Jane Robinson, Barnsley *
‘I had always been fat. I was a fat child, a fat adolescent, a fat teenager, a fat adult. In fact I’d never been thin – ever.’ These are the frank words of businesswoman Jane Robinson, 38, from Barnsley.
Standing just 5ft 5½in tall, Jane’s increasing weight soon began to show. ‘What really got me down was having a problem I couldn’t solve,’ she says. ‘I run a business. I can turn my hand to anything. I can make things happen – but this was a lifelong problem that I simply couldn’t crack.’
Luckily for Jane, by the time she hit her heaviest – 17 stone – she hadn’t developed any of the underlying health problems that usually come with obesity. The biggest problem she had was an inability to control her weight.
She’d dieted all her life and had tried everything, sometimes losing as much as three stone at a time, but the weight always piled back on again. ‘I’d done that two or three times and it always went back on. It required so much brain power to diet, so much effort.’
Jane felt self-conscious about her body. Whenever she went on beach holidays she never felt comfortable with her appearance in a bathing costume. Her large size had always been an issue in relationships because Jane’s yo-yo dieting put a strain on them. ‘That was a big factor,’ she muses, ‘in fact it was probably the main influence in deciding I needed to get help.’
Jane was beginning to experience pain in the joints of her legs and ankles. She had always found exercising uncomfortable, but now it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to do so for any period of time.
‘I could manage exercise in my 20s; it was getting difficult in my 30s; but I couldn’t imagine what it would be like in my 50s and 60s. The effects of my obesity were catching up with me. My whole body was a ticking time bomb. I didn’t want to be so fat that I was single forever. I wanted to have the life I wanted.’
Jane had reached a really low point in her life and realised she had to make some tough decisions. ‘I didn’t want to die young. I thought, either I’ve got to give up dieting forever and just accept whatever weight I end up being and never think about it again – or have weight loss surgery.’
She decided to follow the surgery route. Trawling the Internet she came across specialist weight loss surgeon Mr Abeezar Sarela, now of Phoenix Health. ‘I had a consultation with Mr Sarela. He inspired confidence and I liked the hospital. Together we went through a questionnaire and I almost decided there and then to have the gastric band.’
Jane didn’t tell too many people before her op because she had such a history of losing weight and putting it back on again. She just didn’t think it would work for her.
‘When I told my family about my decision to have surgery I expected resistance, but instead they listened carefully. They were concerned for me, but what really helped was that Fern Britton had had it done. They saw how it had worked for her – she was someone “that came into their house” every day, someone they could identify with. She was a sane reasonable person, not a whacky celebrity. It seemed a lot of money to spend but it was worth a try.’
Jane underwent the procedure in November 2008. It was successful and she recovered quickly from the surgery. In the weeks that followed Jane lost a stone. Six months later the weight really started to fall off.
‘Portion control had always been my problem. I guess it was in my genes: I like food and I ate too much of it. Simple! These days I eat normally, only less. I can still eat anything I like, but not a lot. The gastric band is the ultimate in portion control!’
Losing weight has made such a difference to Jane. ‘The best thing for me is to know I’ve solved the weight problem. It’s an amazing feeling and I’m really happy about it every single day. I don’t worry any more about feeling self-conscious – losing weight and keeping it off has given me much more freedom. There’s nothing dragging me down now. My family think it’s amazing – they say if they were younger they would have it done, too.’
Since her procedure in 2008, Jane has lost 6½ stone and now tips the scales at a neat 10½ stone.
Her relationship with clothes has changed completely. She had always taken a pride in her appearance, even when she was bigger. ‘Now I don’t have to compromise when it comes to clothes. I find the choice absolutely overwhelming. In fact for a while I couldn’t bring myself to buy much – just a pair of jeans or T-shirt if I needed one. I kept thinking that the weight might go back on again. It’s only recently that I have gone out and bought a lot of clothes. Now I can walk into any shop and buy a size 12 – and if that doesn’t fit, I’ll buy a 10. I’m starting my whole wardrobe again – even my old shoes are too wide!’
Jane is not the only person who’s taken time to get used to her new, slimmer, self: ‘My brother was incredibly sceptical at first because he thought it was just another fad diet. Now that he’s seen for himself how the op has transformed my life, he’s completely changed his attitude to weight loss surgery.’
What advice does Jane have for anyone contemplating surgery? ‘Just go ahead and have it done, don’t mess around, it will be the best thing you ever did without a shadow of a doubt,’ she says without hesitation. ‘You may think the op costs a lot of money. Before, I’d be a different weight every year so I’d have to keep clothes in so many different sizes just to make sure I had something that fitted. In effect it’s been a very cost effective solution!’
Jane finds life is so much better now. ‘One thing that has surprised me is that not one person has said it’s cheating, which is what I expected. Just because you have a gastric band fitted it doesn’t mean you haven’t put the effort in. I have worked hard. It’s made something that was impossible, possible.’