Mum who blew deposit for new home on extensive cosmetic surgery says it was money well spent.
I opened the family-size pack of Skittles and rested them on the arm of the sofa. Then I opened the Share bag of Maltesers and put them next to them.
‘OK, I said to my husband David. ‘I’m ready. You can put the film on now.’
It was Friday night and we’d just had an enormous Chinese takeaway. But even though I was stuffed, there was no way I was about to miss out on my nightly ritual.
Shoving a handful of the chewy sweets into my mouth I then added a couple of Maltesers until my cheeks were bulging. As the chocolate mixed with the sticky, gooey mess, I smiled. God, it tasted good.
But at the same time as the calorific mash up slid down my throat I was already thinking about the slab of Dairy Milk in the fridge…
This was a typical night for me. No matter what we’d been up to or eaten for diner it always ended the same way: with chocolate – and lots of it.
It had always been the same, as far back as I can remember. Thanks to my sweet tooth I was 23-and-a-half stone when I married David back in 1997.
My wedding dress was a size 28. It was pretty enough, with its fitted bodice and sweetheart neckline, but to be honest I was so relieved it fitted I barely noticed what it looked like.
‘I’ll take it,’ I said, my palms sweaty with relief as I handed over my credit card.
A few months later, as I walked down the aisle I felt like a real bride. For the first time in years I smiled at the camera, delighted to be marrying in a dress that fit me.
But days later, I came crashing down to earth with a bang.
‘It won’t fit,’ I hissed frantically to David as the seat belt on our honeymoon flight to the Bahamas wouldn’t go around me.
‘Don’t worry, we’ll sort it,’ he soothed. ‘I’ll have a quiet word with the stewardess.’
But the man next to me had decided to take matters into his own hands.
‘Excuse me,’ he hollered to seemingly the whole plane. ‘But this woman’s seat belt won’t go round her.’
I was mortified. As the tears slid down my cheeks I wished I could make myself disappear. Fat chance when at 5ft 11in and 23 stone you look like the Honey Monster…
My weight ruined everything. When, a year later, I fell pregnant with my son James, now 16, I was so fat you couldn’t see my bump until I was seven months gone. Well, when you’re that fat what’s a couple of extra stone? Unable to find pregnancy clothes to fit, I went to Evans and bought up whatever I could get in a size 32.
When 8lb 5oz James was born I vowed to lose the weight for him but despite trying diet after diet I never managed it.
Even when I broke my in-laws’ garden chair and lay a flailing mass on the lawn until David heaved me up, I still couldn’t find the willpower to stop overeating. Instead, I played the ‘big and bubbly’ stereotype with aplomb, even though I felt like a caricature of myself.
‘I’ve got to do something,’ I regularly wept to David. ‘Look at me.’
‘You’re too hard on yourself,’ he said.
But when we moved into a new rented house in January 2013 and noticed that the village hall we backed onto held Slimming World meetings, I was determined.
So I joined up. When the scales stopped at 21 stone I was ashamed, but determined. And instead of falling off the wagon after a few weeks like usual, I stuck to it.
After a week, I’d lost 3lb, after a fortnight, half a stone. Out went the calorific creamy caramel lattes I slurped instead of breakfast. Lunch was salad or soup instead of mountains of cheese sandwiches and crisps. And I swapped my enormous evening feasts for low-fat chilli and a small bag of Minstrels.
Being able to see the slimming club from my windows and garden kept me motivated. For once I couldn’t bury my head in the sand, the club was there looking at me the whole time and it kept me going. Also, David had recently lost his job and the stress had made my MS worse. Slimming felt like the one constant in my life I could control.
Six months down, I’d shed two stone. And a year after I’d started I celebrated an impressive five stone loss.
By July 2014 I was a whopping seven stone lighter. But I started to realise that my success on the scales came at a price. Where once I’d had flab, now I’d been left with rolls of saggy skin, which were getting worse the more I lost.
My F cup boobs were like flat flaps and my stomach and arms looked like melted candles. But as an MS sufferer it was impossible for me to exercise and try and tone the skin.
I felt so unattractive I forbade David, who’d adored my big bouncy curves, to see me naked. Our sex life, which had always been good even when I was at my biggest, now took place in the dark under the covers and was strictly a hands-off experience.
Although I’d dropped almost eight stone I felt I looked worse than ever naked. Even clothed I wore big, baggy size-18 tops so you couldn’t see the folds of empty skin hanging beneath them.
In July I was so low I went to see my GP.
‘I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror,’ I admitted tearfully.
When he advised that I was unlikely to qualify for help on the NHS I started researching cosmetic surgery.
But it was so expensive I feared I’d never be able to afford her dream body. The only money we had was a pay-out from an injury I’d suffered in a car park and some savings that was earmarked for us to buy our own home.
‘Use that,’ David said. ‘I’m serious. I’d rather you were happy than us own our own house.’
‘I couldn’t,’ I told him. It seemed so selfish.
But when I talked to him and James about it and could see they were both genuinely behind me I decided to look into it further.
A month later, in August 2014, I had a consultation with a cosmetic surgeon at his Harley Street Clinic. David came with me.
‘I can definitely help you,’ the surgeon said as he pulled my stretched skin backwards and forwards. ‘I can make you feel like yourself again.’
‘Really?’ I said. I looked at David who beamed back at me. ‘Then let’s do it!’
On the way home, I phoned James. ‘Do you really think I’m doing the right thing?’ I asked him.
‘If it’s what you want, I’m cool with it Mum.’ He promised.
So in October last year I flew to Paris for the first round of surgery; an extensive tummy tuck including lipo, plus fat transfer to recreate my boobs. It set me back £8,000 but as soon as I came round from the anaesthetic after five hours in theatre, I knew it was worth it.
Even though I was bandaged from my neck to my hips, for the first time since forever I actually had a waist!
‘Bloody hell! I look like a teenager again!’ I gasped.
‘Happy?’ The surgeon asked.
‘Delighted!’ I said. I could have kissed him.
As the weeks passed, I looked better and better. I was so grateful to the surgeon.
Five months later, in March 2015, I flew back to Paris for the second part of my treatment – it was too big an operation to do all at once. This time, I had a second tummy tuck and breast implants taking me to an E-cup, along with an arm lift costing an additional £4,000.
In total, the surgeon removed almost one stone of skin was removed from my stomach and arms. And once again, I was delighted with what he’d done.
Now, six months on, I’ve never looked – or felt – better. Finally, I’m the person I’ve always wanted to be. I now have pride, self-esteem and a body I’m happy for my husband to see with the lights on… He says it’s like having a new wife!
Only now do I realise what a dark place I’ve spent most of my married life in before losing the weight. I’m just happy David stayed around to see the real me and that we’ve raised such a supportive son.
We might never be able to own our home but what’s the point if you’re not happy? This was the decision I’ve ever made. I’m 13 stone and a slim and sexy size 12 and now when I pass a mirror I actually look and I smile.