will stick to dieting and sit-ups rather than trying her method: hula hooping - naked.
The 22-stone showgirl was spurred to lose weight when a barman mistook her for You've Been Framed presenter Lisa Riley.
It was just the motivation French needed to start exercising. And when she she got into the prestigious Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts she discovered a passion for hulahooping and started shedding excess pounds.
The 27-year-old now shows off her toned, curvy, 11-stone-lighter new shape in naked hula hopping shows, and teaches her skills via Dreads N Hoops, in Wythenshawe, Manchester.
'It was really upsetting being mistaken for Lisa Riley,' said French.
'I thought, "But she's massive." I wanted to cry.'
'Now I'm like an ambassador for hula hooping. It's really great fun, good exercise, and has totally transformed my body. It could work for pretty much everybody.'
French had always been an overweight child, and when dinner ladies at school indulged her comfort eating she swelled to 15 stone.
At college, an after-school job gave her pocket money to spend on McDonald's breakfasts and post-work kebabs, she soon gained a further seven stone.
'I used to get bullied at school a lot for it,' French said.
'Kids used to make beeping noises and say, "Wide load, wide load," when I would back up.
'I was just huge, but I sort of didn't realise it.
'I tried every diet under the sun - Atkin's, the juice diet - but they never work, and I didn't exercise at all, so when I was accepted to the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, I still weighed about 22 stone.'
But many of the courses at French's dream school were dance and movement-based, and she found it difficult to keep up.
'I lived with these tiny dancers who were so slim, but more than being jealous of the way they looked I was jealous of the way they moved in class.
'Dance was a big part of the curriculum. I remember in modern dance class, when there were moves where the man had to lift the woman up, I was always given the man's role.'
French's new active lifestyle helped her to begin losing weight.
In the first two months at the Academy, she lost two stone. In the next four months she lost a couple more.
Her active lifestyle helped keep her out of obesity, but she was left with a couple extra stone and rolls of flabby skin that she could not budge.
French specialised in community arts and quickly became interested in circus games.
One day, her friend put on a hula hoop show at her house and French thought it looked so beautiful she was immediately hooked.
'Hula hooping allowed me to tone up fast and keep the weight off because I love it and it was fun. You really lose inches off your waist.
'I got toned and was curvy instead of fat and for the first time I was really happy and comfortable with my body.'
She urges others to take up hula hooping - which burns about 100 calories in ten minutes - too.
'I've seen it do amazing things. My friend had had a baby and had quite a lot of loose skin around the belly. She started doing it and just toned up so fast.'
French has also added her own touch to the art of hula hooping: doing it naked.
'I first got naked a couple of years ago. There were a bunch of friends over at the house and we were all just hanging out and having a good time. There were about 20 people over and it was sort of a dare, "I bet you won't get naked" so I did and I put on a hoop show.
'I'd have never done that before. My body is still not at all perfect but I'm very happy with it, and that's largely thanks to hula hooping.
"I think it's important to see people who don't have a perfect body but are happy with it and willing to show it off.'
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