The Big Boy Room

The thing about proper gym training is that the relationship you build with your trainer becomes so much more than that of a task manager.  The thing about being with someone who really knows what they are doing is that at a certain point they know your body and its limits better than you do.  Darrell stepped up our training by taking me to the area of the gym where the big boys train.  That part that I dared not tread in the past as I felt this area was off limits to me.  I am not sure if this is the former fatty talking or just someone who happens to have a vagina rather than a penis.  But, there is something about the testosterone fuelled weight lifting floor that scared the hell out of me.  But, full of excitement and a bag of nerves I followed Darrell into belly of the beast, also known as the body building floor.

Today we were going to do dead lifts.  I was going to do deadlifts!! My form was good and I felt stronger than I ever had my whole life.  That’s the thing about living in a fat suit, when you are in it though you are pushing every possible physical boundary with the sheer mass you are carrying you don’t feel strong.  Quite the opposite, you feel weak and at the mercy of something you need for survival yet can’t control.  So, this new feeling of strength was something almost spiritual.  Having spent the better part of my life hiding my body the idea of lifting weights was a bit cathartic.  The “big boy” room thick with testosterone and heaving with the kind of men that I feared would judge me actually respected my effort.  It was another stamp to add to my “passport” of places I felt I was not allowed to enter as a fat girl.  Whether societal or self-imposed there were just some things that were off limits to me in my old body.

But, this wasn’t all about my head.  Under Darrell’s expert guidance my body so beaten and scared from weight loss and plastic surgery was toned and taut.  The results were hard to dismiss and furthered my original hypothesis that it was all about excuses.  Once the barriers were dropped and I really took on board what Darrell was teaching me I had complete faith in the process.

Since this was written Darrell has moved.  What is a huge loss to me is a massive gain to clients in Leeds.  Darrell is so much more than a trainer.  He helped me in ways I could not have imagined.  You see the last thing I had wanted in the beginning was a male trainer.   Men in the gym generally had been something I tried to avoid at all costs.  But, the idea of working one on one with a male PT was something of nightmares.  It was my own jaded view of men in general I suppose, but in my mind they represented everything that kept me weak.  These were the kind of guys that mooed at the 16 year old Melissa.  I suppose I stereotyped all “fit” men in this way.  But, Darrell changed all that.  He showed me that my only limitations were self-imposed and anything was possible.  He pushed me continuously and encouraged me to lift more and was always there to spot me when I needed it, whilst at the same time knowing when to hold back and let me take care of business.  The sessions we had were about pushing the limits I had and helping me attain a strength I didn’t think possible. We had many a conversation that started with me saying “I want to be able to do Tough Mudder or I think I want to enter a charity boxing match or I want to be able to do pull ups unaided.”  His reply was always “you can do it” “we can train for that”.

So, Darrell I can’t possibly thank you enough for what you have given me.  You are a credit not only to your profession, but more importantly to your gender.

I will continue this journey with a new trainer.  So, this is not over yet!

Watch this space…

You’re gonna feel a little prick

So, if someone told you they could make the skin on your face and neck instantly look younger by sticking hundreds of needles in it what would you think?  A bit scary right?  Well, when that person is the amazing Milena Lazarova of Dr Joney De Souza Skin and Laser Clinic, what you actually say is wh at time should I be there?

14102600_10154515608085955_3755839774309327548_nDr Joney De Souza’s clinic in the heart of Harley Street has become one of my favourite clinics.  Whether I am there to see Dr Joney for a bit of needle artistry or the always gorgeous Milena Lazarova I am never disappointed.

Micro-needling with the Dermapen or Goldpen has recently become the hot treatment of choice amongst celebrities.  The treatment involves using a device with tiny needles on the end of the pen that make the smallest of punctures in the skin.  This process relies on the skins natural ability to repair itself.  So, these tiny injuries to the skin stimulate collagen growth, reducing the size of your pores and instantly giving you smoother looking and feeling skin.

When a treatment involves needles one would automatically assume there will be an element of pain involved.  But, with the pen in the expert hands of Milena it was more relaxing than anything else.  The “needling” felt a bit like a soft cactus being run over my face.  Even in the most sensitive parts of my face near my eyes I experienced no pain.

14718859_10154736122475955_8509224452825945405_nThe great thing about the Dermapen treatment is that it can be repeated every couple of weeks for maximum results.  But, as a boost for the skin now and then it is certainly a beautiful treat.  The results following the treatment were instant.  My skin was glowing when I left the clinic and in the days following my make-up went on like pure silk.

The Dermapen/Goldpen is a very versatile treatment that not only works for anti-ageing, but also can be used for scar correction, stretch marks, blemishes and is even used to promote hair growth for those suffering from thinning.

 

14045787_10154503926875955_5277541631543853675_nThe results of my treatment were so dramatic that it was recently featured in Woman magazine.

*Like all aesthetic treatments micro-needling should only be performed by trained practitioners.

 

 

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#NoExcuses

14721649_669567459868728_1004468577750512185_nSo it begins! I have never made my advocacy  for the Abby Pell’s of this world a secret. Those amazing super humans who embraced the “no excuses” hashtag with both hands and got mostly hate for their effort.  I remain an advocate for all body shapes.  But, why is it that these women who have chosen to push their physical limits get so much hate?  As anyone who has followed me knows I used to weigh over 350 pounds.  I am certainly not the poster girl for gym bunnies by any stretch of the imagination.  But, this topic intrigues me, particularly in light of the recent controversy over Eugenia Cooney’s YouTube channel and the petition to ban her.  Now I do agree she certainly has an eating disorder.  But, has the pendulum swung so far that it is now ok to body shame those we consider too skinny?  There are super sized (by their own description) fashion bloggers that if they were experiencing the same vitriol as Eugenia we would be going out of our way to defend them.  Are they not just as much of an example of an eating disorder as Eugenia? I don’t know the answer.  But, I digress.  This is about really digging deep and saying NO actually there is no excuse for this middle age spread.  Yes, I have lost a lot of weight and have been incredibly lucky to have been able to have the extensive plastic surgery to remove loose skin.  But, that just put me on a more level playing field with the majority of women.  I am an extremely busy mum of seven year old twins.  I don’t want to get up at 5am to do crunches in my living room any more than anyone else.  But, having lived most of my life in a fat suit feel I would be doing myself the ultimate dis-service by not finding out what is possible.

7d8d319de325f162b18b58dfdf687460So, my question was; what happens when an average mum drops all excuses and hits the gym?  Well the first step like most of my body transformation would require expert help.  This would seem the easy part.  But, I soon found out that picking a personal trainer is very much like finding a therapist or partner for that matter.  You need someone you trust and that you can work with.  I searched for months before I found Darrell Wilson of DW Holistic Fitness.  During our first meeting he blinded me with the science of exercise.  It’s not that I expected a personal trainer to be dim.  But, I suppose we all hold silly stereotypes of the super fit perhaps being more muscle than brain, to which I profusely apologise.  Darrell has an incredible knowledge of not only the science of behind exercise, but also knows everything you can possibly think of about the nutrition needed to lose weight and gain muscle. His ability to explain the reasons behind every movement is nothing short of astounding.

Over my many years as a serial dieter I have possessed many a gym membership.  For the most part it was the usual story.  Following the obligatory “New Year’s resolution” I happily handed over my bank details to a very pushy sales person and for a month or two religiously went to the gym losing that same two stone repeatedly each year only to gain it back the second I eyeballed a cream cake. But, the fact is walking halfheartedly on a treadmill and pushing around a couple of dumbbells for an hour does not a six pack make.

There is certainly much more reason to be motivated when you have someone at your side to tell you exactly what is happening to your body during exercise.   Having thought I knew quite a lot about the topic myself soon learned I didn’t know much at all.  So, having found “the one” we started training. I think the best part of working with a great PT is that you are really motivated to make progress.  Was I sore the next day?  Yes!  I found muscles I didn’t know existed.  The feeling of satisfaction following each workout cannot be put into words.  The truly amazing thing is how quickly I felt the results.  I am obviously a work in progress, but having been working with Darrell for just over a month now the difference in my body is very noticeable.  The satisfaction in seeing the free weights go up each week is an awesome feeling.  He is a ball buster in the nicest possible way!  The workouts are always challenging, but the fact that I am seeing the results is such a great motivator.  I started out with a marked weakness on my left side as compared to the right.  But, over the last few weeks I have seen such a big difference that my left side has nearly caught up.

I have certainly come a long way from the “Davina” hand weights collecting dust under my bed.  Having that support from someone at your side each session is extra motivation to stay on track.  I have been resistant to having a trainer in the past because I felt self-conscious.  But, Darrell in addition to knowing what he is talking about is a genuinely nice person that spurs you on in such a positive way.  I can’t think of a better cheerleader in this very foreign territory.

So, I remain without excuses and on the way to finding out what is truly possible.  This is chapter one of a series on building a better body.  Will I end up with a six pack? Don’t know! But, what is certain is that building a better body is so much more complex then losing weight.  So, with science, good nutrition and a truly inspirational Trainer there are no excuses and no limits!

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Date With Dr Victoria

I think it has never been a better time to be “a woman of a certain age”.  From Botox to Butt lifts there is something for every possible age related issue.  The current non-surgical options are endless.  But, when looking into clinics it is important to find a safe practitioner that has had the latest training as well as being someone with the appropriate background.  Personally, although I am aware this can be a grey area I believe that only those with medical backgrounds should be carrying out such procedures.

I realise it is obviously no secret I love a bit of youth in syringe form.  So, you can imagine how excited I was when I received an invitation to visit Aestha Clinic at 25 Upper Wimpole St in London.  Following an extensive consultation with the gorgeous and talented Dr Victoria Virtosu it was decided that I would have some Juvederm in my lips and a bit (well more than a bit) of Botox to rid my face of the previous six months of worry lines I had developed.

Botox being my favourite neurotoxin, smooths out those “road hard and put away wet” areas of the face like nothing else can.

Juvederm is a range of fillers containing injectable hyaluronic acid that when injected by a trained professional can provide nine months to one year of fullness to your lips as well as correct moderate to severe wrinkling on certain areas of the face.

Lip fillers are an instant gratification kind of treatment, which I love!  Botox tends to take roughly five days or so to see the finished result.  When done correctly the forehead should not appear frozen, just noticeable smoother, giving a subtle more plump appearance to the skin.

The skin on your lips in particular over the life span is constantly moisturised from within by hyaluronic acid which is a naturally occurring sugar. However, as your skin ages you lose hyaluronic acid causing lines to appear and the thinning of the lips.

Having a bit of filler when done correctly can dramatically improve the appearance of the lips.  Obviously, it is up to the individual in consultation with an aesthetic professional how plump you want them.

Dr Victoria was very conscious of making sure that my results were balanced and symmetrical.  Some of the biggest complaints I hear is around asymmetry which is why it is so important to see an experienced professional. Ultimately, it is up to you how big you want your lips.  There are a lot of arguments online about this and honestly it all comes down to personal yet INFORMED choice.

Knowledge is power people!!

A Clockwork Orange Peel

Cellulite!!  Ugh!  It is not even a pretty word.  A bit like moist, every time I hear it I just cringe!  First of all everyone has a bit of cellulite at one point or another.  But, unfortunately I have it all the time.  Primarily because I spent the majority of my life morbidly obese, cellulite is the price I have to pay for my years of gluttony. Although I have lost a huge amount of weight and have had reconstructive surgery for loose skin, the cellulite in one form or another remains.

I have tried lotions, potions and various notions.  Short of voodoo I have yet to find a miracle.  Now I am sure you have heard of the various anti-cellulite tights and leggings.  There are several companies that make them, all with very ambitious claims about “impregnated” fabric and that they sacrifice a live chicken in the factory to ensure your positive results.  Ok, I made that last bit up!! But, you see where I am going.  There are some very grand claims out there for what is often a very mediocre product.   As some of these products are very expensive, the last thing you want is to spend £200 on what ends being a pair of lazy pants you wear on the school run.

I am very much a believer in finding those special treasures in places you would not normally look.  I love the idea of trying something from a lesser known company as often they have something super special, but perhaps the world hasn’t discovered them yet.  I met this amazing and very inspiring entrepreneur Fabia Santos at a plastic surgery conference.  Her company called Yoga Compression Garments was not one I had heard of before, but her belief and dedication to her products hooked me right in.  I wasn’t sure why at the time, but she was definitely someone I wanted to know better.  There was the added bonus I suppose because it is a Brazilian company I thought if anyone in the world is going to know how to make your ass look good, it’s going to be them!

Over the course of researching the products what I learned was that in addition to the leggings which I will get to later, Fabia has dedicated herself to helping women going through reconstructive surgeries.  She attends hospitals herself to ensure post surgical garments are fitted properly and educates medical staff on the importance of garment fitting in the healing process.  I suppose this resonated with me because I have been in the position of trying to get myself into post surgery garments that in retrospect did more harm than good.  One very ill-fitting corset I had following abdominoplasty  I referred to as “the juicer”.  The second I put it on my clothes were soaked with the excess drainage.  So, the work she does is an integral part of the healing process for women that are already feeling quite vulnerable following life changing operations that are not always cosmetic.  As a professional Fabia is someone who really “walks the talk”.

The leggings are called The Yoga Emana.  They absorb heat from the body and return in the form of “long infrared rays”.  The rays are then absorbed into the skin and stimulate circulation and cellular metabolism.  The leggings contain bio-active crystals and so these properties are not lost when they are washed.  Amongst the many benefits that are purported:

Increased cellular metabolism
Increased skin elasticity
Reducing the appearance of cellulite
Thermal equilibrium
Reduction of muscle fatigue

So, with my magic leggings in hand I was off to try them myself in hopes of conquering these beastly dimples! Putting aside that they are meant to benefit you by wearing them, as a product they are beautiful and really flattering.  The instructions are that you are to wear them 12 hours a day.  I must say this was easy as they go with everything and really give you a beautiful shape.  They are so comfortable, yet hold everything in as well as pushing that excess junk in the trunk up perfectly.

The initial trial is meant to show results within weeks.  As I have particularly bad cellulite I took before pictures over six weeks.  The results were everything that was promised.  There was a marked difference in the smoothness of the skin and I definitely found the dimpling in my upper thighs in particular to have reduced.

Although I was primarily trialling them in order to ascertain the anti-cellulite properties I did actually find that there was a marked difference in how my legs felt following a run when wearing them.  So, there is definitely something too the claims about reducing fatigue.  From day one I was able to pack more punch into a workout wearing my Emana’s.  All in all the trial was extremely successful.  I can’t recommend them enough.  They retail for £95, which is a reasonable price for leggings that deliver the goods.  They remain in my normal rotation as my go to workout wear as well as sneaking them under other garments as a much more comfortable option to your standard “suck in your gut” pants.  An all around great product from a fabulous company.

 

Lip ApPeel

There is nothing more fabulous than a fancy new lippy.  But, when it has an added bonus of a funky new way of applying it, I am definitely in!  For years I have been on the hunt for that perfect stain.  I bit like that good old too much Koolaid lip I had when I was a kid.  Not quite lipstick, but not gloss either.  That hint of colour that says “I woke up like this”.  So, when I spotted these weird and funky lip stains from China that claimed to do all of the above, plus had this bizarre peel off method of application I had to try them.

The first hurdle was they had to be ordered from wish.com, which if you have ever ordered anything from them you will know things are not always as they seem and they taScreenshot_2015-12-31-08-48-01ke forever to arrive.  Okay, three weeks isn’t forever, but I am an instant gratification kind of girl.  What made these particularly interesting was not so much the product, but their description.  So, far from putting me off with the prospect of wounding myself with caution with happens in a horny number of cases I order the Cherry Red.

13198990_10154241271425955_1317249725_oThe application is a bit fiddly, I would recommend using a lip brush.  It needs to dry before peeling it off.  So, the best method is to apply it and carry on doing the rest of your face.  The longer it’s left the better the colour.

It is more a novelty than a serious contender in my make-up regime.  But at roughly £1.50 a tube it is a bit of fun and the peeling off process is particularly satisfying.  Just remember that “in a horny number of cases the effect is not very satisfactory” 21627_10154137476715955_2858983321068429677_n

 

Fatty

love a bit of cakeI have been thinking lately about why my relationship with food is so bad.  I think that for much of my life food has been my method of self-harm.  Instead of cutting myself I have chosen to fill the cracks in my psyche with fat.  Sadly, there is little sympathy for those with my particular method of self-destruction.   If I were jones’in for a line or syringe of something a bit more rock and roll I believe there would be so much more help available.  I wish it didn’t hold so much power over me.  To a certain degree I think that had so much of my journey not been public I probably would have gained it all back by now.  It kills me that I struggle to see myself as I am and not as the little fat girl that everyone hated so much (or at least that’s how I felt).

I cannot pinpoint the exact point it started.  But, I can still vividly remember being bullied to the point of peeing myself so a teacher would send me home.  I must have been around 9 or 10.  An older girl pushed me to the ground and got right in my face.  She said you make me sick fatty!  This was one of many, many episodes that sadly dominated my most formative years.  I would do literally anything to stay home from school.  Throwing myself into a ditch, riding my bike into a wall, anything I could to cause enough damage to warrant a pass from school.  Finally, when I was 11 my mum finally relented and I was home schooled from that point.  I look back and wonder if by doing that I allowed the bullies to win.  But, I suppose nobody knows what to do in that situation.  All I craved was respite from the daily cruelty and abuse.

szwet4rh7yjtrtdgmqrmBut, by leaving school I am not sure the outcome left me any better.  I had very few friends and I soon learned adults could be just as cruel as children.  I suppose this is part of the reason I crave some of that youth I missed out on.  I have the body I so desperately wanted at 18 and feel like I need to recapture the many, many moments I missed out on.  Is trying to cheat Mother Nature a little really the worst thing in the world?  Surely not…   There was so much pubescent loneliness.  I remember hearing about the various dances and school events I missed.  I tried to tell myself it didn’t matter, that I didn’t care.  But, I did and I do know I can’t get those things back.

I realise there will never be an opportunity to go to the prom.  Although if anyone should be interested in a slightly over the hill prom date I probably wouldn’t say no.

The Anti-Ageing Matrix

20999_954452254605038_1864708531383285239_nOk, so I am the first to admit I am really rubbish with skin regimes.  I do use moisturisers, eye creams, serums, etc.  But, I am a terrible cheat and have a difficult time sticking to one product line.  I am a bit of a “player” in the realm of skin care.  I may use an Estee Lauder eye cream with a Lidl moisturiser or a tub of Astral with a super posh tube of retinol.  You know what it’s like right?  Busy Mum skin care and all that?  It is about convenience and what I have to hand at times.  My priorities aren’t about me.  So, sadly my skin ends up being a bit of a mash up of products.  But, I decided as a middle aged woman my skin needed something a bit more intense.  Following a conversation with the Super Skincare Diva that is Lorna Bowes of Aesthetic Source, I would make a commitment to follow a specific regime and see if it truly made a difference in my skin.  Lorna recommended Neo Strata’s “Skin Active” Intensive Eye Therapy, Bionic Skin Cream, “Restore” Matrix Support Moisturiser and Facial Cleanser.

I used the Intensive Eye Therapy and Bionic Skin Cream at night and the Matrix Support which has an SPF of 30 during the day.  Both the Bionic and Matrix Support had a beautiful creamy texture that absorbed into my skin beautifully.  The first thing I noticed using the day products is that my need for a make-up primer quickly became unnecessary.  The Matrix Moisturiser was enough to make my foundation go on smoothly, whilst at the same time not leaving my face feeling like an oil slick.  It is so difficult in your 40’s as with many products they make the assumption that you are a dried up old prune that needs to be slathered in oil. But, that is absolutely not the case.  In fact I am still prone to the occasional breakout with the wrong combination of products.

The Bionic Skin Cream left my skin feeling so smooth at night and I never woke up with that icky product residue that you get with other night creams.  I love the Intensive Eye Cream.  It absorbed quickly and never irritated my skin.  The best part was the reduction in those tiny lines (I am not saying crows-feet).   Luckily Neo Strata knows what women need on their skin!  This combination left my skin dewy and I have noticed a marked difference in my lines. Oh God did I actually refer to my lines again?  Oh the humanity!!  But, in all seriousness my forehead in particular is looking much better and I am seriously past my Botox’s expiration date.  So, the change cannot be put down to a needle!   My skin as a whole from keeping on this regime for three solid months is amazing.  I am definitely a convert to using a proper skin care routine.

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Neo Strata are certainly on the cutting edge of anti-ageing skin care.  They are nominated in several categories in the My Face, My Body Awards and The Aesthetic Awards 2015 It is not difficult to see why.  I am looking forward to trying their Skin Active Triple Lifting Neck cream next!

Unbotched

1235099_10151916503800955_1325535349_nIt seems at the moment we are saturated with headlines and television shows all about the horrors of plastic surgery and aesthetics gone wrong.  Now don’t get me wrong I love a bit of reality television.  My own massive physical transformation was the result of participating in  reality/documentary television.  But, I have been thinking lately that the emphasis seems to have shifted from the “feel good”, albeit cheesy style of the ugly duckling that in the end becomes a beautiful swan to the disasters.  Because if you unpick the whole aesthetic and plastics industry you will find that for every botched boob job or filler fiasco there are thousands and thousands of very happy patients whose lives have been changed for the better following their procedures.  I do love a fairy tale! But, what this is really about is celebrating the amazing work of those who do get it right the first time. 

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Before reconstruction

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After

My own experience could not be further from the “Woman’s implant explodes on the school run” horror stories that get so much attention.    Following a huge weight loss I had a disfigured body.  Even the biggest body confidence cheerleaders could not possibly argue that the body I had following weight loss was nothing less than a train wreck.  Masses of loose skin that hung from every bone on my body, which even the most vigorous boot camp, would not be able to shift.  In addition to the unpleasant aesthetic, the skin was a health hazard that only served as a dark reminder of what decades of obesity had done to me.  It was a dark cloud that hung over the success of my weight loss.

 But, I was offered the holy grail!   My loose skin was removed under the most professional and expert conditions.  Mr Paul Baguley is nothing short of amazing!  He, like the many other professionals registered with The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS – Ya I know!) that do amazing work.  These are in fact the very people often left with the task of putting humpty dumpty back together again following a fall off a dodgy surgeons table.  But, sadly what we see most of the time are the disasters.  These are often the ones that will be discussed on internet forums for what is seen as “stupidity in the name of vanity”.  Putting aside that at some point there was probably a really good reason they wanted the surgery in the first place.  One should never be punished for the desire to improve how they look or correct something that is not quite right.

IMG_20140227_110505Yes, as a matter of fact I am trying to recapture my lost youth, what is wrong with that?  Sadly when I was in my 20’s the world was not ready for the 300 pound pin up.  Keep in mind this was a pre-Beth Ditto/Tess Holiday world.  As glamourous as I tried to be I was never going to be anyone’s pin up girl.  Unfortunately I was relegated to the fat heap with the rest of the retro rejects.  I am not in any way condoning that but, it was what it was.  As a result I never enjoyed the body freedom that I wished for.

The fact remains that plastics along with the non-surgical options such as Botox, fillers, thread lifts, etc give those that choose it a much needed boost some times.  It is not about making you look like someone else, but about looking like a better version of yourself.  I understand the politics and this essay is not about that.  I will save that for another time.  But, what I am talking about is focusing on the safe and talented professionals out there that are making people’s lives better.  I for one am grateful for every nip/tuck and syringe I have had.  It has allowed me to be the person I didn’t get to be at 18.

**There are of course situations when things do go wrong and luckily there is help out there when that happens.  The Safety in Beauty Campaign is an initiative that supports those who have had less than satisfactory results.  They use their position to educate the public about safe practice and advise those who in extremes are left disfigured by poor practice.

The Gift Wrap

love a bit of cakeSo, I was thinking this week that although I have spoken about the various journey’s I have been on to get to this point, first losing weight and then losing skin that I haven’t spoken as much about the surgery that helped me in the first place.  I have had several emails asking me to expound on the specifics.  So, I am doing bit of throw back to remind myself of how far I have come as well as to share with those of you that are struggling what ultimately worked for me.

In 2012 after reaching what I consider my “rock Bottom” I started looking into weight loss surgery.  Up to this point I had done every possible diet, plan, pill, shot, soup, shake both medically recommended and discouraged.  I always say if you want to know anything about dieting ask a fat person.  They will have been there and have the t-shirt in a wide variety of sizes!  I was getting older and the fat suit I had been wearing all my life was taking Its toll on my body, both physically and emotionally.  Most upsetting was that I wasn’t able to be the mother I wanted to be.  I was already an older mum and the weight was just making me older before my time.  I wanted to be active with my twins and also to be a good example to them.  Sadly, I was neither!

2012-01-26_0915I began to research the various surgical options.  Although the Gastric Bypass seemed to be the gold standard I did have concerns about side effects.   This procedure involves the stomach being divided into a small upper pouch and a much larger lower pouch and then the small intestine is rearranged to connect to both. I had so many friends that were bypassers and many struggled with malabsorption of vitamins and nutrients.  There is also the dreaded “dumping” syndrome which is basically a group of symptoms such as sweating, severe intestinal distress, heart palpitation, vomiting and diarrhoea.  These issues can occur after eating certain foods and due to your plumbing being re-routed.  The Gastric Sleeve was also an option on the NHS.  Gastric sleeve surgery works by removing a large portion of the stomach, leaving a banana-shaped “sleeve” that connects the oesophagus to the small intestines.

Unlike the gastric bypass there is no re-plumbing going in therefore the complication rate is lower.  I was open to either procedure, but it was a huge decision and I wanted to make sure I went with something I felt 100% comfortable with.  This is where I think many people who complain about surgery being the “easy way” have completely the wrong idea.  This is serious business and everyone choosing surgery is desperate and the fact is there is nothing easy about it.

Melissa's Graduation PhotoMy next step was to see my GP.  He agreed I needed surgery, but because my BMI was 49.7 and not 50 I was not eligible.  What was his recommendation you may ask?  Go home and eat chocolate!!  Seriously, that was the professional opinion I got.  Well, I was desperate and did try to gain weight.  But, it was as if my body was just going to refuse to cooperate just to spite ,because no matter what I did I couldn’t purposely gain weight.  But, all was not lost as this time gave me an opportunity to do a bit more research.  What I discovered was that there was another procedure.  It was not available on the NHS, in fact not even available in the United Kingdom.  It was called a Gastric Plication also known as a “Wrap”.

Gastric Plication is a purely restrictive operation similar to Vertical Sleeve Gastric Resection, just without the need for division and removal of major stomach part.

It is a bariatric procedure that brings the benefits of food restriction while reducing the potential complications associated with a permanent implant (gastric band) and with staple line (leak and bleeding in Sleeve gastric resection).

The significant reduction of stomach capacity immediately after the operation allows intake of fluids only in small amounts, which is caused by surgical narrowing of lumen together with postoperative swelling of inverted gastric wall. The weight loss is usually quick within the first months. As the inner ridge of plicated stomach wall lose the swelling and further diminishes by involution the capacity of the stomach slightly increases. Currently studies show very promising 3-years results in significant and lasting weight loss similar to Sleeve gastric resection, and significantly greater than the Gastric Band. Also the loss of feelings of hunger is similar to the Sleeve.”

Obviously, as a mum to young children I was worried about the complications involved in any surgery as well as the down time.  As I researched more about it the Wrap seemed like the perfect solution.  The stumbling block was that it would need to be paid for privately.  The cost at the time was £4500 with travel. (The prices since 2012 have decreased significantly)  I had been huge my whole life and my mum had a front row seat though all of my years of depression and humiliation.  She told me later how helpless she felt that she wasn’t able to help me when I was younger.  So, my lovely mum agreed to pay for my surgery.  Although this was the greatest news I could have had, the process was still daunting.  I would have to fly to the Czech Republic on my own to have surgery.  I worried about language barriers and what an Eastern European hospital would be like.  But, I was more desperate than ever.

march 12

Landing in Czech

Mel and Dr Cierney

Me and Dr C

I researched the surgeon who would be performing the operation.  Dr Cierny was a world renowned expert in bariatrics and had performed over a 1000 of these procedures.  The plan was put in place!  I said goodbye to my babies and was off to the airport for my flight.  I couldn’t have been more nervous!  I arrived in Czech and it seemed a world away from England.  I arrived in the hospital and was introduced to the most amazing surgeon in Dr Cierny. One of the first lessons I had in Czech health care was the differences in the way doctors worked within their teams.  To be honest when I saw Dr Cierny I thought he must have been a porter because he was filling the paper towel dispenser in the clinic room and was wearing a white uniform.  The medics is Czech have a completely different air about themselves than the ones I was used to.  It is very much a team where everyone is equal.    He spoke English and was truly sympathetic to my situation.  He explained the operation to me in detail.  But, said before we could proceed I would need an extensive pre-op in order to make sure I was healthy enough to proceed.  What happened next was the most extensive medical examination I have ever had.  Once it was over Dr Cierny came to my hospital room and gave me a big hug with the great news that I would be having my life changing surgery the following morning.  The medical team was amazing!  The hospital was by far the cleanest I had ever been in.  The morning of my surgery the jolliest anaesthetist came to see me and run through what was about to happen.  I suppose I should have been scared, but all I could think about was that my new life was about to start.  There was never a moment that I was lonely or worried.  As part of the package there is someone with you that travels from England for the duration of your stay.  They are there to make sure you have everything you need and can translate should any communication issues arrive.  Currently the sweetest person, Katerina accompanies patients to Czech.  She is originally from the Czech Republic so is the perfect person to follow you through this journey.

As I was put under the last image I was saw was Dr Cierny reassuring me that everything was going to be okay.  Although I had only met him 24 hours before I believed and trusted him completely.  When I woke up Dr Cierny’s smiling face was the first thing I saw. He leaned in and said “you have a tiny tummy now”.  Those words were the magical and exciting thing I had ever heard.

Immediately after surgery some patients may experience vomiting as a result of the stimulation of the vegus nerve during surgery.  It is a common issue that resolves itself in the first couple of days.  However, I did not have a single episode and other then minor pain from the incisions I was walking around the ward within a few hours of the procedure high on a combination of pain relief and pure excitement!

From beginning to end my stay in hospital was four days.  When possible Body Clinique will send patients over in groups. So, I had a handful of amazing surgery buddies to laugh with each night whilst we watched old episodes of Benidorm and chatted about how we ended up here.  Following surgery I was on a liquid diet initially as my body healed.  It takes around 4-6 weeks to start having regular solid foods.  The first meal I had following surgery was a cup of beef stock, I can still remember how full I felt after literally half a glass.  In fact, I think following the procedure this was the first time I felt truly full. The feeling of hunger was a similar sensation.  My whole life I stuffed myself to the point of bursting and as a result I can’t say that I was ever truly hungry the way I was after surgery.  Hunger actually felt good, it felt like control and promise!  On day four it was time for me and “tiny tum” to say goodbye to Breclav Hospital and hello to out new life.  In the months that followed the weight dropped off.  I worked incredibly and for the first time in my life I was enjoying exercise and relishing my new regime.  Over 18 months following surgery I lost 12 stone and everything about my life changed. I felt confident and light.  I know it seems a funny thing to say, but literally the feeling of being light on my feet was indescribable.  But, it isn’t easy, Dr Cierny had told me before surgery he could only fix my stomach.  My head was up to me and it is a battle. But, the weight loss is such a gift and ultimately is a big responsibility.  I still have food demons and I assume always will.  I very much feel like an alcoholic.  I will always be a food junkie on some level.  But, surgery will continue to help me keep it under “wrap”.

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For more information about having weight loss surgery with Dr Cierny contact http://www.bodyclinique.co.uk/