By MYRA FABIAN and MADOLINE MARKHAM
When high school senior Claire Fabian left for weight loss boarding school Wellspring Academy last October, she was 4 foot, 10 inches, weighed 212 pounds and couldn’t run a lap. When she returned to Birmingham eight months later, she had lost 54 pounds and was running 5Ks.
Fabian also became the team leader of the championship hockey team, was baptized at Brevard Community Church and grew emotionally under the counseling of Susan Borgman, clinical director of the academy.
“It has been a joy to watch Claire blossom,” Borgman said. Claire was happy, as her parents could see in pictures the school posted.
Fabian’s school, Wellspring Academy in Brevard, N.C., is featured in reality show Too Fat for 15: The Obesity Crisis on The Style Network. Fabian is a minor character on the show, which airs Mondays at 7 p.m. beginning this fall.
Last fall, the high school junior struggled with school and with life. Her parents knew she was smart but kept hearing from teachers about how she had failed to complete assignments.
After yet another frustrating call from one her teachers, her mother, Myra, announced what she calls an idle threat, “If you can’t get it together, your dad and I are talking about boarding school!’”
After more tears and a little research on Wellspring, Fabian announced to her parents that she wanted to go.
The Fabians dropped their precious daughter into the very capable hands of teachers, physical trainers and counselors at the academy. Set in the mountains of North Carolina, the campus was beautiful. But it was also a summer camp converted for school purposes the other nine months of the year: rustic accommodations, no internet, no TV, and, for all intents, no heat. Fabian seemed to take it all in with relief; Jeff and Myra had reservations. In the end, it was a life-changing experience for the better.
But when Fabian had to return to Birmingham, she and her family worried how she would fare outside the rigid schedule and diet enforced at school, and she didn’t want to go back to her previous school. What other option was there?
That’s when the community around the Fabians rose to the call.
Customers at The UPS Stores at Lee Branch and Inverness, which Fabian’s parents own, had been keeping tabs on her progress for years and stepped in to help. Dr. Ed Burns took her on as a student; he home schools and tutors at Panera Bread at Lee Branch under the umbrella of Evangel Christian Schools.
Her diet from Wellspring put her on 1200 calories a day and aimed for 0 grams of fat, and nutritionist Donna Hays at Fitness Express developed a diet to help her continue on the path she started.
Chris Carter, owner of Fitness Express, is helping her stay in shape. Fabian works out with Carter alongside her brother, Jake. Family friend Chris Ritter, who uses 5K runs to minister to others, became her running partner and helped her prepare to run the Stampede5K in Gardendale.
“God has put so many people in our path to make this work in our time of greatest need,” Myra Fabian said. “It’s phenomenal the support she has gotten.”
Since returning, Fabian has maintained her weight and is excelling in her goals in school. She is working to finish her high school curriculum by December so she can start taking classes for college credit at Jefferson State. She plans on attending the University of Montevallo next fall.
Fabian and her mom are helping lead Made to Crave, a Bible-based study on creating the “want-to” and not just the “how to” for weight loss, out of The UPS Store this summer and hope to lead another group for women and teens in the fall. Fabian wants others who struggle as she has to know that “You really can love foods that love you back!”