Courtenay. Happily Ever After.
Courtenay, 38 and one of the most fun people I've ever had the pleasure to know, was happy enough to refer to herself as a 'jolly, fat person' when I first met her. But when she tipped the scales at 115kg and began to really notice the resulting health problems, she knew she had to do something about it.
I was always a normal sized young person but I thought I was fat a lot. I went on diets as a young teenager and I always had a big bust and felt large and a bit insecure.
When I was 24, and 56 kg, I met my husband Simon. We got married when I was 26. I think it was marriage that did it to me to begin with. I put on 10 kg in the first year. I felt like ‘oh, now I've done it, now I've got what I was after, now I don't have to worry’.
We moved to the country and I was looking after my baby, who was sick a lot, and I probably had a bit of depression, which is in the family. Eating was just something that I could do to make myself feel better. And I just kept on putting on weight.
At every point, every new weight stage I would kind of get used to it. I thought, ‘I'm a good person, I love my husband I love my children – what I look like shouldn't matter’. At first Simon wondered what was happening. He was very good about it. And then I became very defensive and anything he said at all about my weight turned into a fight between us.
I binged on food. I could be standing in the kitchen and just eat half a loaf of bread and butter in one sitting. I hid food, so no one would see that I ate abnormally and people would say, "I can’t understand it, you just eat what everyone else eats," but it wasn't true and I knew that.
I was embarrassed about myself, and I probably hid myself away quite a bit. I never looked in the mirror – I don't even know if we had a mirror in the house. I just got dressed and went out in the morning without looking.
I really love food, but I started to hate it. It wouldn’t have mattered if you’d put lobster mornay in front of me – there was so much guilt and anxiety and stress. I was eating out of mindlessness.
There were a few reasons why it didn't feel good. Everything was a massive effort. Even just walking down the street felt like I had to physically lift my legs to walk. It was as if I was wading through water all the time. I couldn't do a whole day shopping and I was exhausted all the time – and cranky with big mood swings a lot.
One day I was running down the street after my toddler and I got a massive pain up my heart through my shoulder. My GP sent me for an ECG and luckily it came back normal, but they discovered very high blood pressure. And of course I had high cholesterol too. Those things I could take pills for, but it was the massive effort every day, just to get through the day that was the factor for me. And my feet hurt – all the time!
Then, how I felt about myself was bad too. You do lose your femininity as you get fatter. You just kind of become a thing or a blob. And I felt like I was losing my personality. I like my personality – I've never been the sort of fat person who hates herself – I like myself, but I was becoming something else.
By the time I got to 115 kg, at the age of 37, that was my limit. I knew I had to do something.
My dad had always said that he would pay for an operation if I wanted one. I had been thinking about it for about a year, but honestly, I was afraid of failing. I really thought, "If anyone is going to beat the lap band, it's going to be me," and then I knew I would be so disappointed and it would just be money wasted, so I really couldn't bring myself to do anything.
Everything changed when my sister, who has had the same path with putting on weight as me – she is nine years older – told me that she was considering getting a lap band done and I suddenly thought, "I don't want to be left behind."
My dad happened to ring up on the same day that she told me this, and I told him that I was thinking I would get it done and I would use my superannuation money to do it. He said no of course not – he had sold some property and the money was there and it was a done deal.
It does cost quite a lot. If you have medical insurance, which I don't, it costs $5000. Otherwise, without insurance you can get it done for about $17,000. I found a surgeon who did it at a bargain basement price, through Concord hospital, for $9000.
Both my sister and I went to the ‘O-Clinic’. O either stands for obesity, or for ‘Oh-mi-gosh-you’re-so-fat’.
When I went in, the surgeon looked at me and my history and said, “Well, you're from the country, and you haven't had much success of losing weight in the past – I think the sleeve is the way to go for you.”
This was a different operation from what I had expected. The way it works is that they actually remove the bladder sac out of the stomach so that what you are left with is a muscular tube. All of the stretched, warped sac has gone – and so has the hormone which lives in it which makes you feel hungry all the time, even when you really aren't. It is a permanent operation. I can never get that stomach sac back, whereas the lap band operation can be reversed.
So I went in for the operation in September 2010. The recovery took about a month – they say that after a month you are bulletproof – everything has healed and you can eat anything. The first week was painful, but every day after that was better. In the first month, I probably vomited once or twice a day because I ate too much or something wrong. I have a bit of trouble eating broccoli and asparagus – stringy vegetables – and for some reason rice doesn't go down too well, but that's really all. I can eat whatever I like, enjoy it and love it. I have a tiny bit and then I feel as full as a goog and I don't need any more.
Has it changed my life? Absolutely yes. Would I recommend it to other people? Absolutely yes. I have lost 26 kg since September – that's in just six months and I feel amazing. Each five kilos I lose, the old me comes back a little bit more. Even the 'Oprah bum' that I had for years is getting smaller. I have lost two sizes around my back (unfortunately, the breasts are staying – they are very stubborn) but my feet don't hurt anymore and I have so much more energy. My moods are so much better – I don’t get the highs and lows and I don’t get hypoglycaemic any more.
The doctor says that I have had a great result. We are aiming for me to lose about another 15 kg, which would take me to the about the mid-70s. I don't want to be a thin woman – I just want to be normal.
Simon is happy too. And I can see how he would've felt about all of this before. I can understand that he would've been angry and disappointed. He's not really the romantic type, but he does tell me every so often,"your bum is definitely smaller.”
I'm wearing dresses again now – I have never been a pants person and I really missed wearing dresses. Yes, I will always be curvaceous and voluptuous. But there's a difference between being curvaceous and being fat. If you’re 115 kilos, you’re not curvaceous, you’re not voluptuous. You’re just fat.
My dad saved my life in lots of ways. I just couldn't see any way forward – everything was hopeless and I really couldn't see anything ahead. It was like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. This operation has been incredible – it really has been the easy way out.
It's the best $9000 my dad ever spent and the best thing ever, ever, ever I’ve done. It’s happily ever after, really.