Heather Brown - My Weight Experience

Hi there – I’m Heather Brown and I am going to share a personal experience with you about my weight journey. This is a bit of a read and I’m not a writer or anything so sorry if there are any punctuation, spelling errors.

As mentioned, this is my personal weight journey and so the topic of weight may not be for everyone so please only read if you feel comfortable enough.

Where do I begin?

I had been lucky enough not to worry too much about my weight until about 2013. Well that’s when I noticed anyways. In high school, I always had curves and of course thought, “oh I would love to be this girl’s size” at times but I don’t remember it ever troubling me too much.

I’ve always been really bad at eating. I was super fussy when I was younger and although I got better throughout the years, I still to this day am pretty rubbish. I don’t eat fruit (rank)🤢 and I eat limited veg. For goodness sake, I used to order pasta with butter at Italian restaurants and if it had like a green bit of parsley on top, I was like offended 😂 that’s how deep it goes.

I went to college to study performing arts in 2009 and I just kinda ate what I wanted. It was kind of my first experience away from high school with the freedom of spending money on the food I wanted and that was mostly from the vending machine. Thinking back, for what I ate, I should have ended up heavier than I was at that time but again, I wasn’t like super thin.

After college in 2010 I went on to study at another college and studied musical theatre. There was a café next door and again, I just kind of did what I wanted in terms of food. Like high school, again, I don’t remember ever feeling that my size was a massive issue at college and I wouldn’t agonise over looking like someone else. No more than the usual thought every now and then “oh it would be nice to look like her”.

I then left college in 2011. I really struggled with confidence in myself. Not so much again with weight but just within my self and I guess what I was capable of. I started to work in the café next door, which was great and they helped me build some of my confidence back up and were very patient with me. (I’ve even joked before that I was like the troll they kept in the back because I was so scared to come out to the front and serve people and would just peer round the corner every so often) 😂. But, there was a lot of tempting food and although healthy options were available to me, I didn’t choose them. I didn’t pick anything horrific but I would have a bacon baguette for lunch instead of like a salad or something. So I was eating reasonably normal amounts of food but just constantly eating the “not so healthy thing” and that can start to build up. I gradually put on weight but again, didn’t particularly notice over the years. But then in February 2013 I just decided I was gonna lose weight. I’m not sure why to be honest, it just happened.

I worked really hard in the gym and at other exercise and watched my weight and calories like a hawk. It wasn’t easy and it became an obsession. But I was losing weight so it wasn’t really an issue in my head.

I went about it the whole wrong way. I would over exercise, under eat, try supplements to help when the weight would plateau, weigh myself more than once a day, every day. I remember being so hungry going for a food shop with Robbie (my husband) I was hangry and got super annoyed when we were there and I just snapped

“we need to go right now, let’s get the stuff and go, you don’t understand. I am starving!!”

Anyways, just under a year later in February 2014, I reached under 10 stone, losing 2 stone from where I started which was great but all I would think about is when my next meal was because I was so hungry.

I did feel more confident in my body and wore outfits that showed myself off a bit more but instead of being happy and realising I’ve done well and I’m a better weight than where I was, I would obsess over little things like if I gained a pound (lb). Even gaining a lb would make me feel horrible and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. By summer I had managed to get down to under 9 and a half stone. And I managed to keep this “not so healthy” routine going for quite a while.

I remember going to South Africa in February 2015 and I was 9 and a half stone when I left and like a lot of people, I was on holiday for 2 weeks, so I put a wee bit holiday weight on and reached about 10 stone by the time I got back. I remember being so harsh on myself and feeling big by the end of the holiday and like upset with myself and I had only gained like half a stone!!!

I worked that weight back off (again, not the healthy way) and after summer I got into my dream netball team. This was the first time I had made it into the top team in my club!! That year I also played for another top team called “The Capitals” who were the only Edinburgh team playing in the Glasgow league and I was even going for Scotland trials.

(On a side note, although I would have loved to have continued to trial for Scotland, my confidence issues were still around and they got the better of me and so I stopped trialling 😢)

By October of 2015, I got a flu for like a week and in that week, I didn’t exercise. That started the bad chain of events. My confidence issues really heightened and my mood was super low. After not exercising that week, eating more than usual, feeling tired after the bug I had and feeling like I had gained weight, I felt pressure (created by myself) when returning back to netball. I put pressure on myself being in a higher team, thinking in my head

“I’m not good enough for this team”

and one thought turned into loads of thoughts and it just got out of control.

By the new year 2016, I was back up by maybe half a stone/a stone and my weight was creeping up and up and I remember feeling like “what’s the point?”. Even though I wasn’t, my head was telling me “I was fat” and so I started to eat and just not care anymore. Maybe that seems hard to understand. “If you feel fat, why make yourself feel worse, just start cutting back and you will lose again” but in my mind I was past the point of help and I felt useless.

By February 2016, I was going to Florida and I was back up at the weight where I had started 3 years prior. At this point, I picked up another bad habit. I was feeling unconfident in myself and felt hopeless and ugly and so I started picking at scratches and wouldn’t leave them alone. Even though I knew this made me look bad and could cause scarring, I just did it anyway because it felt good for a split second. It wasn’t even like I hid it. This was in visible places like my face and arms. It’s like for some reason I was trying to make myself look worse. I can’t even explain it.

I got into a pattern of when I felt happy, I ate, when I felt down, I ate, when I was bored, I ate and eventually all I did was think about food, like an unhealthy amount and I would just eat it if I thought about it. I would be eating something and be thinking “what am I having next”. Before, I thought about food all the time but I had the motivation to not eat until a certain time. This was at the same time as over exercising and under eating. Back then, it was like a challenge I set myself to make it to a certain time before I could enjoy a small meal. But this was the opposite and if I thought about it, I ate it. I even ate and ate so much I would feel uncomfortable and feel sick and something was sick. We have maybe all done that at some point but this was a regular occurrence.

I hid food from people in my company or would eat food when Robbie was out so he wouldn’t see how much I ate and try and hide the wrappers because I was so ashamed. As much as I cared about how I looked and how people may look at me, I couldn’t not eat!!! It was my answer to everything. As well as this, I was picking my scratches still. Although they started off small cuts, I would make them big and there was no hiding them. People would even ask me about them. I just tried to shrug it off and say “oh I cut myself” or something but I was embarrassed. I cared about my appearance in my mind but I couldn’t help it.

As I got bigger, I just wore whatever because I felt like what’s the point in buying nice clothes as none of them will look nice anyways or it was the only things that fit. It was mostly the same baggy grey jumper as it was comfy. I wore bandeaus as bras because they didn’t cut into my stomach and when pants felt uncomfortable and like the elastic was digging into me, I would cut slits into them so it would release the elastic a bit more to feel comfortable.

“Why not just buy bigger pants?”

but sometimes the local shops didn’t have bigger sizes and I wasn’t into or understand online shopping as much at that point so cutting the elastic was my thoughts.

I was invited to things like nights out, parties, etc. and I would say “yes” even though I knew I was going to really struggle mentally on the day to actually go. I would just put the event to the back of my mind until it would get to the day and I would cry and stress all day until I ended up not going. I was too ashamed to go out. I couldn’t play the sport I loved to the best of my ability and I was embarrassed playing and coaching it. When coaching kids or adults I felt, how could I coach girls fitness etc when I couldn’t do it myself?

I had really started to understand my sport in a more theoretical way but my body physically couldn’t play the smart, new way I wanted it to because of my size and as for games, I couldn’t even fit in my uniform.

I found work difficult to go to, just with anxiety and so I shortened my hours. I used to walk a mile from where I parked my car or from where I got off the bus into work but my anxiety was so high that I didn’t feel I could do that anymore and so I would park my car 2 mins up the road from my work on a metre for the couple hours I was in, just to get me into work. Even some days that didn’t help and I couldn’t face going in.

I did try to do some things to lose weight, like get a personal trainer, buy a gym membership but (and I know it doesn’t make sense) I wanted to be fitter before seeing the PT or going to the gym as I was ashamed but it would never happen and I would give up and feel hopeless again. This was my life for the next year or so, hiding away.

I remember going to watch a netball tournament down in London in January 2018 and I was so uncomfortable in the plane seat. My thighs just fit in the seat but thank goodness it was only an hours flight as I wouldn’t be able to handle it if it was much further. Just discomfort with my legs pressing against the arms of the seat. By this point, I had gained over 6 stone since my smallest and this was the heaviest I had been.

As I’ve briefly mentioned at points, a lot was going on between those years, mentally, with myself. I’ve dealt with my own mental health issues for a long time. When I was younger, probably even before primary, I always had to be perfect but I guess the first time I really developed mental health issues was moving to a new school in p4 and struggling to understand the work (nothing to do with the school). That’s when my anxiety started and since then, I’ve had good parts and bad parts mentally in life and have seen a number of therapists to help me through these times.

Anyways, I had been with this one therapist since 2016 and at this particular time, in 2018, I was diagnosed with binge eating disorder. I know to some people it maybe sounds like something people say to excuse their over eating but it is a condition and not one I expected to ever have. I really felt like if I could feel better about my weight, I would mentally feel better. I didn’t think it would magically fix everything but I thought it was a massive part of why I was depressed currently.

Eventually, I decided to just casually look up on the internet if there were any medical procedures that didn’t involve surgery to help people lose weight. I was getting married in the September and I wasn’t walking down the aisle the way I was feeling. I refused!! I honestly couldn’t see it happening. I would cancel the wedding. (Easier said than done but this is where I was mentally).

But why wouldn’t I just stop eating? On paper, it seemed so simple but I couldn’t help myself. I needed outside help. Surgery just wasn’t something I wanted then. I had never even been in a hospital for anything over my life so to go for surgery was just not an option.

This decision wasn’t taken lightly, this was after crying for a lot of the past 2 years and not being able to help myself. Hiding away from life and not feeling confident enough to live it. I needed something to kick start the weight loss as losing a lb a week was not motivating me and I would give up.

I came across a procedure called the “balloon”. (definitely has a more medical name but this name was also used). This was a procedure mainly used for patients who were too big to get the surgery they needed – maybe for their heart or something – so they needed to lose weight before being allowed to have the main surgery. The balloon would go in for about 6–8 months and then you got it taken out. They would use a general anaesthetic and then insert a deflated balloon through an endoscopy and then inflate it in your stomach with a liquid. The balloon would fill up your stomach and make it believe that it was full and so you couldn’t eat as much. After thorough talks with all the necessary doctors and really pushing for it, I got this done in March 2018.

Another side not – my veins are rubbish so it was a struggle to get get bloods taken before the procedure and to get me “under” when going for the procedure. This was quite difficult to deal with. I was crying as eventually I went “under”.

After the procedure, the first few days were hard to say the least. Many people have felt this way but you instantly think

“why have I done this”

– I was constantly sick but didn’t have anything in me to throw up. Honestly, a really bad experience. Again, a lot of crying. Notice the theme here...

Side note – I also developed a phobia of being in hospital which wasn’t great and so I was pleading and crying to get out before I was meant to. Again, I can’t explain that feeling but I needed to get out.

But once my stomach got used to this foreign substance, I was able to get back to regular life – playing netball and trying to do exercise and not eating as much. It maybe only took two weeks for me to get back to netball training and the doctors were pleased with me. From the beginning, I was an unusual candidate for this procedure as I was quite young, I played a sport and I wasn’t actually that big to start with compared to most who got the procedure. I started to lose weight and at a pace I was happy with and felt motivated to continue pushing myself.

By my hen do in May, I had lost just over a stone and although I still felt quite conscious about my size, I wore some outfits I wouldn’t have a month or two before and I generally felt better about going on my hen.

The weight continued to come off and by my wedding day I had lost 4 stone!!!

On the day, I was content with the size I was. I knew I could look better and feel better but I was a million miles from where I had started and I felt happy about that and not self-conscious to walk down the aisle. I had a great wedding day!!

I had my balloon taken out in November 2018 and felt determined to keep the weight I lost, off. When the balloon came out, I had the feeling of like I had lost a little friend, it was weird lol. The “not hungry” feeling could last for a little bit after the balloon was out but then I did eventually feel hungry again and Christmas time came and I put on half a stone and again, I returned to that feeling of “what’s the point?” and so I went back up in weight.

It got to new year 2019, and I felt I had so much success with the balloon when it was in, I just needed it again. Even though I had put weight back on, I wasn’t as big as I was when I started with my first balloon and so I felt I could get down to my goal weight of like 10 ish stone and I would be fine and keep the weight off. So I went for a second balloon in April. Since my balloon was taken out in November, I had gained 2 stone.

A second balloon was almost unknown territory for anyone but I was determined, even though there was a chance it wouldn’t work as well as the first time, I could do it. So in I went for a second procedure. Again, my veins were not playing ball and were worse than the first time round which was a bit traumatic and I actually ended up having to be gassed in the end as they couldn’t get the vein, even in my feet (not the hospitals fault but my stupid veins).

We didn’t know how the balloon would react this time. Would I feel sick or not etc. But in my head I thought that my stomach would be better getting it in the second time round as it would be saying “hello” to a more familiar friend this time but no, it was actually worse and I had an even worse time of it the next few days after the procedure. Again, I had the fear of the hospital and was desperate to get out. I was released at the right time but I felt so sick I actually had to go back in. It was awful.

Once things settled down, I started to lose weight again and by the time the balloon came out again in November 2019, I had lost less weight than the first time (4 stone in total) but managed to lose just over 2 stone. So I ended up a couple of lbs lighter than I was on my wedding day.

Although happy, I was a bit meh that I hadn’t lost as much as the first time even though I knew that could happen but I also think I was less strict with myself because I knew what to expect this time round with the balloon.

In January of 2020, I felt my weight was creeping up and I felt I wasn’t going to be able to handle my relationship with food for the rest of my life, just myself. After trying for years and having the two balloons, I knew it was time I needed permanent help.

I researched the least invasive surgery I could get and it was a “sleeve” (again, there is a more medical term for this). This was a permanent procedure and I was terrified. I was also annoyed at myself

“how could I have gotten so out of control that I am having to have a procedure and be cut open all because I couldn’t stop eating?”

but I knew if I wanted to feel like myself again, I had to do it and to be honest, I didn’t think much into it, I just went for it. You know when you kinda say “yes” and then the next thing it’s happening.

I made this decision in January 2020 and I was desperate to get the earliest possible time. You know when you have an idea and are excited about the outcome so you are impatient to wait to get that idea going. That was me. I was going to Poland in March. It wasn’t like I had a goal to look a certain way in Poland but the thought of that holiday and March seemed a lifetime away and I just didn’t want to have to wait that long. But my date was set for end of March. Then I got a phone call, maybe a week or so after I made my March date. There was a cancellation in February and so I just jumped at it and took the date. It only giving me 10 days to actually prepare myself that I was going in and getting key hole surgery and a large part of my stomach would be removed.

I had to get bloods taken again etc. and again, the veins didn’t play ball. I remember talking about Mcfly to the nurse as she tried to distract me as I’m crying while she is trying to take blood 😂 I’m a nightmare.

So February 13th 2020 was the big day and I went in for the surgery. The usual issues with the veins occurred but eventually I went “under.” Recovery this time wasn’t as bad, surprisingly. It felt more like what I imagined breaking your ribs would feel like and so it was sore to move but I wasn’t feeling sick. I much preferred feeling bruised to being sick.

Again, I wasn’t the best patient and had super anxiety being in the hospital but I did the time I needed to and then got out.

I just rested and slept on the couch for like 5 days instead of in bed as it’s where I was comfiest. Robbie was really sweet and slept on the couch with me to keep me company.

Side note – as part of the aftermath of the procedure and when I was at home, I had to jab myself to try and prevent blood clots. They showed you how to do this in the hospital and I did this for like 4 or 5 days. Eventually, I didn’t have to do it anymore but boy was that another experience. I remember one night spending 30 mins just talking to myself, crying, and trying to pluck up the courage to jab myself. 😂 I did it ……. eventually 🎉.

After that, I was back to netball within 10 days and pretty much back to regular life.

Looking back now, thank goodness I got the procedure when I did, as COVID started to rise in March leading the the first lockdown. If I had my procedure booked for March originally, who knows if I would still be looking at waiting for the procedure today.

Foods were a gradual process, starting with more liquid foods and gradually building up the consistency of the food until I was eating food like everyone else, just a lot less.

Throughout this whole process, I’ve worked with a dietician. From the first balloon in 2018 to my last appointment, 3 days ago. Crazy!!

If you follow my posts, I have been working on my running, playing netball, PT and doing loads of exercise. I created those posts as a diary for myself. In future years, I can look at my memories on Facebook and see how far I have come. It’s been really nice to hear the positive response my posts have received as I was worried they would be really annoying to people and maybe they are but like I said, it started out being for myself. It inspires me when people let me know that they are inspired to go out running because of “little old me”. It’s so nice !!!

It is now a year to the date since my sleeve surgery and I’ve lost a total of 30.1kg (61.4lbs) (4 stone 6lbs). (If my maths is correct). (Weight taken each Thursday)

Since my first balloon in 2018 and being at my heaviest, I have lost 41.2kg (90.8lbs) (6 stone 3lbs) (Again, if my maths is correct). (Weight taken each Thursday)

Imagery helps me think about how much that actually is.

I like to think of my weight in luggage 😂. Like when you go on a 2 week holiday, you are allowed 20kg normally. So I think about how heavy my bag feels going on a 2 week holiday and overall, I’ve lost 2 suitcases 😂.

People may think it’s vain or think that surgery is the easy way out but trust me, it isn’t. I’ve had to work hard to get to where I am and will continue to work hard. And hopefully you can see that through my posts.

I’ve dealt with and continue to deal with my mental health. Before, feeling hopeless, lost and depressed and the aftermath (at the minute I feel relatively good) but I still have my moments. Even Thursday just past, I wasn’t feeling my best.

I know looks aren’t everything but I do feel like a different person now after this experience and also like a bit of the old me is back. The old me when in my good times, feeling more confident, happy and fun. People describe the surgery as a tool to get you started. It really did kick start me into this part of my life and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.

I’m sharing this part of my life because I’m not ashamed to admit I needed help and I’m not embarrassed of the surgery I received.

Of course I never wanted to get to the point where I needed surgery, nobody wants that but I’m happy to share this part of my life because I know, especially in today’s world, people are struggling with this sort of thing every day and find it hard to tell their stories or feel they need to hide. They don’t 😊. I also don’t want to lie to people. People see me losing weight and wonder and ask me how I did it. “Did I just work out and eat right?” It’s easier to explain it through this post as sometimes when caught off guard with that question, it’s hard to say “weight loss surgery” as normally it needs a bit of a bigger explanation and it’s hard to explain it in one or two sentences. Or some people maybe feel awkward after they have asked the question and the answer is weight loss surgery.

Anyways, I had this tool and so I don’t want to mask that I haven’t had something done because I have and I’m proud of it.

So …. I think that’s a rap. Thanks for reading this and hopefully this has brought some positivity, help or even just a good read to at least one person out there.

- Heather Brown

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