Like many people suffering a weight problem, I had struggled with it almost all my life and, like those before me, had tried just about everything to attain the so-called perfect size.
As a teenager, I was only ever 10-15kg more than I should have been but, once I settled down into a comfortable relationship at 19, the weight slowly crept on.
By the time my second child was turning one, I had ballooned to 124kg and could no longer ignore the impact it was having on my life. With two toddlers under 3 I couldn't keep up as well as I should and found it impossible to run around and play with them without getting breathless and dizzy.
In January 2002, I joined a well-known weight-loss company and over an 18 month period lost a total of 58kg. I had transformed from overweight and unfit, to a virtual gym junkie. I was convinced the weight would never come back and that the pride and exhilaration I felt at accomplishing such a huge feat would be enough to keep me on track. Unfortunately, as an emotional eater, I would turn to food no matter what the occasion or mood I found myself in. When things weren't great, or I was feeling down, I would find solace in junk food and all things chocolate but would also then reward myself with these favourites too, if the day had been a good one. As my marriage deteriorated, I ate more and more, gradually putting on everything I had lost, until the unthinkable happened and I weighed even more than when I had begun.
By 2007, following the birth of my third and youngest child in 2005 and my divorce a year later, my self esteem had hit rock bottom, as my weight climbed to even greater heights. I peaked at close to 140kg and I knew that I had to do something, once and for all. After all, I was now a single parent responsible for three children and I was all they had. I had to do everything within my power to stay healthy for them.
In June 2008, after months of tests and preparation, as well as probably the most challenging aspect for me - the Optifast shakes - my surgery date finally arrived. As I have always been a big eater, it was quite difficult to comply with a liquid diet for weeks on end, however I was also excited to reach that stage, as it meant I was almost there. Almost ready to change things for the better and embark on a new, more rewarding chapter of my life.
On the day of surgery, I weighed 127.9kg and within 12 months had dropped close to 50kg. I continued losing weight consistently, until I settled around 68kg, a goal I had set myself. I wanted to surpass my previous weight-loss effort and reach the magical 60kg lost, and I did it!
Overall, it has been a tremendous success, without any real problems. It took 6-12 months to adjust to a new way of eating and to gauge what and how much I could consume. These small hurdles along the way have been more than worth it though and I would unreservedly recommend the procedure to anyone. As long as people are aware of the risks, as is true for all surgery, and that it isn't just a quick and easy fix, they are more than likely to be thrilled with the results.
People cannot believe the change in me and, most importantly, my kids think it is fantastic. They love that I can play with them, without getting tired like I used to, and I now also play netball up to 3 times a week, which I really enjoy. Others have put forward their not so supportive opinions as well, or relayed horror stories of the neighbour down the street who had something go terribly wrong! Everyone seems to have something to say on the topic, whether they are truly informed of the facts or not. It really is up to each individual to do their research and make the decision for themselves, keeping in mind that the health risks associated with obesity are far greater than for this type of surgery.
Personally, I am so thankful that it has worked for me and I definitely believe it is the best thing I could have done for myself and my kids.