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…

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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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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/