“I HAD STRUGGLED WITH MY WEIGHT FOR YEARS – SINCE I WAS ABOUT 17 YEARS OLD. I went to several slimming clubs and would do so well, but then would celebrate after a loss and it would pile back on. I would get so frustrated with myself. It became a vicious circle of yo-yo dieting. If there was a new diet that someone was talking about I would do it!
“A few things made me decide to make a drastic change – never being able to find clothes that fitted for one! Also feeling uncomfortable around people with cameras was a big one for me. I hated having my photo taken as I didn’t like what I would see. It would really upset me.
“Some people simply would never listen and understand how I felt and would carry on taking photos, regardless of my feelings. I would get anxious when someone got a camera out. It got so bad that it felt like I was having full-blown panic attacks.
“Some people are so confident about their own bodies that they just can’t understand how it feels not to have that body confidence. I desperately wanted to have photos of me with my husband and my two sons, but the pain of seeing the photos was never worth it.
The turning point
“I had thought about opting for weight-loss surgery on and off for a while but it was actually while I was on a family holiday in Thailand, over Christmas 2014, that I decided to go ahead with it. We were away with family and friends and I said to myself ‘Enough is enough. I want to have fun with my children in the pool and not feel uncomfortable. I want to take them on the beach, have family photos and just enjoy life with my family.’
“Also, diabetes runs in my family and my father passed away when I was five years old of a heart attack. So I knew I was a target for health issues.
“I researched the different options and chose the gastric sleeve after speaking to couple of doctors. I also spoke to a friend-of-a-friend who had it done and looked amazing. The gastric sleeve is non-reversible and this appealed to me as I did not want the temptation, or the risk, of going back to how I was.
No turning back
“I didn’t have any reservations or fears until closer to the time. I love spicy food and got a bit worried I would never be able to have a curry again, which in hindsight is funny. I was told that my stomach would probably not be able to handle spice like it did before. I’m pleased to say I can still have a taste of spice.
“I didn’t tell many people I was having it done... My husband was totally supportive. He never had an issue with my weight before – he just wanted me to be happy. My sister was a little less supportive at the time and tried to talk me out of it, saying I needed to try to lose the weight myself. I think at the time she assumed it was a cheat’s way out. After seeing the results, she now realises how good it’s been for me.
“The few friends I told were extremely supportive and said how much courage I had. My mum, who has supported me since I was much younger with my weight loss, knew exactly how I was feeling and has been there over the years when I have been so depressed about how I look and feel. Together, my mum and my husband made the decision easy for me – they were my real rocks.
“The process was daunting to start with, but very quick. They basically took away 75 per cent of my stomach. I had to stay in hospital for two nights for monitoring. I was unable to eat anything for a week and was on a liquid diet – taking only little sips of fluid in the form of clear broth, juice and water. I started seeing results immediately and had lost 4kg by the end of the first week. At the end of three months, I had lost 16kg.
Maintaining the loss
“Since the op, I have started to exercise a lot more. This was key for me as I didn’t want my skin to go saggy. I joined a training group in JLT with a friend and my fitness levels increased – I toned up like never before.
“I have the bug for exercise again, which I’m really happy about. When I was younger, my dream was to be a PE teacher. I even studied sports science at college as part of chasing that dream. However, college parties and a cheap canteen did not help and pretty soon my dream was shattered as I didn’t have the confidence to preach health and fitness to children when I didn’t take it seriously myself. Having the operation has given me so much confidence now – who knows, one day I might be teaching my own children PE!
Being the new me
“It’s funny – because I have only been in Dubai for a couple of years, I haven’t got many friends who knew me before children. They all assumed my weight was due to having my sons. I could happily play along with this – however, as I said earlier, my weight problem goes back many years. I have had so many lovely comments from people. Many saying they now don’t ever remember me being the way I was before.
“I feel like a new person. I don’t feel depressed about the way I look any more. I am no model, I know. But I feel very comfortable in my new body. The mental torture for me was the worst – the comments from strangers about how I looked and even family members would hurt me so deeply. People can be so cruel and not even know. Those that have never suffered with their weight have no idea how it feels. To me it was like an illness – I would have family members go clothes shopping for me, trying to help find something to fit. Now I can go into a shop and pick something I like and buy it. The feeling is amazing.
Sticking with it
“I still have a little way to go yet. I plan to continue with my new healthy lifestyle and want to have a goal to aim for. I am considering signing up for a bike challenge, or a running competition, to keep me focused on the fitness.
“To the women reading this who want to lose weight – whether it’s five kilos or 35 kilos – and who don’t know where to start, I would say that I had so many moments and years of unhappiness. If you are considering weight-loss surgery, don’t be scared. It truly can be amazing – I wish I had done it years ago. Keep strong and, believe me, if I can do it, anyone can.
“Also, I think it’s important for women – and men – to remember that surgery is not a cheat’s way out. The willpower that you need is more than ever before – your body physically can’t accept the quantity it did and you have to constantly think about what you are putting in your mouth and how your new stomach will accept it. It’s not easy. My portions now are like children’s portions... I still have the foods I enjoyed before, but only in moderation. I know that I don’t ever want to go back to how I was so I am staying vigilant.”