Updated: Aug 6
Through out the month of August, I want to highlight several of the ladies who not only inspire me, but help myself and others throughout our bariatric journeys. Today - meet Brenda! This is her story, in her own words.
I told my doctor in November 2019 there was no way I would ever have weight loss surgery. And yet on February 17 2020 I had gastric sleeve surgery - in Thailand! Let’s backtrack a bit…. Hi I’m Brenda. I’m 53 years old, married, 2 young adult daughters and we live in Auckland, New Zealand. I have worked in the not for profit sector in management for the past 14 years but recently got made redundant so at the moment I am looking for a new job. I’ve had a bit of time on my hands lately and I love to write so I’ve spent a bit of time setting up a blog www.brendasjoy.com and my instagram @brendas_joy Growing up, I was a very tall kid (now a 6ft tall adult) from a very tall family who was good at athletics and netball. I wasn't fat but I always felt like the big girl compared to my friends as I was about a head taller than most of them. I got teased all through school for being tall and called the name of a certain yellow Sesame Street character! But my dad told me I was beautiful and my self esteem stayed intact. I was pretty good at sticking up for myself and could take a joke so I don’t think it caused any deep seated issues! There were silly little niggles but nothing major - I remember not going white water rafting with my friends when I was about 18 because I thought there wouldn’t be a wetsuit to fit me and I was lighter than I am now. Back then no one catered for tall or big boned people so my fears could have been justified. There may not have been a wetsuit big enough (as sad as that is). Most of my friends were about 5ft 4 and I was always the big girl - even though I wasn’t majorly overweight at the time. Yo yo dieting….. I got a bit chubby about age 16 so lost some weight only to regain it - so began my yo yo dieting: - Age 21 about 100kg (220lb) -Joined Jenny Craig and got down to 85kg (187lb) for my wedding at age 22. This is now my “goal weight” -Went up to around 105kg (231lb) in my 20's. -Age 31 and 34 had babies and both times got back to around 105 (231lb) -110kg (242lb)by doing Weight Watchers -Put on more weight late 30's and lost about 10kg (22lb) easily with Duromine diet pills but after about 3 months they stopped working. -Put it back on in my 40's -Joined Curves gym late 40's at 132kg (290lb) and lost 12kg (26.4lb) -Put about 6kg (13.2lb) back on before my trip to Europe -Lost it again in Europe due to walking and sweating so was 121kg (266.2) when I got back - Put it back on - Did calorie counting and then keto age 50 and lost 12kg (25.4lb) again. Keto was not good for me as I like fat too much! Now I’m going for low carb but not strict Keto. - Put it back on! So there I was - at the end of 2019 at 131kg (288lb) and 46kg (101lb) overweight. So quite a challenge ahead of me. I had declared that 2020 was going to be “the year of Brenda” and although I didn’t really have a plan as such, I was determined that 2020 would be the year that I kicked my weight problem to the kerb for once and for all. Facing it head on….. Around mid 2019 I went with a friend to a few Overeaters Anonymous meetings. I sat in a room full of normal, successful, mainly slim people who talked about their problems with overeating. This was an eye opener for me. I had often thought I had a bit of a problem with food but no one ever took me seriously so I just carried on eating when no one was looking and getting fatter! These meetings caused me to face it head on - admit that I had an unhealthy relationship with food and make a plan to do something about it. I don’t feel like I need to go back to the meetings right now but in the future I know they are there if I need them.
Sorting my head….. At the end of 2019 I went to see a hypnotherapist
(Jennine @hypnotherapy_and_eft_auckland) and after a few sessions dealing to a few stupid thought patterns in my head I was ready to start my weight loss. It was really beneficial and dealt to my subconscious thoughts. It’s amazing how we can be affected by lies we tell ourselves - for example I believed the lie “there’s no point trying to lose weight because you’re only going to put it all back on again”. By speaking to my subconscious thoughts and telling me new and correct truths that thought pattern has completely gone and has been replaced with thoughts like “I can and will succeed.” Although at that point I had not even considered weight loss surgery, I would strongly encourage anyone thinking about it to do some work on making sure they are in the right headspace because it is a real mind game and you have to be ready for it. I also spent a lot of time reading, listening to podcasts, watching Youtube clips (especially @drducvuong )and reading amazing success stories. Simone Anderson….. We had a really quiet 2019 Christmas holiday so I spent a few days reading a book - Simone’s Journey to Health by Simone Anderson who is a well known NZ influencer.. I had been following Simone on Instagram (@simone_anderson) for a month or so and was very impressed by her success. She had a gastric sleeve about 5 years ago and lost 92kg (202lb). She’s a tall girl like me so I was particularly interested in her journey. I kept showing my husband photos and reading bits from the book to him and he said “you should do it” to which I replied “no way - that’s so extreme, I don’t need to do that!”. However, a seed had been planted in my head and fast forward one week of EXTREME research and I had secured a personal loan, booked my surgery, annual leave and tickets to Thailand for myself and my sister (as my support person). Yes this was a pretty radical move - but anyone who knows me will vouch that if I want to do something I do my research big time, make a plan and DO IT! And this was no different. I started out very secretive but over time have pretty much told anyone who is interested. Surgery in Thailand through Destination Beauty….. I went through www.destinationbeauty.com in Bangkok, Thailand and I 100% recommend them. You go to a beautiful private hospital and receive top level care. Destination Beauty take care of everything from picking you up at the airport, taking you to the hospital, dropping you at the hotel (which is beautiful). You get 5 nights in hospital and 10 nights in the hotel. My sister was with me all the way and after we left the hospital we had a week of sightseeing around Bangkok because I felt great by then and we had a blast. After surgery, I had 2 rough days where I felt awful, had a migraine, wondered what I had done etc. But by the 3rd day my migraine left and I started perking up and feeling back to my normal, positive and happy self. And it’s pretty much been all good since then - apart from a couple of times I ate something and got sick in the very early days but that’s minor compared to the big picture. So far so good… At the time of writing this I have lost 31kg (68lb). I'm not gonna lie - it feels amazing. I still have 15kg (33lb) to go to get to my goal so I can’t even imagine how great that is going to feel when I’m actually there. I have been there before though - but it was 30 years ago. I often hear people saying how hard it is on this weight loss surgery. They get very upset when people say they have taken the easy way out. I certainly DON’T think it’s the easy way out, but I think it is a hang of a lot easier to lose weight WITH my sleeve than WITHOUT it. I tried and failed for 30 years to get to where I am now. It’s been 5 months since my surgery and it hasn’t really been a struggle for me. I think the key for me was sorting out my head beforehand. I have taken a day at a time, listened to my surgeon and try to stick to my plan which is: Protein first (60-80gm a day) Between 1000 - 1500 calories a day (I definitely lose weight slower when it’s closer to 1500) Carbs under 100gm a day Avoid refined sugar - if I bake I use coconut sugar or dates etc. Eat small meals off a small side plate Drink 2lt water a day Don’t drink alcohol until 6 months post op - I have had about 3 sips of wine! Keep a positive attitude! I am so thankful for every bit of weight I lose. I’ve pretty much stuck to this hence my results are good. If I don’t stick to it I won’t get the results. It’s simple - it’s not rocket science! I read every day about people who are continually eating crap and they wonder why they are not losing and/or putting on weight. After years of trying all sorts of diets all I had to do was cut my carbs and sugar. Who knew! I have done all of this pretty much with only the odd walk for exercise. I’m not advocating for no exercise - exercise is good and I know I need to get into a regular routine (especially as I approach my goal weight and need to learn to maintain). I have recently joined the gym because I want to tone up and build strength. I didn’t do this to find happiness or to find myself, or for vanity - I did it because I’m getting older and want to be around for a long time and it’s not good to be obese. I’ve always been happy, I’ve always known who I am and I’ve lived a great life - but it’s even better and easier being lighter!
It’s amazing fitting into smaller clothes, seeing my waist start to come back, I can now wear a belt and tuck things in, my collar bones have reappeared, my legs are slimmer and easier to cross, I feel lighter and have more energy, my love for fashion has returned (I used to dress well for my size but got sick of plus size clothes). Having a gastric sleeve was make or break for me. I never thought in my wildest dreams I could ever be slim again but my goal is getting closer and closer! Watch this space! www.brendasjoy.com and Instagram @brendas_joy
Thanks for reading y'all and be sure to follow Brenda on Instagram and her blog. She's super inspirational!
If you're interested in sharing your journey, please e-mail me your story at LizRauInfo@gmail.com!