My Health Experience: Happy to be on a losing streak

Weighing in at 30 stone, I was told I would not see 55 years of age. I knew I had to do something drastic

I was always heavy, the kind of person who loved food and had a very sweet tooth. My weight was always a bit of an issue but after the break-up of my marriage in 1995, I started to comfort eat.

When I took a career break from work in 2008 to care for my elderly parents, I weighed 27 stone. By that stage, I was finding it difficult to walk, I was getting winded very easily and sweating profusely. Caring for my parents was a way out for me. They were both supple enough so it was really just a matter of keeping them company.

My weight ballooned from there on. Every meal was a three-course meal. Most mornings I had a big fry, the full works. I ate Kimberly, Mikado and Coconut Creams, chocolate digestives, two-pound bags of dry roasted peanuts, big slabs of Dairy Milk and drank litres of coke. The only time I knew I was full was when I had a pain in my stomach from eating so much.

I was nearly broke buying clothes from America on the internet because I couldn’t find anything to fit me in the shops.

It got to the stage that I was so overweight I couldn’t wash or toilet myself properly. I couldn’t pull up my own socks or tie my shoes. I had basically made myself a disabled person. I became very depressed. I couldn’t look in a mirror because I did not want to see what was in front of me.

I had read about gastric banding and knew I couldn't afford to pay for it privately but I would have sold my soul to have it done. I heard Galway University Hospital was running a pilot scheme for people on medical cards and my GP gave me a letter of referral in 2010. After waiting a year, I was told it could be another two years before I was seen and I nearly lost the plot.

In the meantime, my GP became worried and he referred me to the obesity clinic again. I was called in October, 2012. Even though I knew I had been 27 stone when I left work, I hadn’t weighed myself since. I weighed in at the clinic at 31 stone and nine pounds. I was in a state of shock, how had I come to this?

When I went through what I ate with the dietitian, she told me I was taking 800 calories in sugar in my coffee alone every day – one-third of my daily allowance and that was before the chocolate, cake and biscuits. It went through my mind that suicide would be better than this but I could not do that to my partner and the people I loved. The registrar asked me how long I expected to live. I told him my father had lived until the age of 83 and my mother was going strong in her 80s so I expected to live until my 80s. I was almost 48 and he told me I would not see 55.

That evening when we went home, we went through all the presses and took out everything that was unhealthy or high in calories. I wasn’t able to eat a thing that night. The next morning we did a shop and filled a trolley with fruit, veg, fish and lean meat. Our bill came to €80 and I had to ask the girl to check it because our shopping bill was usually between €150 and €200.

My meal that night was carrots, turnip, one potato and a piece of fish the size of a pack of playing cards with no sauce. The dietitian had told me I would have to exercise. I was never a walker but my partner had an exercise bike that I used to hang my clothes on. I started doing five minutes on the bike every evening at 5pm when I came in the door. I will never forget that first week. I honestly don’t know how I didn’t have a heart attack. The sweat was pouring off me and my hips and back were in agony.

I persevered and started setting myself goals and pushing it a little bit further each week. In the meantime, I kept up the healthy eating and noticed the weight was starting to come off. When I went back to the clinic eight weeks later, I had lost three stone. I was thrilled. The dietitian was amazed, she wanted to know how I did it. I told her I cut out everything she told me to cut out and she told me to keep doing whatever I was doing.

I was referred to the Clann obesity programme at Croí House, the West of Ireland Cardiac Foundation in Galway. I was 27 stone, five pounds starting and got down to 24 stone 13 pounds after eight weeks. The Croí course went into great detail about why you eat the way you eat and what foods to substitute for others. My partner did the course with me and she lost three stone and bought a pair of size 10 jeans.

When I returned to the obesity clinic in July, I was down to 24 stone, two pounds. They thought there was a problem with the scales. Dr Francis Finucane, the consultant who runs the clinic, told me he was taking me off the surgery list. He said if I had lost that much, I would do the rest on my own. I was absolutely thrilled.

I am now 22.5 stone and I’m not finished yet. My ultimate goal is to get to 17 stone. I had the most wonderful summer. I was able to enjoy the hot weather and get a sun tan. I was able to mix concrete, put up walls and reroof a shed.

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