Weight-loss surgery my last resort

Alli Hewitt has struggled with her weight for years but today she is celebrating the loss of seven and a half stone following drastic surgery.

James Marston

Alli Hewitt has struggled with her weight for years but today she is celebrating the loss of seven and a half stone following drastic surgery. JAMES MARSTON reports.

FOR the first time in years Alli smiles and poses for the camera.

Just months ago she would have avoided her picture being taken at all costs.

She said: “I hated having my picture taken and if I did it would be from the neck up. I hardly have any pictures of me.”

Since October last year Alli has lost seven and a half stone.

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The 38-year-old said: “I was 22 stone and nine pounds. I had always been pretty big, I was never skinny or slim. I put on weight when I got pregnant.

“I am a single mum and the weight just crept up. I was on my own and I would eat because I was unhappy and get unhappy because I would eat - it was a vicious circle.”

Alli, of Runacles Way, Felixstowe, tried everything to lose weight.

She said: “I tried all the diets, I tried the Cambridge diet but it made me ill, I had a gastric band fitted but it wasn't fitted correctly.”

Her weight was beginning to cause Alli health problems.

She said: “I had pain in my back and legs and my asthma was affected. I wasn't in bad health but I wasn't sure how long my health would last.”

For the last 13 years Alli has been a member of the Felixstowe-based Stage Door theatre company - it is a hobby she loves.

She said: “In all that time I have never had a lead role - I have auditioned but have always been told I didn't look right. I knew what that meant - I was too big.

Her weight affected Alli's life in other ways.

She said: “I could never take my son on a fairground ride. I was depressed. I was on my own and there was no one to say to me to stop eating.”

Outgoing and bubbly, Alli is a forceful character and clearly loves life and loves to laugh,

She said: “Ask anyone who knows me and they will say I'm always happy but it was all a front. Underneath the bubbly personality I had no confidence; it is something people find hard to understand. I would never dream of asking a guy out on a date.”

With fluctuating weight - she would occasionally lose a stone but would always put it back on - and depression, Alli felt drastic surgery was her last resort.

She said: “I was in the last chance saloon. The surgeon at Ipswich suggested a gastric bypass. In a nutshell they staple your stomach to the size of an egg and remove the excess part of the stomach and remove two metres of your small intestine and put it at the top of the stomach.

“It is a major operation and is dangerous. There are lots of powerful stomach acids and if they leak it is very dangerous.”

Alli had the five-hour operation under general anaesthetic on October 27, 2008.

She said: “The night before I looked at my son sleeping and I was very upset. I had a Chinese takeaway as well as it was the last time I'd be able to eat food like that.”

Alli was unable to eat anything for eight days after the operation.

She said: “I was in intensive care for 24 hours and I was only able to have sips of water, on the eighth day I drank some dye and they scanned my stomach to make sure it had worked. It has worked really well.”

Nine months later Alli weights 15 stone 2lbs with a target weight of 10 stone.

She said: “I still feel I am big in my mind because the weight loss has been so quick. If I go into a clothes shop I automatically go to the size 30s. I am a size 20 now, I have gone down five dress sizes.”

Since the operation Alli's life has changed and food is less of an issue.

She said: “I can do things now that I couldn't do before. I can dance more on stage and my singing has improved. Going upstairs is much easier.”

There are certain foods Alli can no longer eat including rice, jacket potato skins, pasta, and roast meat - she can only eat softer foods.

She said: “I miss mushrooms the most. I can't eat anything with a high sugar content either. My stomach is about the size of an egg so I am full very quickly.”

A typical day's menu today consists of three meals with few snacks

Breakfast - small bowl of cereal

Lunch - Soup

Dinner - Cheese and potato pie

Snack - maybe a biscuit

Before the operation a typical day's menu was rather different

Breakfast - nothing

Lunch - crisps and sandwiches

Dinner - Takeaway

Alli said: “I would have eaten throughout the day as well. Crisps and Chinese food and McDonald's were all weaknesses. Now I might have a biscuit as a snack but it is one biscuit not a packet.

“I thought I would battle with my appetite and I thought it would be awful but I haven't been hungry all the time.”

Since the operation Alli has lost between two and three pounds a week.

She said: “My family and friends have been really supportive and have kept me motivated. My mum has been dieting with me and she has lost six and a half stone.”

Alli's mum, Margaret Sparrow, 71, said: “She is the best daughter anybody could have, I am so proud of her and what she has done.”

For Alli the future is bright.

She said: “My son can put his arms round me now. I am hoping to get my first leading role in Stage Door. I am also going to take my son on a fairground ride this year.

“I have no regrets about having the operation. I wouldn't change it for the world.”

Have you has a similar operation? What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

The medical term for a gastric bypass operation is Roux-en-y

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