SHE put on 2st as part of a TV documentary exploring the nature of fatness. But while Claire Sweeney is glad to have shed most of the weight, there are one or two things she admits she misses about her more curvaceous figure – her enhanced boobs.
In last night’s Claire Sweeney: My Big Fat Diet, viewers saw the television and theatre star pile on the pounds in an experiment to show the personal and social consequences of being overweight.
And while she was less than happy at tipping the scales at 11st 10lbs, there was a silver lining in the shape of an impressive cleavage.
“I went from a C to a G cup. My boobs were magnificent and, to be honest, I’ve never been chatted up so much by so many men,” she laughs.
But, reflecting on her experience, she says her weight gain meant she was judged on her appearance a lot more – mainly by women.
“The fact is, I was a size 14, which is the UK dress size average. But the thing that bothered me most wasn’t the vanity side of being overweight, it was the medical risks involved.”
Claire, currently appearing in Stoke-on-Trent as Snow White’s evil stepmother, was approached to make the programme and was immediately intrigued by the idea.
“It was the reverse of the size zero debate,” she explains.
“The idea wasn’t to do a ‘supersize me’ and stuff my face with burgers for breakfast, but just eat what I fancied when I fancied it and not take any exercise.
“So if I wanted pizza, I’d have it; if I felt like fish and chips or chocolate or bacon butties, then I ate them.”
That lack of care with her diet is alien to Claire, who must stay in shape because of her demanding theatre roles. She eats balanced, healthy meals and exercises three times a week.
“But I do have to watch my weight,” she admits.
When she started the experiment, she says she was at the peak of her fitness, performing in the musical Shout!
But just two or three weeks into her new regime, she began to notice the difference.
“First, it was my energy level that totally slumped. I was loving it, I was eating what I wanted after all, but I felt lethargic. Then the weight began to creep on, especially around my stomach. In the end, I had this big belly and that was the scariest thing because weight carried around your middle is the most dangerous to health.”
In the end, she put on 2st in just six weeks, piling 10ins on her waist and 3ins on each thigh.
So what made her stop?
“It was when doctors told me I was at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, that my blood pressure was high and if I had any plans to have a baby, doctors would be worried about me. That brought me up short.
“To be honest, it frightened the bloody life out of me.”
She was shocked, too, when, during filming in LA, she was told she needed to be a UK size six in order to make it in Hollywood.
“I said: ‘I wasn’t a size six when I was born!’ And if I ever got down to that I’d be horrible; bad tempered and snappy; it’s just not me.”
So what has she discovered about the issue of weight in the UK?
“That we’re sitting on a ticking time-bomb,” she says simply.
“Everyone at this time of year is thinking about losing weight and dieting, so the programme was very well-timed.
“And let’s face it, women are obsessed with weight and image. We live in an image driven society.
“But carrying weight isn’t just about how you look or how you fit into clothes; it’s about your health.”
The experiment has had long- term effects on the former Brookside star.
“After six weeks I went back to my usual diet and most of the weight came off but I’m finding it really difficult to shift the last seven pounds or so,” she admits.
As for the future, her panto stint is coming to an end and she’s looking forward to taking some time off and exploring more TV and drama work.
So is there anything she misses about her six weeks of devil-may-care? The chips? The chocolate?
“No, that cleavage!”