Christine, 69 *
“I had a lovely childhood,” says Christine, now 69. “I was the youngest of five and much indulged. But I was always on the plump side, never slim. And the more I dieted, the bigger I got.”
At 18, Christine married and had two boys. “My husband was very slim and always on at me to lose weight,” she says. “But my diet was terrible. I snacked all the time. I’d eat the leftovers from the boys’ plates.”
The fact that her sister was a fashion model didn’t help either. “She never had a weight problem,” says Christine. “She ate what she wanted. She tried to encourage me to lose weight too. But the more people went on about it, the more I turned to food for comfort.”
Over the years, Christine tried ‘every diet going’, hypnosis and even acupuncture to lose weight. But nothing worked long term.
“I was forever yo-yo dieting,” she says. “I’d lose five stone, put on six. It really got me down. I wouldn’t eat in front of people. I was so self-conscious. When we went out, I’d walk behind my husband. I was really embarrassed.”
One of Christine’s most awkward moments came when she couldn’t get through a turnstile.
“We had greyhounds and raced them in Scotland, where they had old fashioned tracks with full length turnstiles,” she says. “But I couldn’t get through them without getting stuck. It was so humiliating.”
Christine had tried hypnosis to help her lose weight, but that didn’t work either.
“The young man was massive and no help to me,” she says. “When he put me under he’d say ‘imagine you’re falling down a cliff, look over your shoulder’ and I’d see myself in this horrible smock.”
“For weeks afterwards I couldn’t bring myself to look over my shoulder but when I did I saw myself down a big, misty chasm, wearing the dress and trying to rip it off. But still I didn’t lose weight.”
“I even tried acupuncture. But I ended up at Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way home.”
By the time she reached 22 stone, Christine’s weight was affecting her health and making her very unhappy.
“I had high blood pressure and was very depressed,” she says. “I also had gall bladder problems and was in agony. When I saw the consultant he said I was a prime candidate for weight loss surgery.”
In 2007 she had a gastric band, performed by surgeons at Phoenix Health.
Since then, Christine has lost over 12st and now weighs 10st 3lb.
“Since having surgery I’ve shed half my body weight and done things I never thought possible,” she says. “I’m so much more confident too. Complete strangers pass me in the street and tell me how good I look. That makes you feel good, too. I feel absolutely brilliant.”
Christine now swims at a country club three or four times a week, something she would never have done before.
“I have so much energy now, I’m never tired,” adds Christine, who acts as a carer for her partner who has had a stroke, suffers from bipolar disorder and is unable to walk.
“I love shopping for clothes. Before, I dressed in black and had to have skirts and dresses made. I couldn’t go into a shop. Now I wear leggings and tunics. I’m wearing what I should always have worn, not just what fitted me.”
Earlier this year, one of Christine’s sons treated her to a weekend away in London.
“I flew to Southampton then travelled by car to London,” she says. “I stayed at a top hotel, went to Raymond Blanc’s brasserie for lunch, had afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason and went to see Billy Elliot at the theatre.
“What an experience it was! Once I would have been too ashamed to be seen out. I would have struggled to fit in the aeroplane seat and the theatre seat. It would all have been too difficult. But I had the time of my life and felt I could go into those places with my head held high.”
These days, Christine says she wants to tell everyone about the benefits of weight loss surgery. “It’s not something to be taken lightly,” she says. “You shouldn’t expect miracles and you have to work with it. But it’s made such a difference.”
“I was at a weight loss surgery aftercare clinic recently and everyone was so excited. People were sharing stories – how they were no longer diabetic, didn’t need to use an inhaler any more, describing the excitement of buying their first pair of high heeled shoes.”
“It just makes you feel so much better about yourself.”