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Tuesday 18 September 2018

"I no longer hate what I see in the mirror": Kelly Ford's 50kg+ weight loss

Kelly Ford has had a personal victory, and has won the war she waged on her weight, with the prizes a healthier mindset, lifestyle, and happiness!

She shares her story exclusively with Josie's Juice and we could not be prouder to feature Kelly's story here. We met several years ago when our sons were in the same autism-centric playgroup, alongside all our kids, and during her last pregnancy.

Here is Kelly's story, and her very inspiring before and after photos:

"I have battled my weight since I was a child. I remember my first ever 'fat' insult in primary school probably aged 5 or 6 where I was called 'fatty boomba', 'fatso' and the oh so original 'fatty'. These insults, accompanied with feeling and seeing yourself as different to everyone else does strange things to a child's mind as they grow up. I was constantly aware of my size even though I was actually not that overweight in primary school at this stage. 

Due to insults and insecurities I didn't feel comfortable participating in sport at school. See, this is the common thing with kids that are overweight: they don't feel comfortable playing sport due to their weight and therefore can't shift the extra weight and turn to food for comfort and companionship. 

High school at an all girls Catholic school wasn't that bad and I survived with hardly any 'fat' bullying. My weight always bothered me but I was a smart and happy kid and for the most part I still had fun and was often the class clown. I had great friends - some of them are still in my life. I could never get fashionable clothes in my size (I was probably a 14-16) from year 7-10 and as one of five kids my parents tried but could never afford to take me shopping at some of the plus size stores.

I had my first baby at 19 years old and gained an obscene amount of weight (50 kgs). I was 140kgs when I gave birth to my son. I did not have an understanding of nutrition, I just ate because I was hungry and I was in an unhealthy emotionally abusive relationship with my son's father. I had depression and no self worth at all. 

I lost the weight and I also lost the unhealthy relationship and got down to a healthy size 14 and about 85 kgs. I was far from healthy though. I lost weight because I hardly ate food, I smoked and drank coffee and cask wine. I probably still had depression but was happy that I was finally 'thin'. I could shop at Sportsgirl, Bardot and I cried with happiness when I bought a pair of size 13 Lee riders jeans. It was a good feeling. 

I met the love of my life (my now husband Tuks) and with happiness came some weight gain. Only a little so I didn't mind too much. I was feeling happy and healthy. We got engaged and then found out we were pregnant. Wedding plans were put on hold and we planned for our baby. I gained 30kgs during the pregnancy. I had my baby boy and joined Weight Watchers because I had a wedding to plan! I wanted to be back to my 85kgs by the wedding and I had less then a year. I got to 95kgs and we had a beautiful wedding. 

A couple of months after our wedding I fell pregnant again and this time gained 35kgs. I reached the 130kgs and felt pretty horrible. I had my third baby boy and barely had a second to myself and the weight never shifted. That year was hard and very trying. We found out that our two year old had autism, and not long after that we fell pregnant again!

This time I was starting out pregnant at at least 125kgs and really couldn't afford to gain more than 10kgs. I was sent to a dietitian to control my pregnancy weight and with help I gained about 12-15kgs. It still brought me to 137kgs and when I had my first baby girl.

I was so happy that nothing about my weight mattered for a while. Except when I fell pregnant again! Haha, again I ended up being back up to almost 140kgs and gave birth to my second baby girl. I'd had five babies and they were all delivered by caesarean section so I made the decision to have my tubes tied and that was it, no more babies.

I ate way too much during my pregnancies and also would balloon up with fluid. I never had much energy to exercise and being so big it made it difficult anyway. My relationship with food was never healthy and although I loved healthy food I ate way too much of it and obviously unhealthy food as well. I used food when I was happy to celebrate and reward I never seemed to know when to stop. 

My relationship with my self image was in more dire straits and I hated to look in the mirror. I hated my photo taken and I even though I had a gorgeous man who loved me and said he was attracted to me I still felt disgusted and worthless most of the time. I'd felt like this pretty much my whole life and I was sick of it! The mental struggles I'd battled my whole life was emotionally tiring, and that was just my head!

Although I had my beautiful family and my husband loved me exactly as I was, I was heading toward 35 years old and being 130kgs was seriously affecting my life in every way. I had sore ankles, swollen feet, sore back and I felt 50 years old. I had always considered having weight loss surgery but was always terrified. So I decided to join a women's bootcamp that was run by a friend. I tucked all my insecurities up into size 20 tights and shapewear and put on my Nikes. I had never even heard of a burpee before and I could barely run 10 metres without feeling like I was having a heart attack but I went and although I hated it, I was proud of myself. Within a month I'd lost 4 kilos and 18cm off my waist. Then a month later I twisted my ankle at my daughter's gymnastics and I was out of action for two months. 

In that time I decided to call and make an appointment with a bariatric surgeon Dr Gary Yee at St George Private Hospital. I made it for December 2015 and I thought I'd explore the gastric band option which is a procedure where a laparoscopic adjustable gastric band, commonly called a lap-band, is an inflatable silicone device placed around the top portion of the stomach intended to slow consumption of food and reduce the amount of food consumed. It doesn't have a very good reputation in comparison to other weight loss surgery options and isn't as popular anymore. 

After lots of research I decided that the gastric sleeve was a better option for me and was hoping the surgeon would confirm this. The sleeve gastrectomy is both a restrictive and metabolic approach to weight loss. By removing a majority of the stomach, usually 80% is removed so the amount of food that a person can consume is limited. This helps people lose weight gradually. Also with the sleeve gastrectomy, the stomach produces less ghrelin, a hormone that triggers the feeling of hunger, so patients experience a reduction in the hunger sensation between meals. Once 80% of your stomach is removed essentially you are left with a stomach 'sleeve' probably the size of a banana. A half a cup to a cup of food will fill you up and you will be full and satisfied. This will help you to lose weight. 

So Dr Yee agreed with me that the gastric sleeve was the best option for me and we booked in my gastric sleeve for the 17th March 2016! We set a goal of 75-80kgs and I had a personal goal of 70kgs. I was so nervous and excited! 

My husband and mum and my younger brother were probably the only ones who were not so much on board with my decision to have weight loss surgery. They were just worried. Once I explained everything and assured them this was what I wanted to do and was going to be okay they were very supportive. 

I had and still have so many beautiful family and friends that are so supportive - I was blown away by how supportive they were. My sister in law knew someone who'd had the surgery, and she passed on contact details so I could chat about my concerns. I also had two other friends that had had the sleeve and were loving life. I was starting to get really excited now and couldn't wait for March to come around. 

I really indulged over Christmas and the New Year and put most of the weight that I'd lost at Bootcamp back on. I wasn't too worried because I knew it would be the last time I could eat the way if always eaten. 

The date was nearing and I needed to do a VLCD (Very Low Calorie Diet) or pre operative diet which consisted of three OPTIFAST meal replacement shakes / products and 2 cups of veggies a day for two weeks prior to surgery. I started this diet on the March 3, 2016 and weighed in that morning at 123kgs with a BMI of 41. I knew it was going to be so hard and yes, it was! I did it, and lost 7kgs in those two weeks. 

Surgery day arrived - it was a Thursday and I weighed in at 116kgs. I was scared but excited. The surgery went perfectly and I was in recovery after a 2 hour operation. I felt pretty awful but I'd expected that. I had absolutely no desire to eat but I was so thirsty. I wasn't able to drink water but I could have some ice chips. I went I sleep and woke up the next day feeling so much better. I still had no appetite and was on some pretty full on pain relief. I was so out of it that my husband and girls came to visit me and I could not keep awake. I refused the next dose of those pain pills and the next morning I felt a million times better. I was up and walking and feeling great. I was able to eat some soup and drink some juice and when I say 'some' I mean like 3 spoonfuls of soup and like, 50-100mls of juice. I was able to go home when I could drink a litre of water otherwise I'd be in severe danger of dehydration so I'd have to stay on the drip. It was a challenge to drink that water but I did and was able to go home Sunday morning. I'd spent three nights in hospital. I was to be on a liquid diet for two weeks while my stitches in my stomach healed. Then I'd progress onto a puréed diet for two weeks and then soft foods for two weeks and then normal diet after that. It was difficult because yummy food smells would come past and tease my nose and although I didn't physically feel hungry I wanted to eat and crunch on some real food. 

Once I could eat normal foods again I could eat about half a cup of food at a meal, sometimes less and sometimes almost a cup of food. I no longer eat white bread, hardly ever eat rice or pasta as these foods are very filling and haven't got much nutritional value so I need to eat protein first and then some veggies and there's just no room for much else. I take multi vitamins and reflux tablets (a common side effect of the sleeve surgery is reflux) and I drink a protein shake most days to get my protein in. Protein is important for 'sleevers' as rapid weight loss can go hand in hand with muscle loss. Taking meds and monitoring what I eat and drink is a small price to pay for finally being a healthy weight. 

I had made some amazing friends from the weight loss surgery community on social media and in particular on Instagram, and they have been and still are an incredible support network for me and it's made my weight loss journey something I would have never even imagined it would be. Most people wouldn't even think that people you've never met could be some of the most amazing people that cheer you on and encourage you when times are rough and you're off track. It's like a super support group that's right at your fingertips. I now have made lifelong friendships with some of these amazing people. 

The gastric sleeve gastrectomy is designed to be a tool to help you lose 50-60 % of your excess body weight. It will usually be in the first 6-12 months and you may continue losing weight even at 18months post op. The most important thing to remember is that it's just a TOOL to help you lose weight. It doesn't stop you from eating bad food or make you get up and work out. In the first year you must change your eating habits develop a good healthy relationship to food and exercise so you'll keep your weight off. 

Now at two years post op I can easily eat more food than when I was first sleeved but I choose (most of the time!) to eat clean and fresh foods that are good for my body. I work out with my husband a few times a week, I walk as much as I can and I do Pilates. I've changed my lifestyle and in turn I've changed my kids lifestyle as well. They no longer have soft drinks and chocolate biscuits in the fridge whenever they want it, and they are all exercising and being active. I refuse to let obesity be a part of their lives like it was in mine.

I've lost 52kgs since March 3 2016, and 65kgs from my heaviest weight of 140kgs. I am proud to say I now weigh a healthy 72kgs and have a BMI of 26. 

My husband can lift me up and carry me around, I did the City To Surf with my husband in August 2016 and walked 14kms in just under 3 hours, I climbed the Harbour Bridge and didn’t even break a sweat (except I was petrified of the heights!). I can fit in seats and not be scared of breaking them, I don’t need a seat belt extender when flying, I can keep up with my kids and they can hug me and reach their arms around me. I can run! I can walk for hours without getting tired, I wear a SIZE 10-12! My feet shrunk a size! I have bones! LOL! There are just so many NSV (Non Scale Victories) that I can't even mention them all.

This year I am taking the final step of my weight loss journey. I’ve lost the weight but unfortunately am left with an abundance of excess skin that serves no purpose and actually has a negative impact on my healthy lifestyle in terms of exercise and feeling good about myself which I deserve to feel. I am going to have skin removal surgery this year. 

I was told in the beginning of my decision to have weight loss surgery that I would have some regrets at some point and although it has not been all sunshine and roses, I have not once, and I really do mean not once, regretted my decision to have weight loss surgery. It has saved my life and I no longer hate what I see in the mirror. I no longer have sore feet and a sore back, I no longer feel disgusting and uncomfortable and I am finally able to be happy with me."

(Scroll down for another happy update from Kelly below...)

I have now had my skin removal surgeries done by an amazing Sydney plastic surgeon Dr Amira Sanki at Southern Aesthetics in Kogarah.

I saw her in January 2018 and she recommended an extended abdominoplasty (tummy tuck to remove a large apron of hanging skin) and a breast augmentation to help my deflated breasts.

I wanted to have an arm lift and she suggested to wait to see how I recovered from the tummy and breast surgery first. So I had my tummy and breast surgery in a six hour operation in May 2018. Wow how amazing did I feel? Well, more than I’d ever dreamed of!

I then had my arm lift (removed my hanging skin from my upper arms) four weeks ago and again I feel sensational. The recovery after plastic reconstructive surgery isn’t easy but it sure is worth it. I felt like the weight wasn’t truly gone until the extra skin I was left was gone as well."

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