For as long as I can remember I had been a fat person. I’m no longer a fat person but the emotions are still so raw, and the memories of how this affected my life still bring tears to my eyes. Missed opportunities, as well as holding back those around me because I didn’t want to participate in normal life. There was always an excuse, but the excuses were cover-ups. When I look through family photo albums now, the obvious thing missing is me. Whenever a camera came out I’d busy myself with dishes, changing bathroom towels, or anything to take me out of the line of fire. When there was absolutely no choice but to be in the compulsory family Christmas photos, I was the one at the back, trying to shrink into the background so that the images of my body couldn’t be recorded.
And it wasn’t just the fear of photos and what people thought. I was becoming more and more self-critical in aspects of my life that had absolutely nothing to do with the weight. One of my loves in life was my scrap-booking, but the pages I created never measured up to my expectations, regardless of how good other people said they were. I simply didn’t believe them, and after a while just gave up scrap-booking. If I ventured into a new hobby that produced a result I was happy with and people really genuinely loved, I felt I wasn’t worthy so gave that up too. I couldn’t win. I felt I didn’t have the right to be good at anything or be happy because I was fat. Life was all about unconscious self-sabotage.
For so many years, life was put on hold. I can’t go to the beach until I lose some weight. I don’t want to go on holidays just yet – I need to lose weight so we can take photos. I don’t want to go to the shopping centre because I feel like everyone is staring at me. But worse than that. What if I’m with my husband and we run into one of his work colleagues. I didn’t want to embarrass him by having them think “wow, you’re married to that”. And there was absolutely no way I’d sit and eat in a food court because I felt everyone was judging me and watching every morsel I put into my mouth. It was a continuous cycle of procrastination.
If you’ve heard of a diet, I’ve tried it. Some worked and some didn’t. However for every diet that worked it was short lived. I’d feel that I was winning the battle, only to put the weight back on, plus a few extra kilos each time. The quantities I was consuming were ever decreasing until I was practically starving myself, but the weight still wasn’t coming off. The do-gooders constantly told me I just needed to cut back on what I ate, and didn’t for a moment believe how little I ate if I told them. After all, how can a fat person eat so little and still be fat. They’re clearly lying.
With my self-esteem growing lower by the day, and depression dipping to an all-time low I began to research bariatric surgery. However after discussing this with close friends and family a clear theme was emerging that it was the cheat’s way of losing weight. I struggled with this for a further sixteen months whilst still dieting and trying to exercise. However the crunch came when I began having panic attacks before attending any social function, and sometimes even getting ready for work. I could no longer go on crying myself to sleep in my husband’s arms each night, and praying that I just didn’t wake up.
Many long conversations were had with my husband. Why was surgery cheating? It isn’t like its magic that I have the surgery and can then stuff myself and eat whatever I want whenever I want. A life-long commitment to small portions, no soft drink. How is that cheating? I felt that at best it was a kick-start to creating the ‘me’ I needed to be to be able to function.
There were a lot more tears, but the decision was finally made. I was going to do it. However, because of all the negativity that had surrounded the surgery topic all those months ago, I decided it was going to be done in secrecy. My state of mind just couldn’t allow anyone to criticise me or my decisions any longer so it was best to just go ahead and endeavour to embark on a new positive stage in my life.
There are so many surgeries available, but I decided on the gastric sleeve as I felt it fitted best with my lifestyle.
So here are some statistics that I didn’t even want my husband to know. At my heaviest I weighed in at 142 kilos. Never in my wildest dreams or hopes did I imagine that I could get down to my current 69 kilos. Not bad for a cheat! But I’m not saying it was easy. To date it has been a three and a half year journey, and as expected there have been sacrifices. Imagine not even daring to have a mouthful of champagne to celebrate your son’s engagement.
Despite having the gastric sleeve surgery, there were challenges that hadn’t really been considered. By strictly adhering to the rules I had lost an incredible amount of weight. However, I hadn’t been prepared for my skin not magically shrinking back to showcase my new body. Looking in the mirror and seeing so much loose skin left behind, still had me in the mind-set of a morbidly obese person. Tucking all of those loose folds of skin into my clothes had become a labour of creativity each day, and throughout the work day I’d constantly worry that some of the skin had escaped for the world to see and laugh at. New unexpected problems emerged. For example, even moving too fast could cause the skin to almost ‘clap’, so every movement I made had to be well considered to avoid further embarrassment. I had also thought that the weight loss would provide the self-confidence I desperately needed for those ‘intimate’ moments with my husband. Not so. It’s pretty hard to feel sexy when you’re wearing the body of a roly-poly shar-pei dog.
It was time to consider surgery to remove my excess skin. After extensively researching surgeons I quickly realised that there is a huge difference between ‘cosmetic’ surgeons and ‘plastic’ surgeons, I needed to be confident that the surgeon is qualified to perform the procedures they advertise.
Cosmetic surgeons can only perform procedures in cheaper, unaccredited facilities.
Plastic surgeons are highly qualified and specialised in the aesthetic surgical field and surgery is performed in a fully accredited hospital. A plastic surgeon must also complete a minimum of 12 years of training, including a fellowship of The Royal Australian College of Surgery.
The decision was made, Plastic surgeon, Dr Kohout.
The first consultation was far from easy since my husband and two other medical physicians were the only people on earth who had ever seen me unclothed in my adult life. I remember trying to prepare Dr Kohout before I undressed the day of my consultation for him to look at my breasts by saying “Be prepared, you’re about to see Magda from There’s something about Mary”. As always, making jokes to cover up my own disgust and embarrassment.
I spent that consultation time closely watching Dr. Kohout’s facial expressions, looking for signs of disgust, or even distaste. I had already made up my mind that if I perceived any such thing it would be the last time he saw me. However no such thing happened. He was very warm and very gentle. He explained everything in detail and for the first time in many years I felt I wasn’t being judged, and nor was my lifestyle. The only judgements being made were medical. The focus was very positive with the emphasis on what could be achieved. Not everything could be done at once, so detailed information was given about what each stage would entail, and ultimately I had to make the decision of where to start. Which part of my body was giving me the most grief, and which surgery was likely to give me the greatest initial boost by having it performed? The best part about that consultation was that in a short hour, I knew I could trust and felt absolutely comfortable with Dr Kohout. Nothing and no one was going to stop me now.
It didn’t take too much thought for me to realise what I wanted to get started with. Breast lift and breast augmentation, and that pesky skin off my arms (brachioplasty) so that I could stop wearing the tight tops that held in my ‘tuck-shop arms’ under the nice shirts and blouses I now wore. I wanted to start by addressing the very things that were continuing to steal any sense of femininity from me. My breasts alone had decreased by seven cup sizes, but there was practically no breast tissue. Just skin.
With about two weeks to go until that first surgery, the uncertainty began to creep back in. I was scared and second-guessing my decision. Was I doing the right thing? Was I spending too much money on myself? Was I being selfish? My conviction kept wavering and I began thinking about things that could be done around the house with the money. Things that everyone could gain pleasure from. Once again, putting everything else, and everyone else before me. Still not worthy. I remember saying all of this to my husband for the umpteenth time. One day and without a word he disappeared. A few moments later he returned and stated “It’s done. I just paid for it. You can’t change your mind now”.
The day of surgery arrived and I was experiencing mixed emotions. Nervous. Excited. Scared. Surgery took approximately 4.5 hours although it seemed like a matter of minutes to me.
Waking up from general anaesthetic I wasn’t in too much pain and couldn’t wait to see my new womanly curves. I was extremely happy with the results and knew in that moment that I would go ahead with the next stage of surgery. During the initial recovery period I had restricted arm movement due to the brachioplasty and was unable to lift my arms above my head or away from the side of my body, a bit like a T-rex. I was lucky to have my husband as a ‘recovery buddy’ to ensure I was not tempted to do any housework that could put me at risk of wounds tearing.
Initial recovery after the breast lift and augmentation was tolerable. Dr Kohout recommended that the implants would be placed under the muscle. My chest felt tight and as though I had done a thousand push-ups, but only really bothered me when using my pectoral muscles. One of the side effects that I experienced was my breasts feeling itchy which was a bit of an inconvenience. To alleviate the discomfort I used cold packs which provided comfort instantly.
It took approximately six months before I could see the final results of the breast augmentation and implants while they settled in. In the meantime my implants settled unevenly and my left breast descended faster than my right, but I knew I had to be patient.
The next surgery was the full body and thigh lift.
Again about two weeks prior to surgery that self-doubt began to take over and I was making every excuse under the sun as to why I should not go through with the surgery. I knew this was the big one; a lot of time off work, longer period of time under general anaesthetic, and would have to forfeit participation in the festivities of Christmas due to surgery being booked a few weeks before Christmas day. My husband even thought it was funny when he gave me a stuffed Grinch toy for the one who stole Christmas.
This surgery was by far the hardest, both psychologically and on the body. I needed constant help from my ‘recovery buddy’ (husband). I found it extremely difficult to get out of bed, out of a chair and showering was definitely impossible to do myself.
Approximately two weeks post-surgery I had wound complications and made contact with Dr Kohout. Dr Kohout made arrangements for me to see him in his office over the Christmas break. When I arrived at the office it was clear that I was the only patient. I broke down and cried in his office knowing that I had taken him away from his family and his down time. Dr Kohout has always treated me like I was his only patient. Never felt rushed, never felt like a number.
Would I go through the pain and discomfort twice, three times or even four to get the results that Dr Kohout gave me? Yes, yes, yes, yes, it was ALL worth it.
After Dr Kohout removed the excess skin from around my body I was left with a few long scars; I like to refer to these as my ‘battle scars’ and a constant reminder of where I have come from and where I will not be going back to. I weigh myself every second or third day to ensure I have not gained any weight and to prevent fluctuations.
Obviously these surgeries did not come cheap, but it was time to be a little selfish and think about me. It was time to place a monetary figure on what I am worth. My extended family had been made aware of the gastric sleeve surgery when I began producing amazing results, but general opinion on the loose skin seemed to be that I’d be better off taking the family for an overseas holiday or buying a new car. Again the internal struggle. Am I worthy? Dammit yes! The consensus with family and some close friends continued to be that there wasn’t a problem – you can’t even see the skin. Maybe not, but I could see it when I dressed and undressed every day, and I could feel it. Did they even have any idea how long it took to dry in between all of those folds of skin after a shower? Any shar-pei owner will get the problems associated with all those folds! After eighteen months of dieting didn’t I deserve to be able to wear nice lingerie or figure hugging clothes without 40 denier tights and body shape wear underneath to hold everything in? My mindset was changing, my self-esteem and sense of self-worth was increasing, and if other people wanted a new car, that’s fine for them. I wanted the freedom to be able to go anywhere and do anything for the rest of my life, which is hopefully a lot longer than their new car will last. And we’re not talking about Mercedes and BMWs. Just a nice family car.
So how do I feel now? I’ve never been happier. Clothes shopping is an absolute joy, and I now hope to bump into people my husband knows so they can think “wow, he’s married to her?”
Since having the excess skin surgically removed I feel comfortable and worthy. Even my husband comments all the time on my new positive attitude to life. Maybe for the first time in my life. So I’m happy to repeat – YES, it was all absolutely and undoubtedly worth it!
I would highly recommend Dr Kohout to anyone considering plastic surgery. Thanks to his expertise I am now living a happier and fuller life. I am very pleased with all my results and extremely happy I chose him.