Thursday, 14 April 2011

My Fitness Story... - Laura W

This week's story is a bit hot off the press! On Tuesday night, one of my Twitter friends, Laura, tweeted about her weight loss. I don't think it was just me that said "Wow!" when she said she'd lost ten stone. Laura then sent me a DM to tell me how she did it and I told her she should write her story. She was a bit reticent to do so but I talked her into it.

The reason for her reticence is that she had gastric band surgery which has helped her to lose weight. This is a controversial area; many people think that it is the lazy route to weight loss and she was worried of the reaction to her story. I hope that her story, which takes her from a weight of 301lbs and BMI of 42.14 to a weight of 160lbs and BMI of 22.40, demonstrates that it is far from an easy option, and you will give her your full support because it is an incredible achievement whichever way you look at it. 

Before - side view
Last night was the first time that I had weighed myself in a year. Sheer stupidity forced me to tweet about my weight loss but after a little natter with the lovely Kate, I agreed to share my story and dark secret…

At 28 years old, a mother of three, 6ft and weighing 300lbs, I was often referred to as 'the big one', ‘Hagrid’, 'fatty', 'gibblet' and 'her that looks like a rugby player’. At the age of 16, I thought I was sexy and had confidence in my body. I was never skinny but I was toned from playing football and had a great shape. However, this all buggered off when, aged 16, I became pregnant. I couldn’t decide what was worse; no football, getting fat, or both!

After my son was born, I managed to stick at Slimming World for many years, my weight yo-yoing up and down until I got married in 2004. After the wedding, I gave up; child number two came along and before long, number three too. I ignored what I looked like and never looked in the mirror. My confidence was low and paranoia developed every time I left the house. I tried to look for a new job to be closer to home but I felt that I was being penalised at interview for being fat. My husband suggested I speak to the GP about weight loss surgery, he had been reading up on it. The GP recommended the local Spire hospital as a good starting point. My hubby decided to foot the bill (he wanted a sexy wife, he said) and next thing you know, I was in for a consultation.
Before - front view 

The consultant wanted me to opt for a gastric bypass, but hearing so many horror stories, I opted for the gastric band. If Anne Diamond and Sharon Osbourne could do it, then so could I. I started the pre-op diet pretty quickly, which consisted of drinking Bovril, Bovril and oh, more Bovril for 14 days. The band was fitted under general anaesthetic using keyhole surgery so they had to ensure that the fat around the liver was non-existent, hence a liquid pre-op diet.

On 19th April 2008, I went into the Spire at Macclesfield not knowing what to expect. I was a scared young girl who just wanted to be thin. I awoke, still a fat person who wanted to be thin, with the additional bonus of being in absolute agony. I didn’t realise that they ‘jack’ your liver up out of the way while they stitch the band to your stomach. Gas is also used to inflate the chest cavity…painful. For days, I was walking like Nelson Mandela through pain and burping for Britain from the gas. Since the pre-op diet started, I had lost 16 pounds but I was still a fat person wanting to be thin. Two weeks after having the band fitted, I had lost 2 stone!I felt amazing, clothes were falling off me and I felt so confident and sexy; even at meal times when eating my baby food tubs of puree chicken and veg.

Since then, I have lost a whopping ten stone. Trust me, this was not easy. There have been days where I have cried over food, days where I have been so sick with every mouthful and days where I have just refused to eat. I guess the key to having a gastric band is to not rely on it to do the work for you. It took me over a year to work this out, maybe longer. Instead of building my repertoire of foods up from puree to more solid balanced meals, I was eating rice pudding, melted chocolate and angel delight. Well it was sloppy wasn’t it - the band won’t stop those foods getting through!

I went for regular band fills at the hospital and lied to the dietitian about the band not working. I wanted it tighter and tighter. Each time, they would pump more saline solution in to tighten it up (through a port under my skin) and each time, I would complain that it wasn’t working. It was only when I realised that I was cheating myself and not them that I kicked myself into gear and started eating a healthier, more ‘solid’ meal.

Doing the midnight walk
I also began to exercise. That first day when I mounted my new bike, I felt so proud. That was until I rode off the drive, big grin on my face, got past next door's drive then collapsed in a heap from exhaustion, turned around and hid the bike away. I told myself off. £300 on a bike and I wasn’t going to use it. The next day, I cycled for 5 whole minutes! The day after, 15! Two weeks later, I was cycling nearly 20 miles a day and loving being on the open road, the baby behind me in his seat and the biggest grin on my face ever.

If I couldn’t cycle, I would walk. I entered myself into the St Luke's Hospice Midnight Walk in June 2009 which was 13.1miles through Crewe and Nantwich starting at midnight. I could do that. I remember training for it, tweeting my friend Richard as I was walking through town night after night. I was so proud of myself. I raised over £400 and walked the 13.1 miles in under 2 hours (1hour 59 to be precise!). Unfortunately, due to illness, I couldn’t do the walk last year but I have signed up again this June. I’ve been advised to take it steady so I won’t be breaking the 2 hour barrier this time.
You see, it’s not that band that does the work. It’s the person inside. Mind over matter. Some days, I still cry when food makes me sick. I get angry when I’ve cooked Christmas dinner and can’t eat a forkful of it without dashing to the toilet to bring it back up. But what I remember is that at least I am eating ‘something’ and that ‘something’ is healthy (shhhh, don’t tell Kate I’m eating a Twix right now). I have days where I eat chocolate and nothing else, I am still human after all. But those days, I get up and get out and, rain or shine, I will walk the dog briskly or hop on the bike. I even bought myself a cross trainer last year that is fantastic for hanging clothes on (though I do use it at times).

After
Another thing I keep in mind is that everyone is different and that goes for band wearers too. I had a lovely message from Anne Diamond once (I was a regular on her website) telling me to stick with it and not give up. She said that what works for her might not work for me. It was these words from Anne that snapped me back into shape last year when I became ill. I couldn’t exercise as much as I wanted to and the weight was piling back on. If I wasn’t starving myself, I was making myself sick after every bite of food. It wasn’t good. I remembered Anne’s words and not only do I still believe that we are all different, but I also believe that for a band wearer, every day is different. Yesterday, I ate a party sized sausage roll; tonight, I tried one and it made me sick. Last week, an apple made me sick; today, it went down fine. It’s trial and error, like weaning really. Just stay relaxed and don’t worry if you have excess food left over - you can always feed it to the dog!

I've stopped fighting against food now and just accept that I can only eat what I can eat without making myself sick. If my children want a McDonalds, I no longer look longingly at the cheeseburger, instead I take a bite and feel satisfied that I've had a bite. OK, perhaps it's not the way that we've been taught to live with the band but it's worked for me - sometimes that bite is enough for my lunch and that suits me fine.

I'll leave you with my golden rules, none of which are any massive secrets.

- don’t drink for at least half an hour after eating
- chew food thoroughly
- drink plenty of water
- don’t skip breakfast

I hope you'll agree that Laura has been brave and honest in writing this post. I think that it demonstrates that it's not just a case of getting a gastric band and you'll be slim without effort. Like everything, you need to learn how to make it work for you. And work at it, you will - it still demands a healthy lifestyle to get the best results. 

Whatever you think of gastric bands and other forms of weight loss surgery, and whether it's for you or not, Laura's achievement is incredible. She's worked hard and is still recovering from illness, whilst trying to complete a degree as well as being a wife and mother. I wish her all the best with her recovery and at maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you're interested, Laura has recently started a blog called Daydreams and Diaries, which is worth a visit too. 

As usual, please do comment to show your support or share similar experiences in the comments below. If you would like to share your fitness story, then please contact me on Twitter or email me on the address on the About Me page. Posts can be partly or fully anonymous, or if you are happy to be named, I will link back to your blog. All contributions are really appreciated and do get in touch, even if you feel yours is not a worthwhile story. If it's a personal experience, it is. And I mean that even if you have failed at something, because it is still YOUR fitness story. 

Thanks for reading and do come back for another guest post next week. 
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