Nicola was only 5 when she realized she was different. She was fit and active, but still, she was a little bigger than her other friends. She recalled sharing her love for gymnastics with a friend of hers. One day they were at her friend’s house and they wanted to get changed into different types of beautiful costumes. But none of the costumes fit her. It’s only now that she realized, her friend was exceptionally smaller at the time. Still, the damage was done and it was the start of Nicola’s mental struggle with her weight.
Nicola shared one of her memories with me…. She’ll never forget the day she had to buy new school uniforms for high school. The uniform shop lady was a very large lady. This lady said to Nicola that she was “built like her” and would need to buy a size larger to give her “more room to grow”, especially “around her waist”. And Nicola thought, “A big woman was telling me I was going to look like her in a few years. I stopped loving myself then.”
These were Nicola’s thoughts that went through her head all through high school:
“Everyone is staring at me.”
“Everyone thinks I’m fat.”
“Everyone thinks I’m ugly.”
All those thoughts consumed her and she couldn’t concentrate on anything else. The self-loathing had begun. She had large breasts, which most teenage boys seemed to take notice of, but, Nicola said she would see it as them thinking she had “fat, ugly boobs.” She thought they were all looking at her as a FREAK.
After high school, Nicola had issues talking to men. She told me she had strange relationships with them, she couldn’t understand why they would want to be with her? She was CONVINCED that it was to ridicule her or make her look like a fool. She couldn’t believe anyone would be genuinely interested in her. She had a number of on and off relationships as she just couldn’t love herself.
Nicola no longer cared at all.
At the age of 24, she felt enough was enough! She was getting the lap band surgery. But that was a 12 month wait… Within that 12 months, with the help of a personal trainer, she ended up losing 25 kg. She was living on protein shakes and smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day. She went from a size 20, down to a size 14. She had become confident and started loving herself again.
Before long, she met her husband. He hated smoking and so she quit. They loved going out for dinners. And it was only after she put on 15 kg, when Nicola said she started to panic. Her friends were giving her all sorts of different opinions. “It’s all those protein shakes you drink!” “You need to cut out bread!” “You can’t have carbs!” “Eat only meat!” “Eat nothing but fruit!”… She tried everything, including Jenny Craig and Lite n Easy. But she couldn’t see the results fast enough and she said that it terrified her.
Nicola fell pregnant with their first child and her experience with breastfeeding was horrible. She had so many emotional ups and downs but was convinced it was because of the breastfeeding. She didn’t realize she had postnatal depression. She had huge temper tantrums, would throw things across the room, pick arguments with her husband and didn’t even speak to her best friend for 2 years.
“I was so miserable and I hated myself”. And then she broke down in tears. She said, with so much heartache, “I hated myself so much, I couldn’t form friendships with people. I didn’t know how to be a good friend to someone else. I didn’t know how to be a good wife, I didn’t know how to be a good mum.”
“I wouldn’t let my husband touch me, I wouldn’t even let him look at me. I wouldn’t just say, Please don’t look at me… It would be DON’T FUCKING LOOK AT ME! GET OUT!”
On a good day, she would be motivated to get back on one of her diets and start exercising again. It would continue for a few weeks, but then she said she would crash again.
So her husband went up to her one day and said, “You’ve done every diet out there. You’ve done everything. And you’re still miserable. If you want, have the operation.” Nicola was SO relieved to hear those words and was so grateful for her husband’s support.
And then… She found out she was pregnant for the second time. After she gave birth, she lost 10 kg by living on protein shakes again. In the meantime, Nicola and her husband were planning on finally getting married. But she said all the same issues began to consume her mind again. And she was back to being unhappy. And so she decided to see a doctor again to finally go ahead with the surgery.
Nicola’s surgeon, due to issues with her oesophagus, advised against the lap band surgery but instead recommended the gastric sleeve surgery instead. And, because of a cancellation, she could go in the next week! Her husband was worried for her health, her safety… aaaaand they didn’t quite budget that into their monthly finances!
Nicola went that same day to see her parents to tell them the exciting, yet nerve wrecking news. Her father, a military man, who always believed in “putting in hard work to see results”, said to Nicola “If the mortality rate is more than 5%, and if it’s going to increase your life by an extra 20 years of quality life, you would be stupid not to do it.” She had 100% support from her parents, and her dad even offered to pay for the surgery!
After her surgery, Nicola recalled waking up arching her back and screaming in pain. She saw others who had the same surgery walk out after a few days, near recovered. When she went home, she felt so much pain and thought something really wasn’t right. Her surgeon assured her that it was just wind. But she was in EXCRUCIATING PAIN… It turned out she had a “Pleural Effusion”, where her body reacted to the surgery, and the outside of her lungs started to fill with fluid! She was taken to another hospital, where she was placed in the respiratory ward. The nurses were asking her, “How could you do this to yourself? Why would you get this done?”. Well, I think those bitch nurses were being just a bit judgmental and unprofessional, but that’s just my opinion.
She was in hospital for 3 weeks, and during that time, they put a tap in her back to drain 3 litres of fluid. For 7 days, all she could ingest was water, and in doing so, she lost 10 kg.
Fast forward to their wedding – She says “It was the BEST DAY of my life! I’ve never felt so beautiful, I’m so happy I got the operation done.” She says she can now make friends and can relate to other people.. She’s no longer sitting in her own head thinking she’s ugly and fat. She can now give other people the attention that they need. She’s gained so much more confidence and can walk into a room and have a conversation with anybody in there!
“I want people to get to know themselves. It doesn’t matter if they’re overweight or if they don’t like the way something is. Be honest and true to yourself. Work out what it is that’s not making you happy.”
“Let’s face it, we’re all not happy with how we turned out. Make those changes. Be happy with your life. You only have one life. Just one. Don’t waste it being miserable. If having an operation makes you feel better, do it. Don’t let anybody tell you not to do it. If you are chatting with someone who feels upset about their weight, ask them, what do they want to do about it. Support their choice.”
Good on ya Nicola! Having the surgery was a big, big decision you had to make. You tried everything and now you are where you want to be. It’s scary how negative self-talk can really affect your self confidence. Everyone goes through life with their own pain, and no two are the same. Don’t ever judge anyone for the choices they make, especially if it’s to make their lives better and healthier!
And I also wanna say, it doesn’t matter if you choose the surgery route or any other route, as long as you do what’s best for you.
Do what feels right for YOU. And like what Nicola said, “You only have one life. Just one.”
Thanks Nicola for your courage to speak to the world about this! I hope people out there will be inspired by you xxx