I have always been fat. I am sure that at some stage as a kid I was skinny or normal weight because in the photos of me up to age 6 I look normal. Weight honestly was never something when I was a young child that weighed on my mind. I wasn’t one of those kids that cared. That was until I realised “Oh I’m fat” was when I was 7 and shopping for my communion dress. I tried on 4 dresses before I could find one that fit me. Now I wasn’t huge I was just chubby. I had “puppy fat” (which is a term that if I ever hear you utter to a child I will slap you clean across the face) I would grow out of it. I wasn’t overweight I was under-tall and because the two main people in my life that fed me didn’t seem all that worried about it neither was I.
I was very active and I was fit. I danced four nights a week and I could keep up with my peers in Physical Education (when I wasn’t pretending to be sick because I hated PE except gymnastics days, I was all over that). All together I didn’t realise that being fat was a defining factor of my life, that is until others started mentioning it. “You’re too big for me to give a jockey back to” or “you can keep up just fine for a bigger girl” I started to realise what they meant. This is when my unhealthy relationship with food was something I started to notice.
I was an emotional eater. If I was sad I’d stuff my face, if I was happy I’d stuff my face, if I was neutral I’d stuff my face. I’d then spend hours feeling guilty and sad that I was “greedy and worthless” and that led to more eating and the vicious cycle continued. There were things going on at home and my way to deal with them was to eat rather than talk about them. In a way food was a distraction and my best friend. We’d get takeaways or go to McDonald’s and I’d always have an adult portion. I also developed an addiction to soft drinks. I would go so far as to call it an addiction as I would drink litres of coke a day and without it my moods would be terrible (I have always been a moody person more so than others but those mood swings were bad) Eventually my weight was so bad that the adults in my life decided to do something about it.
I first joined weight watchers at the age of 10. I was in 5th Class in school and my Auntie Mary brought me to the meetings. I remember going to the doctor and he worked out a healthy weight target for me and then I joined. This is when I remember starting to feel like there was something wrong with me. I started to notice that I couldn’t shop where my friends were shopping, I couldn’t wear what they were wearing. I have a cousin the same age as me and we did nearly everything together. Dancing, school, extra curriculars we were always there together. I would be compared to her a lot by family, teachers and friends. She was insanely talented and she was skinny. She in a lot of ways was a standard that I held myself to. It was a standard that was completely unobtainable for me but at the time I didn’t understand that.
Throughout my teen years my relationship with food got worse and my weight kept on creeping up and up. I was all over the yoyo diets. You name it I tried it. I went to dietitians who cost a lot of money but it didn’t work. The reason it didn’t work is because I didn’t want to try. My friends could eat what they wanted, they could go out to eat and why shouldn’t I? I started to feel completely self conscious. I was the fat friend in the group, not that I was treated that way it was a tag I gave to myself. While all my friends were getting ready for a night out and sharing clothes, I was there making self deprecating jokes and avoiding certain social situations where I knew I would be around people who didn’t know me. In my mind when people saw me they saw my fat. They thought I was a slob and they thought I was lazy so they wouldn’t want to talk to me or get to know me. My weight defined me that was all there was to it. The cycle of food was getting worse. I would sneak food at school that I knew I shouldn’t be eating. I’d stockpile food in my room and binge out only to make myself sick later on because I was feeling guilty. A new diet came out and I’d try it, I tried diets for heart patients before surgery, I tried one particularly awful cabbage soup diet, I tried detox diets, I tried counting calories and exercising. I had officially decided that being fat was my fate and I might as well enjoy it. Looking back now I wish back then I had the wisdom I do now because if I had of taken it seriously back then I never would have ended up in the state I did.
So I left school and went to college, dropped out, got a job, left dancing, kept getting fatter, got a new job, went back to college, life happened and I had officially given up on my quest to lose weight. I was fine as I was and that was that. I was in denial. I still longed to be able to shop in normal people stores and to look like the super model on the cover of a magazine but I knew it wasn’t going to happen so I kept saying I was fine as I was. Realistically I wasn’t fine, I was miserable. I hated myself because why couldn’t I just stop eating! But food was my emotional crutch and I couldn’t let it go. I remember flying on a Ryanair plane and having to ask for a seat belt extender because I couldn’t physically. No big deal right? Except it was humiliating, the seat belt extender is bright orange and the air hostess made a deal of pointing out to everybody on the plane that I needed one. I didn’t fly Ryanair after that for years. I stopped going out to pubs or bars or doing things people in their early twenties should be doing because I let my weight hold me back.
At this stage Miss M was old enough to realise that I was fat and unhealthy. We were cooking one day when she asked me why she had to eat healthy if I didn’t. At that point I relaised that if I didn’t want her to have the same hang ups about food that I did I would have to set an example. I started out with great gusto but eventually trailed off, as I usually did. I wouldn’t eat badly when she was around but when she wasn’t it was open season. I was my own worst enemy. Food was my best friend and event though I knew it was bad for me I couldn’t help myself. I was a heavy smoker at this stage too and doctors were warning me that diabetes and heart troubles were on the horizon, did it scare me? Yes. Did i make changes? Yes that lasted for about a year and then slowly I piled the weight back on. I was having a myriad of other health issues as well over this time not related to my weight and as I got more and more depressed the more weight I gained. I was a mess. Honestly with all the health issues I was having I thought I was going to die and that was just the way it was. It was one of the darkest times in my life and I am thankful that God brought me through it.
By the time my health issues were resolved I was a whopping 23 stone and I couldn’t have been unhappier. I started late 2013 by trying to lose weight and I lost 2 stone in the first 4 months. I did this using My Fitness Pal and exercising. I was losing some weight and feeling a bit better but I was still morbidly obese. So as you know I love to travel. As pathetic as this sounds but the thing that made me go “dude this situation is now completely out of hand you need to do something about your weight the time is now” was a trip to Disneyland Paris in early 2014. We were going with my mams dance class and a travel agent had booked it all the only thing I had to do was pay. Two days before the trip I heard we were flying Ryanair. So I cried for about an hour and made up my mind I wasn’t going. I was letting my weight stop me from getting on a plane. I was letting my weight keep me from Disney! I packed up Miss M’s case and asked mam to bring her and that was it I wasn’t going. Nothing you could do would make me relive the seat belt extender fiasco. I was too fat to fly and I just resigned myself to the fact. Mam called in the reinforcements by that I mean she brought in my best friend since we were 8, my Ashling. She came up and talked sense into me and said if it came to it and I didn’t fit int he seat belt that she’d ask for he extender so I wouldn’t have to. Ash understands my struggles with weight because she has had them too and I respect her opinion so much. Shes been there, she gets it. So I know that it sounds like I was making a big deal out of nothing but to me it is a big deal. It made me more determined to keep tracking and losing weight. Turns out I didn’t need the extender after all I literally sucked it in and could barely breathe but I didn’t ask for it.
Once we were back I kept losing weight and for the first time I was keeping it off. I managed to get down to 19 stone and I plateaued. I couldn’t shift any more. I went to my doctor and explained to him what was happening and he could not have been less supportive. He recommended a fad shakes diet and exercise. I felt like he took my money but didn’t listen at all to what I had to say. So I kept doing what I was doing and even with all the hard work the weight wasn’t moving. I know now hat I needed to change my macros and eat more to lose but at that stage My Fitness Pal was my Bible and I was following it blindly without understanding why I was eating what I was eating. Every week I didn’t lose I was completely disheartened and wanted nothing more than to eat. I seriously wanted so badly to have anything deep fried or salty or sweet just something that wasn’t good for me. I could feel my will begin to crack and I was determined not to let that happen.
In October of 2014 I was at the doctors for bronchitis with a new doctor and he mentioned my weight. I then explained what was going on and he was encouraging. He took blood tests to rule out any underlying causes and told me to keep doing what I was doing because it seemed to be working even if I had plateaued. He asked had I ever thought about getting a gastric band done and at that stage I was of the mindset that I didn’t need surgery, my weight wasn’t that bad. The band was a easy way out. Only seriously obese people needed it (hello denial). But he had planted a seed. At this stage I didn’t want to lose weight to be skinny, I wanted to lose weight to be healthy. So I wouldn’t drop dead of a heart attack at 27. For the next few months I researched the procedure and it seemed like a pipe dream because of the cost. I came to understand that it was a tool to lose weight but there was a lot of more work involved mentally and physically than I had imagined. It wasn’t a magic wand and one thing I didn’t know is even with the surgery you can put all the weight back on again. I could never afford that amount of money so I put the thought on the back burner.
That was until one morning when there was an interview on the radio of a man named Derek Davis. He was a well known TV personality in Ireland and he had has a gastric bypass. As i listened to him speak about his new lease on life and how he wished he had done it sooner it was that moment I decided that was it I was having the surgery. I got home and emailed the clinic. I asked what the criteria was for my insurance to cover the procedure (BMI, length of time with insurer etc) and it turned out I met all of it. All I needed now was a letter of recommendation from my GP to get an initial appointment. My aunt had also heard the interview and phoned to tell me about it to see if I would consider the surgery. So off to my GP I went the following week. He asked me what I had tried to lose weight and I handed him a list of every diet, pill, hypnosis and fad I had tried to lose weight. Once he read it he wrote the letter right away. I got my initial consultation for the first week of January 2015 and as they say the rest is history.
The mental preparation for the surgery was when I learned the most about myself. The psychologist explained how and why I used food and patterns of behaviour I never would have noticed on my own. I was addicted to food. It was a hard addiction because food (unlike drugs) is socially acceptable and it is something you have to do to live. I wasn’t worthless but most importantly I wasn’t my weight. I was me! I was a person, I was a person who happened to be overweight and that my friends is how I started to heal myself. I’m not there yet but I am a work in progress (and for the record I’m extremely happy with the progress thus far)
Until next time, let your gypsy soul wander.