Saturday, May 10, 2014
It was a photograph of me, sitting in a chair, that did it. There was so much of me, you could hardly see the chair. That was when I knew that I had to do something. That was when I knew that I didn’t want to be this version of me any more.
It creeps up on you gradually. Not the weight really. It’s more what it does to your self esteem. You just want to blend into the background. You think, “One more cake, what does it matter? I’m so huge anyway. There’s nothing I can do.”
There is, actually, something you can do. I know that now. But it’s no good your friends or family saying it. You have to want to do it for you.
It started at school, probably. Someone would say something about my weight, I wouldn’t get the grade I was hoping for and the solution to it all would be the bar of chocolate waiting at home.
Once you start thinking food is a treat, it becomes a habit. But food isn’t a treat, it’s a punishment. I just didn’t realise that then.
I always had a problem with my weight. I was teased at school and when I got pregnant at 15, I was able to keep it a secret until I was seven and a half months gone. People were so supportive when I told them; my lovely Mum and Dad were right by my side all the way and I carried on and did my A levels and then a year at college. But I was a very good student who had planned to do veterinary science and sometimes would I look at Christina, my beautiful baby girl, and feel that I had let her down.
I met Gary at 22 and the weight crept on gradually. Soon, I was 17 stone. Gary said he didn’t mind, that he loved me the way I was but I didn’t love me, that was the problem. I used to put a cushion over my belly when I sat on the sofa, so that people wouldn’t see how big I was.
You want to wear the clothes you want to wear, not rent a tent. You want to go out and do things but your weight stops you. You say no because you think I can’t, I’ll look stupid. I can’t because I’m too fat.
I tried lots of different diets and programmes and they’d work for a while but then I’d have a bad day and eat to cheer myself up. Food is an addiction but it’s not like smoking or drinking; you can’t stop eating because you have to live. And that’s what makes it so hard.
I gave birth to Bethan in 2004 and by then I was 19 stone. It went up to 21 stone after that. You just think, ‘what’s the point in trying because ‘look at me’. You stop caring about yourself.
By the time I had my son, Bon, five years ago, I’d got to 24 stone. I was enormous and I felt horrible. That was when my mum took that photo of me in the chair holding the baby and you could hardly see the chair. It started me thinking, although even then it still took me a little while to do something about it.
Mum said, “If you really want to lose the weight, then there is something you can do.”
Christina and Bethan said, “If you want to do it, Mum, we’ll help!”
And that was how it began.
Mum had lost weight doing a programme called Lighter Life so she recommended that. I had tried it before but this time my mindset was different. I wanted to be able to do things with the kids and not feel so awkward all the time. I didn’t want rent a tent anymore. It was really about me this time. It had to be. It’s the only way it will work.
I went to see Chrissy, the counsellor and found it really useful. You talk about the issues you have with food, find out why you are eating and learn to deal with it. I realised I was punishing myself because I thought I had made mistakes. You eat because you are tired, because you are happy, because you are sad. You punish yourself for being big.
But gradually, through the therapy, and the group work, I started to look at my life differently. By then Gary and I were no longer together but instead of focusing on the sad things, I started to see what I had achieved. I’d been a teenage mum, yet I had raised a wonderful daughter, Christina, who is now 17, doing really well at school and is an absolute joy.
I’ve created a happy home for me and my three children - they really are the most wonderful kids. I’m a youth worker. I ran my own business for a time, doing glass engraving, painted murals and stained glass and I’m hoping to go to Ridley Hall in Cambridge to study for a degree in youth work and theology. That’s how I see myself now. And it feels good.
Between May 2011 and February 2012, I lost half my body weight through a combination of the therapy and the packs you get from Lighter Life - I call it ‘astronaut food’ and you eat four packs a day until you are ready to return to normal food, by which time, your relationship with food has changed. I went from a size 28 to a size 10-12 and weighed about 11 and a half stone which, for my height of 5ft 11 is about right.
Usually, in stories like this, this is the ending. But real life isn’t like that. A few months after I lost the weight and found myself with the body I had always wanted, I became very ill. There were a lot of headaches and my legs would just collapse without warning. After a lot of back and forth to the doctor’s, I was diagnosed with idiopathic intercranial hypertension - too much fluid on the brain. Ironically, I was told I was unlucky to get the condition, as it generally happens to people who are overweight. But I was also very lucky as if I hadn’t lost the weight, they wouldn’t have been able to operate and they wouldn’t have been able to save my sight, which was severely affected. In fact, if I hadn’t lost the weight, I would almost certainly have died.
My illness has left me registered disabled. My sight is affected and I have to use a mobility scooter and a stick as walking is difficult. It makes it harder to keep the weight off and, after putting on about three stone, I plan to follow the programme again soon.
This time though, I know I can do it. This time, though I want to be a healthier weight, I don’t look at myself in photographs and want to turn away. This time I am happy and proud of who I am. This time I am happy to be me.
Megan Day, 32, from Haughley