I wanted to blog about my trials and successes regarding weight, but now that I sit to actually put it into words, I find a huge emotional struggle to pull out some parts of my life which are probably best buried deep and left alone. Maybe this will prove to be a valuable kind of therapy for me.
It all began when... at the age of seven, I went to live with my Nan, Step Grandad Reg, Auntie Pat & Uncle Malc, and my Grandad George. My brother Gary was just five at the time. We were both average sized little kids when we arrived, and in the spirit of kindness and I think feeling sorry for us, we were shown love in the form of food treats. This had a pretty immediate affect on both of us, and soon we were children struggling with all that obesity brings with it...bullying, mocking, low self esteem.
Nan was told by our family Doctor to put us both on a diet and so it began....
Unfortunately for Nan, her diligence in following the diet to the letter for us, was being undermined by our Auntie who would bring us comics to read and packets of sweets at bedtime. As I recall we loved bags of Revells and Galaxy Counters, and Maltesers.
Result? No weight loss at all, and rotten teeth. But dear reader, don't judge Auntie harshly because she genuinely wanted to be kind to us, and she was and is a generous giving person and this is how she shows love.
It wasn't until we were in our teens and Gary started to lose considerable weight (I tried on a pair of his new cords and they wouldn't go above the middle of my thighs! This motivated me to follow his example)and I joined in with him. He was following a diet sheet from the Doctor which was a pancreatic based one.
We were both successful, and I was a small size 10 by the time I was 15. I still remember the joy I felt when I tried on some new clothes and the assistant (in Richards clothes shop for those old enough to remember) said that what I was trying on was too loose, and brought me a size 10 to try. I could not believe it when it fitted.
It's a funny thing, but I never felt slim, I always knew that I was slim because of the size clothes I could wear, but when I looked in the mirror, I never ever saw it. Gary says he was the same.
Fast forward a few years and I'm married with a darling little daughter and the weight is going back on and my self esteem is declining. By the time I'm twenty four I'm a size 18 and have been dieting for five years. I tried the F Plan, Slimming World and weight watchers. I even went to a beauty salon and had some weight loss electric treatments. My self control was rubbish and so was my view of myself.
My husband was vocally critical about my weight and thought he was helping to motivate me. He believed he was supportive, but my view was that he had taken on the role of a strict parent. Unfortunately my self esteem diminished further, and my feelings for my husband were damaged and I felt terribly hurt and miserable in an ever downward spiral of self loathing. This lasted for about ten years. (I'm very happy to report that my husband ceased to do this and has been supportive in ways that help me since then.)
Over the many years I have tried The Cambridge Diet, The cabbage soup diet, Lipotrim fairly expensive from the doctor and it made me have palpitations and feel terribly ill. I paid for diet pills to reduce my appetite, went to Rosemary Conley diet club, went back to slimming world, tried calorie counting, went back to weight watchers, tried Slim Fast, tried Limmits biscuits, tried food combining.
The lowest point for me was when I was age 38 and a size 22/24. It was Christmas eve and I stayed in the ladies loos after the Christmas carol service because I didn't have the confidence to speak with people. Truth is I felt like I'd rather not exist, than be like I was anymore.
So in January 2001 I went to St Anthony's hospital in London to have a Swedish Gastric Band fitted by the surgeon Alberic Fiennes. I had been through the tests, the interview and the Psychiatrist evaluation to ensure I'd be ok with the surgery. It cost somewhere in the region of £6,ooo.oo which we were able to find because we had sold our home and moved into a rental house.
I didn't really care whether I died on the operating table, I was so miserably wretched to be me. Apart from my husband, no one else knew anything about it. I was fearful of their reaction to the fact that I had resorted to surgery, and couldn't lose weight on my own.
See www.surreyweightlosssurgery.org.uk for more information on the surgery.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adjustable_gastric_band for information on how the band works.
Gastric banding was fabulous for me for quite a while, and it was great to really, consistently lose weight and buy clothes in smaller sizes. I reached a size 12 comfortably and was so happy to be able to buy clothes anywhere. I felt that I'd never ever go into an Evans shop again!
There is a downside though. As the weight comes off I had to return to London for Mr Fiennes to fill the band with fluid thus tightening it and reducing what I could eat again. I still was not learning to eat properly, my diet was still pretty shocking, I lived on chicken soup, Wotsits and chocolate buttons....anything which dissolved into nothing and was easy to bypass the band.
With the band, you have to chew everything to virtually nothing, because if you swallow a small lump of anything, it feels like you've swallowed a golf ball. It hurts and it would take me between 30-60 minutes of feeling painfully sick, before it would all come back up. If I felt stressed at all, the band would seem to feel tighter and I couldn't eat at all, or at least very very tiny amount.
Reflux became an increasing problem, which would be at it's worst at night. I would wake up spluttering and coughing because foul acid had come up my throat and into my lungs. Gaviscon was always in reach and I slept propped up on pillows more and more.
Eating out was virtually impossible, as was eating with friends because I was embarrassed at how long it took me to eat, and how little I could manage. I know that one family in particular was terribly offended because I ate so little of their meal.
I didn't like the loose skin I felt I had on my upper arms and on the front of my thighs. I became quite self conscious of this. I also didn't like my face, somehow it didn't feel like it was me.
Lastly, my hair was in poor condition for the first time in my life.
What I did love was being able to wear clothes every day which I knew were going to fit and not feel tight. I loved feeling 'normal' and of being confident that I could fit into any chair without my hips wedging in uncomfortably.
I enjoyed walking and my stamina was much better.
I thought I knew better than Mr Fiennes, and I didn't go for my regular check up because I felt it was too expensive for the quick 10 minute appointment, which took me over 4 hours of travelling to get to, and then the same back again. I hadn't seen him for about 9 months.
I was having trouble with the band feeling very restrictive for several weeks, and was not able to get much food down at all. Then one Friday night I couldn't even get saliva down. I knew I was in trouble because I would vomit roughly every two hours and bring back all the saliva.
I stayed up all night, unable to sleep because of it.
Eventually on Saturday morning I went to the A&E department of Torbay Hospital for help. I thought if I explained exactly what the problem was, they would remove some of the fluid from the band and I would be alright again.
How wrong I was!
I had a card with me issued by Mr Fiennes which explained what to do if certain symptoms appeared. I was supposed to call St Anthony's immediately, but as I said, I thought Torbay hospital would do.
I gave the card to the nurse and the Doctor as I explained the problem. Neither bothered to read it. I explained that the band had for some reason tightened completely and that nothing was able to get through, it just pooled in the 'pouch' above the the band and then every two hours came back up.
I was prescribed an anti sickness injection!
Luckily for me, the nurse who came to administer it was my nephew's girlfriend's mum, and so she knew me. I explained it all to her and she told me I didn't have to have the injection. I explained to her that it would be useless anyway because I wasn't being sick, as such.
Eventually, after seeing several doctors, none of whom seemed to understand even though I tried to explain, I was informed that there was nothing they could do for me, but that I would be put on a drip and on Monday I could travel to London to see my surgeon.
I was terrified. I knew I would not be alive on Monday. THIS WILL KILL ME! I didn't know what to do. I was alone in the hospital, feeling extremely vulnerable. I asked a nurse if I could possibly use the phone and I did what I should have done in the first place...I called St Anthony's and explained it all.
Mr Fiennes phoned back and was a complete hero. He saved my life, no word of exaggeration. He demanded to speak with the Consultant, and from my bed I could hear the argument going on. Mr Shrinivas didn't want to perform the procedure....Mr Fiennes demanding that he must because I would not make it otherwise.
One of the nurses came to tell me that the doctor was trying to arrange an ambulance to take me to London for Mr Fiennes to operate.
Once again Mr Fiennes refused, impressing on the Doctor the urgency of him performing the procedure. I knew that my life was in peril at this point.
Eventually the consultant agreed to help me. I was asked to explain how the Huber needle was to be inserted to withdraw the fluid. There was a group of five or so trainee doctors around me as well as I explained how Mr Fiennes did this. The Doctor tried several times, but no fluid came out.
He went back to consult on the phone with Mr Fiennes.
It was then explained to me that this procedure would be tried again in an operating theatre where they could access an x-ray machine to show them if they were in the correct place. If this didn't work, then I would be given a general anaesthetic and the band would be removed laparoscipally if possible, and by general surgery if not. risks and 'what if's' were discussed and I went to theatre feeling very scared with a real sense of "I might not make it through this".
I expressed my concern to the anaesthetist that the saliva pooling in 'the pouch' above my stomach would likely come back up once I was unconscious, but was told not to worry, I was in safe hands.
It is truly terrifying to be wheeled into an operating theatre whilst conscious!
I could hear my heartbeat increasing because of my nerves. I could hear the Doctor on the phone to Mr Fiennes....it seemed that he was going to talk the Doctor through this.
Procedure was repeated as before but unsuccessful again.
I was given general anaesthetic. My last thoughts were of my beloved children *Blackness*
I came around coughing and having my back slapped whilst on my left side. Voices saying that I'd vomited and it had gone into my lungs, so was brought around quickly to cough it out. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I TOLD YOU!
General anaesthetic given again. *Blackness*
I woke up in ICU and was told that the operation had gone well, the band was removed laparoscipally and I was OK. I felt such a wave of relief and gratitude. Grateful to be alive, and grateful for the band to have been removed from my body. Grateful that I hadn't suffered any lasting damage.
I made a solemn promise to God and myself to improve my self esteem and my treatment of myself and never ever diet like I had in the past.
The gastric band and my negligence in seeing Mr Fiennes nearly cost me my life.
I know that had I not phoned Mr Fiennes that day, I would have died. He saved my life, as did the consultant who eventually performed the operation.
I have spent the years since trying to be gentle with myself, being grateful for more time on earth with my family, and reminding myself that I am more than just my body.
I remind myself as often as I can that I am a beloved daughter of Heavenly Father, who loves me, and I love Him.
I wish I had spent the money on self esteem therapy rather than surgery in the first place.
I now eat high fibre, brown rice, wholewheat pasta, wholewheat bread, lots of veg and fruit and I drink lots of water (Nikken AquaPur is our filter of choice).
So, how am I now? Well, I'm still very overweight and when I catch a glimpse of myself in a shop window for example, my immediate thought is of how much I don't like what I see. I have to work hard at reigning in the negative thoughts. I don't have 'ugly days' like before where I wouldn't want to go out and be around people. I don't loathe what I see in the mirror, but I don't love it either.
I haven't eaten chocolate in any shape or form since September 2010 and that is a huge accomplishment for me.
The weight is starting to come off, and I'm happy about that, but not desperate. I never weigh myself, I rely on how my clothes feel.
My self esteem is a work in progress and I have a long way to go still.
I am grateful for a husband who loves me whatever shape or size I am, and children who love me irrespective too.
I cringe when I see or hear the cruel and hurtful things people say about obese or overweight people. I worked in an office a couple of years ago and one woman kept saying things like "Why don't they get their ******* faces out of the trough?" And I often wondered why she felt the need to vocalise it so often in my presence. I just put her in my negative, ignorant, stupid people, file!!
This is me when I was losing the weight with the gastric band fitted.
This is me today.