How best friends’ matching gastric band operations turned them into ‘Little and Large
Best pals Lisa and Claire did everything together, especially eating their favourite fatty foods.
Over nearly two decades of friendship they slowly ballooned in size until 5ft 4ins Lisa became a 16-stone size 20 and 5ft 9in Claire was a 20-stone size 24.
They both kept trying diets without success and with her 40th birthday close Lisa decided on drastic action. When the day dawned she was sitting in a consultant’s room planning gastric band surgery. By her side, as always, was Claire.
Inspired by her pal’s example, she also booked in to have surgery and a month later they were lying in side-by-side hospital beds in Belgium.
But that’s where their paths diverged. While Lisa then lost so much weight she went down to a 6-stone size 4 and was labelled anorexic, Claire didn’t lose a single pound and stayed at her weighty size 24.
Says Lisa: “We’d always been fat together so it was awful when I ended up so thin.
We got called the Little and Large show.”
Only now, six years later, have they finally achieved the figures they always wanted. Procurement manager Lisa O’Sullivan has gained weight and sales manager Claire Green has finally shed some of hers.
Lisa, now 46, says: “There were times when we questioned what the hell we had done. It’s been a bumpy ride but neither of us regret it because we got here in the end. We supported each other through it and now we love finally being slim together.”
The friends met at work in 1991 and with matching appetites for fatty, sugary foods they went shopping together for goodies to eat at their desks.
Lisa, from Mansfield, Notts, explains: “Every lunchtime we would hit the supermarket with a trolley. It looked like we were shopping for a party but it was just our lunch and afternoon snacks.
“We would eat huge meals and desserts. For lunch we would have a huge filled baguette, a bag of crisps and some chocolate or biscuits.”
Every afternoon they snacked on treats including chocolate Minstrels, flapjacks, cookies, Dairy Milk bars and Babybel cheeses. But they hated being fat, felt guilty, and vowed to change their unhealthy ways.
Says Claire, 38, from Birmingham: “Over the years we tried every diet going together. We’d lose a bit of weight then our love of food would take over and we’d start scoffing treats again.”
When Lisa was 39 they were living and working in different areas, but still best mates.
She recalls: “Food was still our favourite topic. But I didn’t want to be fat at 40 so told Claire my surgery plan and wasn’t surprised when she followed suit.”
With the operation likely to cost them £10,000 each in the UK, they went abroad where the price was £4,000. The night before the surgery in Brussels they pigged out at a Chinese restaurant.
Claire says: “It felt like the last supper because we both knew we would never be able to do it again.”
The next morning Lisa was first into theatre for the two-hour operation and the friends spent two days recovering before flying home.
In the first two weeks Lisa lost half a stone eating tiny amounts of pureed food. But Claire didn’t lose anything.
She says: “I wasn’t too worried at that point. Everyone is different so I hoped I would catch up.”
Over the following year Lisa lost three stone but Claire was still struggling.
She says: “I didn’t feel envious. Lisa was proof that it could work and I just needed to get mine right.
“She could barely eat half of a plate of food but I could still polish off the lot.”
By the time Lisa had dropped to a size 12 Claire had gone back to Belgium for new surgery to adjust her band. Afterwards her weight finally started to fall off.
But Lisa was still losing pound after pound even though she’d passed her target.
After treating herself to a whole new size 12 wardrobe, in the year that followed it started to swamp her frame and soon she had to wear a tiny size 6.
Lisa says: “I was trying to eat more but would just bring it back up and kept losing more weight. I bought a size 8 outfit before I went on holiday, and when I returned two weeks later it drowned me. I had lost another stone in that fortnight.”
Once people had stared at her because she was fat. Now they stared because she looked so underweight.
Lisa says: “It got to the point where I could only eat tiny amounts of food and even that would leave me in pain and being sick. I reached a size 4 and looked anorexic.
“I hated it – I looked old and haggard. People kept asking me if I was ill. I knew they meant with an eating disorder.
“My husband Clive had been so supportive all the way. When I told him I wanted the surgery he said it was my decision and he would back me. But when I lost so much weight he was really worried.”
Eventually Lisa’s boss insisted she go to hospital for a check-up and it was later confirmed that her band had slipped, meaning she wasn’t absorbing any nutrients and had become seriously malnourished.
“It was made even more difficult because my surgeon was in Belgium so I couldn’t keep nipping back to see him,” she says. “When I was admitted to hospital here the doctors had to speak to my surgeon in Brussels so they could work together to solve the problem.”
She had a new operation to correct the problem and was told to keep eating until her weight reached a healthy range.
She says: “It was fun being able to eat what I wanted again. I was so relieved when my bottom and bust started to fill out again.”
Eventually she reached 10 stone and a size 10-12. She says: “My wardrobe was stuffed with everything from size 20 to size four. It was ridiculous.”
While Lisa was regaining weight Claire, who is single, had dropped to 13 stone 12lbs and a size 14 and was finally happy with her figure too.
She says: “We went from being two fatties to Little and Large and now we both feel fabulous. It wasn’t exactly the quick answer we hoped, but we couldn’t be happier now.”
Lisa adds: “Instead of bonding over our love of food, now we bond over our love of clothes and shopping.
“Every time we see each other we hit the shops. Unless you have been overweight you don’t understand what it feels like now to be thin. It has boosted our confidence no end.
“It is amazing just to be able to go out and buy what you want and wear what you want for the first time ever. We have both gone from wearing black shapeless things and leggings to buying nice colourful dresses, even bikinis for holidays.
“I love shoes and have more than 300 pairs but even my shoe size has dropped from a 7.5 to a 6. I need to have a good clear-out to make room for some more!”
To celebrate their slimming success, Lisa and Claire booked a glamorous photoshoot, something they would never have dreamed of before their surgery.
Says Lisa: “I booked it as a surprise for Claire. It was a real treat and we giggled all the way there and back pretending to be famous.
“Having the surgery really has changed our lives for the better in the end.”