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…

#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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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.

 

Bingo Wings Baby!

I suppose there is a point in every woman’s life where they reach a certain age and realise that their arms in particular start looking a bit, well there is no polite way to put it.  They start getting a bit saggy and even with muscle tone just don’t have that spring back they used to.  This is a particular issue if you are carrying some extra weight or like in my case you have lost a lot of weight.  There is only so much exercise can do!  I was incredibly lucky that following my weight loss I was able to have an arm reduction.  But, realistically this is out of range for the majority of women.  However, even following surgery my arms are still something I am a bit self conscious about.

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Enter Wingz! This company makes a range of “sleeves” that are worn with sleeveless clothing to give you some extra coverage when you are just not feeling sleeveless ready.  I was gifted a set of white wingz to test drive and review.  The concept is brilliant.  I do think that the black is probably much more versatile as it is easier to match the darker sleeve.  But, that is just me.  I don’t tend to wear lighter colours.

The line itself has a range of styles that are really beautiful and I think are an absolute godsend for those of us who are not comfortable with showing our arms. The fabric is lightweight and ideal for the summer which can be a big girls worst nightmare.  Part of the range includes a Chiffon Flare style which I think would be perfect to dress up those summer numbers instead of the old standard bolero.  They fit discreetly under your bra.  So, they really do end up looking like a part of your outfit.

p-2818-big-cat-wingz-280x175Wingz are a great addition to your wardrobe and certainly would allow anyone that has issues showing their arms to expand their wardrobe as there is a set of Wingz to fit any style.

Sun Damage

meand pipI suppose to a certain degree we have become desensitised to the body shaming that takes place in the media.  When I agreed to speak with a journalist from the Sun during the summer holiday about my position on health promotion for children I did not expect that six months later a completely fabricated article would show up online.  What is really disgusting is the fact they chose to body shame my child in their pursuit of a controversial headline.  When I saw my face along with my little girl staring back at me under the headline “The NHS needs so sort out my obese child” I felt sick.  I have been asked by several media outlets for a response on the article.  But, as I know it is not possible to trust anyone to accurately express the absolute disgust I felt when I saw the Sun this morning I decided it was best to do it my way.

I will address the various points attributed to me starting with the obvious glaring horror that is gastric balloons for children.  I would never, ever recommend any gastric procedure for a child.  What I had actually said and this is a direct quote; never would I ever recommend a gastric balloon for any child, but particularly mine.  When asked specifically about gastric surgery I said that in older teenagers with extreme obesity, in a case by case basis and when all other treatments had been exhausted perhaps a balloon could be considered.

The purpose of my voicing an opinion was to discuss the need for more activity based programs for children similar to what is done for adults with the “Steps to Health” programme.  Adults can be referred by their gp for 12 weeks of gym membership.  My thought on this was a programme where children could build peer to peer relationships with other children with similar issues with weight where they would feel free of judgement and bullying.

There is also the issue of personal responsibility.  My blog has been live for over a year and is public record.  My feelings on this have always been clear.  I in no way blame the government or anyone else other than the individual for poor eating habits.  Any issues with my children’s eating habits lay squarely at my doorstep.  The point I had made in my interview had been that I have a boy and a girl that eat the exact same diet. (the diet by the way is very mixed and balanced, which again was turned into a sugar fest for the purpose of sensationalistic nonsense) Yet they clearly have completely different metabolisms as my son is much smaller than my daughter.

In addition to the blatant fabrication of the truth pictures were taken from my blog which were related to reviews I had done of vitamin infusions and fat freezing and attributed to my weight loss surgery.  I was quoted as saying weight loss surgery was a magic wand.  Again anyone who has read anything I have written knows this is not my opinion.  Weight loss surgery is an extreme solution and not an easy journey.

But, the saddest thing for me about this is that the whole reason for raising awareness was to prevent children from being bullied in the way I was as a child.  Yet this disgusting rag chose to use this in order to incite bullying and fat shaming against me and my child.  I am a big girl now and over the many years of being shamed and bullied I have developed thick skin.  But, what is absolutely deplorable is to deliberately set up a child to be ridiculed and bullied.   This is reprehensible for a journalist to feel it acceptable to body shame a six year old.  Anyone who has read my blog knows what I went through as a child at the hands of other children.  For an adult to set up a child like this is nothing short of evil.

I am choosing not to use a link or screen shot of the original article as I do not wish to give it any further power.

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.

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.

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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/

My Name is Melissa…

hamburger-1349595-mMy name is Melissa and I am a food addict.  I know I have written about this time and time again.  But, I have come to the realisation that I have lost control.  I had my weight loss surgery in 2012.  Following a serious war on fat I raised the flag of victory 18 months later.  I had conquered the demon, never would I allow food to rule my life again.  For the first time in my life I felt like I was in control.  It was a great feeling!  But, in the last couple of months something has changed.  I had a really horrible start to the year.  At one point I thought I was going to lose my house, it seemed as if everything I was falling apart including my mental health. In the chaos of all that was happening around me an old friend showed up to try and cheer me up. In all his glorious calorific loveliness. He let me cry on his shoulder and held my hand when I felt alone.  I should have known better.  But, I thought I was better now, stronger and could handle him being in my life again.  I was so wrong!  What I didn’t realise was that even after all this time I wouldn’t know when to stop and say no.  The aftermath of my lapse in judgement was shocking. I had gained 15 pounds in three weeks.

pizza-2-1364933-mIn my previous body a stone or even two or three was meaningless and honestly hardly noticeable, now in this smaller frame all I see is bulging fat.  That damned F word!  I avoided its use for decades as for some reason being overweight or the extremely overused “curvy” seemed to feel gentler on my delicate psyche. But, it was a lie.  There was no curve, just lumpy, bumpy horrible, jiggly fat.  Curves, more cushion for the pushin and various other colloquialisms only serve to push us deeper into denial. Personally, having hid behind the big and proud agenda for years I don’t believe there is anything empowering about giving up on yourself and accepting a bloated time bomb of a body in an attempt to normalise obesity. This doesn’t mean that as a woman I have to conform to societies so called ideal body shape. But, is more about putting the onus on me to set a good example to my daughter.   The last thing I would want for her is to spend 20 plus years trapped under 350 pounds of flab.  In the years that my addiction to food had its strongest hold I could rationalise my obesity. When I discovered I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome it was as if I had found the Holy Grail.  This was my license to hang all responsibility on a mysteries “syndrome”.  Therefore, from that day forward it wasn’t my fault any more.  It wasn’t the three big macs I loved so much killing me, I had a disease, a ticket to allow my addiction to take complete control of me.  Something happened one day, it wasn’t good enough any more.  All of a sudden it hit me that rather then empowerment, I had rendered myself completely dis-empowered.  The fact is love it or hate it the world is not a nice place to be in when you are fat.  I had to work twice as hard to gain the respect of colleagues.  I had to prove myself everyday to those that looked at me and automatically thought I was the laziest person on the planet.  As much as I ate, I was certainly not lazy.  In fact from a health point of view I was one of those lucky fatties that never had the stereotypical obesity related ailments.  This made hiding behind the bbw flag much easier as I could declare myself fat and hit!  But, underneath I was eating myself to death.  I suppose it’s a bit like the functional junky.  They can rationalise how much smack they do because they still get up every morning and go to work.  It is only a matter of time before the addiction catches you off guard.  But, I digress, this is about me now.  I suppose there is a certain amount of victory in realising I am slipping before going completely off the rails and having a full regain. I really can’t imagine what that would do to the psyche.  I know many people that it’s happened to.  Is there anything worse than being fat?  it is something that you have a certain degree of control over.  So, no there isn’t anything worse than being fat for me.  It isn’t like getting cancer or hit by a bus.  Those are things outside of your control.  Having experienced what it’s like to be thin the idea of being fat again is the stuff of nightmares.

hot-dog-1149854-mI was and am completely responsible for my lack of self control.  I am human unfortunately and as such I have my own set of demons to deal with.  It is so hard!  I find myself upset and ravenously tearing apart the kitchen looking for anything that will sooth my troubled mind.  The high is instant, exhilarating with each orgasmic bite, but then there is the come down. The self hatred and guilt that lasts so much longer than the climax.  Food is a tough one you can’t completely eliminate it from your life.  But, what I need to learn to control is how I handle myself around it.

I need to constantly remind myself that food is not my friend and as much as I desperately want a pizza to cry into some times I just don’t have it in me to “just be friends”.  Maybe one day we can get together and reminisce about all my 3 am binges.  But, for now I need a game plan.  It is all about going back to basics.  Complete portion and calorie control.  I have been incredibly lucky that my blog allows me access to some amazing people and products.  With that I will be putting everything I have into getting my head back in the game.  Food may have one a tiny battle in the last few weeks, but has definitely not won the war.

Shame we can’t all get along!

How-to-get-a-beach-body-Take-your-bodyIt seems body image and being proud of what we have is the theme for the week.  #PlusSizeWars? #WeAreThey? #ProteinWorld? It is an interesting concept and has me thinking about where I am and where I have been.  Am I a sell out for wanting to change my body?  If I had the confidence as a young woman that I do following the massive amount of plastic surgery I have had would my life have been different?  So many questions that I don’t know the answers to…

But, you have to give Fiona Longmuir and Tara Castello a super shout out on behalf of women everywhere for standing up to the established beauty myth that is perpetrated on us every summer around what makes us as women “beach ready”.  The Protein World ad is not unlike every other campaign that gives us that extra shot of insecurity that we didn’t ask for, nor need to further push us into buying into a product or service that will make us “perfect”.

This is where I have to declare a conflict of interest. Because as much as I would like to say “down with the beauty myth!” “We are all beautiful” and the like I have spent much of the last few years exploring every last flaw that exists on my body and researching ways to “fix” it.   Where does that leave me in this argument?  I firmly believe that nobody should be ashamed of their body.  In the summer we should all feel like we can throw on a fabulous swim suit and hit the beach at any size or shape.  But, have I ever worn a swim suit in public?  That would be a big fat NO! Pardon the pun.  It may have been a lack of body positive role models or just my being locked in my own prison of body shame.  But, I still struggle with the concept of being happy with my body.

I find myself in a difficult position with this issue.  I think there is a line that needs to be drawn here.  This ad is clearly selling products for weight loss and there is nothing wrong with that.  Obesity is an extremely complex issue and this particular campaign is not going to change that.  My feeling around the issue as someone who was on the super obese spectrum is that the messages I received around body image told me that I was doomed and would never be able to achieve anything unless I fit literally and figuratively into a particular body shape. As an adult woman with decades of life experience behind me I am just about strong enough to deal with this.  However, there are millions of young girls and women who are growing up believing they can’t achieve their full potential because they don’t fit the “cookie cutter” image that as women we have been socialised to believe makes us successful.  The profoundly sad thing is, they are probably correct.
I write this not as an anonymous pundit seeking to cast judgement on a misogynist society.  But, as a highly educated woman who continues to experience first hand the advantages and disadvantage being a member of each of these camps bring.  I wish I could say that being proud of my body was enough.  That loving yourself will make the world love you back.  But, I can’t because the very sad truth is, this world will not reward you for your brain, your ability to write a beautiful story or even having the skills to save a life.  The thing that has made me successful in my current endeavour and made people want to hear me is all of the superficiality that we find so distasteful in this argument.  Do I think this is right? Of course not.  But, have I benefited from moving closer to what society expects women to look like?  Yes.
Obesity in itself is a very serious problem and in the same way nobody should be shamed into self hatred about not having that “perfect” body, neither should we shame those amongst us that have, through very hard work managed to create a female form that fits the #Protein World mould.  I find it increasingly sad that the original message of female empowerment is being lost.  If we are ever to make progress in this area we need to stop the in fighting about it being us versus them.  I have reached a point of saturation today where I have began to feel that rather than witnessing a testament to sisterhood it is turning into a pissing contest between Barbie and Midge.  However, my message remains the same.  Body shaming in any form is not acceptable, no matter which side of the coin you landed on.

**Image Courtesy of Fiona Longmuir and Tara Castello