“I had never felt so ashamed.
I had been overweight, then obese, for more than 10 years and I was sick of it. I was 39 years old and so unhealthy.
I had insulin resistance and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and my family history of heart disease made me feel like there was a time bomb in my chest.
I had to hold on to the towel rack to pull on my undies.
To the outside world I seemed happy and confident but all I saw in the mirror was a big, fat failure.
So, in 2013 I decided to take the drastic move of weight loss surgery. I was 92kg and at 165cm that put my BMI in the obese range.
I convinced myself my failure was a lack of self-control and the best answer was to take that option away and have gastric lap banding.
I was in such a shame spiral that I only told my husband, my parents and three friends. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone else.
I was feeling so scared when I picked up the phone to my parents but instead of them arguing with me, they were so compassionate.
My mum had a few tears because she’s faced the same weight battles that I have, then dad gave a deep sigh and said, “I completely support you. I’ve watched you struggle with your weight for so long now. I see how much you eat and it’s not fair that you are the size you are. I eat twice as much as you but my genes keep me thin. I really hope this helps.”
So, I booked in for the operation. It went well, but I was shocked at how much pain I was in.
I was so focussed on this being the answer to my weight problem that I hadn’t acknowledged it was major abdominal surgery.
The procedure works by inserting a silicon band around the upper part of your stomach that can be filled with liquid to tighten it, creating just a small pouch to hold food.
I’m no stranger to hospitals. I had major bowel surgery when I was eight years old. Thanks to my PCOS I’ve had a number of operations to remove massive cysts. I even had liposuction once because I hated my stomach so much.
So, since I was a kid I’ve had 16 operations and at last count I have 20 scars on my stomach.
There’s no way you’ll see me posing in a bikini because my belly looks like a warzone – but no-one sees that.
The recovery from the gastric lap banding was rough. I was on a liquid diet for a week and then blended food for a while after that. What I wasn’t prepared for was the vomiting.
I vomited a lot.
The trouble was I was hungry ALL the time. It was fine that my stomach was now the size of a mandarin, but the rest of my stomach ached to be full. I felt at-the-point-of-tears hungry for the first month.
I figured it would be worth it, but it wasn’t. I did not get results. I only lost two kilos the first month.
Two f–king kilos. More tears. More self-loathing.
I tried softer foods but I just kept vomiting. Sashimi. Vomit. Boiled egg. Vomit. Once I was getting a pedicure and decided to have a fresh watermelon juice. Something about the froth in the juice triggered more vomiting. It came with no warning so I actually vomited on myself – a big pink stain on my shirt, to the horror of my manicurist.
I cried the whole way home in the car.
I started obsessively exercising, going to the gym for an hour twice a day. My shape was changing but the scales weren’t.
Then I went on a 12-week program of 1200 calories a day and exercised twice a day, five days a week. In that three months, I only lost 2.5 kilos. More tears.
So, after six months of this and a grand total of 4.5 kilos lost, I cracked it and asked the surgeon to take all of the liquid out of the band so it was completely loosened and I could keep food down. His advice was, “Maybe you should take up bike riding and do a gentle lap of Centennial Park.”
I nearly hit him. I was doing hardcore spin classes and weights and cross trainer. He had no f–king idea how hard I was trying.
With the band no longer restricting my stomach, I could eat normally again and eat in public without the fear of vomiting. I kept up the exercise and the weight started coming off. But I was so mad about the lap band not helping I didn’t want it taking any of the credit for my hard work. So, I had another operation to have it removed.
I was so relieved to have that dumb piece of plastic out of me, but I still felt a huge amount of shame at my failure. Surely it would have worked for a normal person? What was wrong with me? I wasn’t drinking melted chocolate to cheat the system.
As it turns out, I have now found that gastric lap banding doesn’t work for a lot of people. It’s just that the shame of it not working means nobody talks about it. The surgeon even refunded my $5000. To this day, that feels like hush money.
So, I’m still sad and angry and ashamed that I went through that whole process. My weight fluctuated for a few more years.
Then last year my weight went back up to 90 kilos and after having insulin resistance for a decade it tipped over the edge and I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. I was 44 years old and I felt ashamed that I had let myself down and caused this illness.
I was ready to try again, and this time I tried something with science behind it. My psychologist Dr. Tim Sharp told me about a program he was advising on called Super Fast Diet. It’s based on intermittent fasting. Again, I was scared I’d fail, but I gave it a go.
There are lots of different fasting methods but I chose to do two days of 500 calories and up to 2000 calories on the other days. The fast days are hard – I get hangry easily, but when you know you can have what you like the next day they seemed doable.
I think what I hate about other diets is they are relentless. This method meant I could still have wine! It felt like stunt dieting.
For me the results were quick. I lost eight kilos in just 10 weeks. I was flying high. But here’s the kicker – no-one noticed. In the spirit of honesty, that caused me to lose a bit of motivation, and my weight loss plateaued.
Then I got serious again and I’m now down 13 kilos and I hope to lose another seven. Everyone is noticing. I cancelled my gym membership, I still jump on the cross-trainer occasionally but now my main exercise is walking my dog.
But the health benefits have been gobsmacking. I had another round of blood tests and I’m no longer a Type 2 diabetic. In fact, I’m no longer even insulin resistant. My blood sugars are back in the normal zone.
And I’ve lost 15cm off my waist. That still shocks me. The fat around your belly is what doctors call “visceral fat”, which is dangerous as it’s around your organs.
In fact the diet has worked so well for me that I am now a paid member on the Board of Advisors for SuperFastDiet.
I wish I had not gone through invasive lap band surgery. It’s a huge regret, but I feel relieved I can now be honest about it. I can now also honestly say, I’m putting my health first.”