Love the Skin You’re In: Carol Hanson
I met Carol through a mutual friend and we arranged a skype date together. We clicked immediately from our love of dogs to our hunger to make the world a better place. As someone who battled her body for years, she’s not only survived when the odds were against her, but she’s thrived and uses her experience to help others love themselves more.
She’s a beautiful soul inside and out and I’m so pleased to share her story.
Carol, introduce yourself.
I’m Carol Hanson and I inspire women to look good and feel fantastic. As a personal stylist, I work with women who have lost their style mojo or are suffering from a lack of body confidence. My clients can be any age, but tend to be over 35. I love my work as I’m working on so many layers. While I’m using clothes to help them with their outward appearance; what I’m really doing is helping them to rediscover their self-confidence.
Usually, my clients have things going on for them such as rediscovering their own identity after their children start school; or their children have left home and they’re trying to find themselves again or they’ve experienced a major life change such as going through the menopause, divorce, substantial weight loss or even retirement.
Tell us how you found your way into doing this kind of work, as we have a shared experience don’t we?
Yes, we have had a shared story. I’m passionate about this work because for over 20 years I suffered with not loving the skin I was in. I had an eating disorder that was triggered at 17.
I’d always been a “good” girl and a “daddy’s girl”. He was my idol but had incredibly high standards for me, and I wanted to please him.
I have a vivid memory of coming home after a French test at school, I’d got 98% and was so pleased and proud. We went out that weekend and met one of his old friends who asked me how I was and I, all proud mentioned my French test results and my Dad jumped in and sad, “Well yes, Carol’s just disappointed she didn’t get 100%”.
Although I was young and couldn’t put it into words, I really felt that sting.
As a child I was on the podgy side, I was bright and I was terrible at sport. It was a pressure pot at school. After I left at the age of 16 I piled on weight and had just started losing weight again when I met my husband to be at the age of 17. We were out one night and he jokingly and innocently, grabbed a roll of fat and asked “what’s that?!” – it changed everything.
I’m passionate about helping women express themselves.
Tell us how that moment affected you?
I became obsessed with losing weight. At first I restricted my food intake. As the effect of that didn’t make enough of a difference fast enough, I started to abuse laxatives. A couple of years later I ‘found exercise’. This started as a regular hobby but developed into an obsession. I drove myself incredibly hard and I had to be thinner and fitter than everyone else, of course those two things don’t exactly go hand in hand do they!
I married at 19 and fortunately we’re still together, but life for me in those early years was a struggle. I would go on bike rides with torn ligaments, push myself incredibly hard, do multiple exercise classes a day and try and control my food.
On top of that battle, I waged a whole other battle in my professional life. I set up my own accountancy firm and treated it in much the same way I treated myself. It had to be the best, I had to work hard and then harder still. I pretty much burnt myself out trying to prove to everyone I could make it . While the business was a success it was almost at the cost of my marriage. I had a decision to make and I chose saving my marriage and gave up my business.
“I want to help women love what they see in the mirror and express themselves fully”
You’ve come a long way since those days! Tell us about your recovery and how you came to use your experience so positively to support other women loving the skin they’re in.
There were a couple of milestone moments. The first of which was a wake up call about 10 years into my illness. I found out I couldn’t have children. I was devastated at the time that I couldn’t do what I was put here for – to conceive. I had had an early menopause. This was around the time that I’d started my own accountancy business. It doesn’t take much to appreciate that being given this news drove me harder to make the business a success. It was a great way to block out the impact of knowing I’d not be able to have children.
Whilst I still struggled with food for many years that was the start of me realising that something wasn’t right. The next major event was a few years after that when my body literally told me that ‘enough is enough’. My legs seized up on me when I was out for a run. It was a very frightening moment. My legs simply wouldn’t respond as my hamstrings had gone into such a deep spasm. Somehow I managed to hobble back to the hotel.
There wasn’t a specific moment that made me stop and think, rather it was a gradual and slow process and now I can look back and see that it was my recovery period and how different I am!
For me I never hid behind clothes, I actually wanted to show off my hard work! I’ve got a dramatic side to me and clothes were an expression of that. After giving up my accountancy business I went back into corporate life. I ended up in a management role for a video games accessory company. We were designing and developing accessories for Sony’s PlayStation Consoles. After eight years of helping to grow the company I wanted to do my own thing again.
I bought an online fashion boutique to explore my creativity – but realized a few years late that the business model wouldn’t work for me. I was networking to build that business and I noticed that many people were asking me about my personal style and asking for my help with their styling. I was often stopped by people in the room who would ask me “do you think this would suit me?”. It struck me that I should follow this and so I trained as a stylist and started to run workshops and retreats – I loved it and I’ve never looked back.
So tell us what aspect about your work do you think is key for helping women love themselves?
I understand their struggle so deeply and I think clothes bare your soul. When I see a woman leave a dressing room, or my workshop or retreat with a swing in their hip and a smile on their face – it fills me with joy. One client last week sent me a photo of the clothes she took to a charity shop – that made my week!I give women the confidence and tools to think differently. I want them to be able to express themselves and feel confident. I love seeing a client who lived in jeans and baggy t-shirts have a session with me and then wear beautiful dresses that suit her and make her feel fabulous.
And how can people find out more about your amazing work?
You can come over to wantheroutfit.com. My website has lots of style tips and details of the services I offer. I love to blog and vlog so there are lots of tips and tricks in my blog posts and also details of the events that I’m running too.
You can buy gift vouchers for colour analysis or put together a styling package for your loved one on my website.
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