I started life as a confident, skinny and energetic child. At 13 I was bullied at school and that’s when I lost my confidence and started to put weight on. I’d go into the classroom and find a nasty comment had been written on the back of the blackboard only to be revealed in front of the class when the teacher pushed the rolling blackboard up. I was jeered at and beaten up. I told my mother about the bullying and she contacted the school. A couple of girls were suspended for bullying and intimidation but a lot of damage had been done and I retreated within myself with food becoming my comfort.
Despite such deeply wounding events, I did enjoy school. I loved playing at schools during the holidays and even though there is no teaching tradition in my family I decided I would like to become a teacher. The years of bullying, however, had dented my confidence and I thought my ambition would remain a pipe dream, especially as I didn’t have maths ‘O’ level. I stayed at home and became a personal assistant in an advertising consultancy and then worked as a dental receptionist. Throughout this time my weight steadily increased. Of course, I tried to diet. I went to Weight Watchers and to Rosemary Conley but I’d lose 3 stones and then put it back. I reckon I’ve done this 5 times over the years and even though my maths might be flaky I know that adds up to 15 stones lost and regained.
It wasn’t until I was 25 that I went to university to study art and education studies. My social life there was unlike that of most undergraduates, partly because I was older and still living at home but also because of my weight. I was big! I hated being in photographs, so much so that I altered one of the photographs I have of myself at graduation by photo-shopping in a better image.
Once I had graduated I got a job for a term at a local school and then I went to the USA to visit some relatives in Dallas. We travelled around in a Winnebago taking in Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Colorado. It was tremendous fun but funds meant I came home. Sadly, my mother who had been my rock and my strength became gravely ill and I ate back all the weight I had ever lost.
I knew I had to do something about my weight and I thought about a gastric balloon but when I had a consultation at Healthier Weight I was told I needed a more permanent solution given my weight history so I opted for a gastric band. I lost over three stones* (the three stone syndrome – again!) and then I hit a wall. One minute the band was too tight and the next I felt I had no restriction. This went on for several months. In the end Dr Ashton said that the band would have to come out. I was very upset. I didn’t want to put weight back on yet again. I remember thinking “I don’t want to be me anymore”. I decided to opt for a gastric bypass in May 2011.
In the last year my life has really started to turn around. I’ve lost almost 61/2 stone in weight* (no more 3 stone syndrome – hurrah!) and I feel as though I’m making great progress in digging myself out of the deep hole into which I had sunk. I still have days of negativity and issues with “being me”. It sounds crazy but I’ve noticed that as I appear “normal” I’ve become invisible. You have no idea how great this is. When you are big you are a target for name calling – “fat”, “ugly”, “obese freak”. To be invisible is really good in a positive way. It’s lovely to be normal*.
I am a teacher now and I want to be a good role model for the school children. I teach 7, 8 and 9 year olds. I struggle with breakfast but I try and have a bowl of fruit salad or a piece of toast. Lunch is lovely as I can have a sandwich which I wasn’t able to do with the gastric band and in the evening I try and have some fish or chicken with vegetables. Occasionally I’ll have red meat, a pasta meal or go out for a curry with friends. I do still have the odd bit of chocolate but the bypass has helped me control my portion sizes and I now eat in moderation*. I have a personal trainer and every Saturday my friends and I are put through our paces. I’m so much more physically active now*. Last Sunday I hiked 7 miles. I’d never have done that before. I am looking forward to my holiday in Italy this year and hope to have the confidence to not completely cover up when I’m round the pool!
I’ve managed to overcome a difficult and troubled teenage and early adulthood. I’ve had many personal struggles to overcome. Deep within there must be a core of steel because I’ve achieved my ambition in spite of the odds being stacked against me. I still have one ambition left and that is to be a foster carer. Not all of us get a great start in life. I was very lucky to have the support of fantastic parents who supported me through the tough times and continue to support me now life is good! If I can help others to blossom it will all have been worthwhile.