Real life

Lauren Shel­ton and her hus­band Justin to­gether were tip­ping the scales at more than 420kg be­fore a med­i­cal shock set them on a diet path

Friday - - Contents -

How a cou­ple weigh­ing in at more than 420kg de­cided to diet – los­ing 237kg in 18 months.

Watch­ing my hus­band Justin try­ing to get out of the arm­chair was painful. He rocked, puff­ing and panting, un­til he even­tu­ally stood up. “My back hurts,” he moaned one day, but I didn’t pay much at­ten­tion.

Af­ter all, he was 1.83m and weighed 268kg while I was 1.68m and tipped the scales at 154kg. We were so obese we had to have spe­cial fur­ni­ture made and shopped at stores sell­ing su­per­sized clothes.

Justin con­tin­ued to com­plain about se­vere lower back pain for sev­eral days. Then one day while at work as an IT con­sul­tant he be­gan vom­it­ing again and again.

Wor­ried, he de­cided to drive him­self to the hos­pi­tal near our home in Jef­fer­son City, Ten­nessee in the US. But on the way, he found him­self in so much pain, he pulled over and called me. Rush­ing to get him, I was wor­ried, es­pe­cially when he told me

Whenwe ate at home we had huge por­tions. Two of us would eat a meal for four and still be hun­gry

that he was uri­nat­ing blood. Shocked, I was speech­less for a few sec­onds. “It’s OK, don’t panic,” I man­aged to say, do­ing ex­actly that my­self.

On the way to the hos­pi­tal I kept hav­ing the most dread­ful thoughts. Justin and I had been mar­ried four years and were still young – I was 24 and he 25 – and wanted to do so much, but our weight was a prob­lem. It was hardly sur­pris­ing as we never stopped eat­ing.

Ev­ery day, I’d have a South­ern break­fast in­clud­ing savoury bis­cuits, fried eggs and ba­con and gravy. Justin would have sausages, frozen pan­cakes or waf­fles with eggs or grab some­thing from a fast-food out­let on his way to work.

For lunch, I’d have fried chicken, fries and cook­ies. Justin would have a huge home­made sand­wich with crisps and a soda or what­ever take­out they or­dered at work. Some­times he’d have both. For din­ner we’d have Chi­nese – we both loved fried chicken with fried rice.

Justin and I had tried di­et­ing but we could never stick to it for long. We weren’t ready – but now I be­gan to won­der whether our ex­cesses had caused him some ir­repara­ble dam­age.

At the emer­gency room the staff took Justin for a CT scan. “We sus­pect he may have a kid­ney in­fec­tion,’’ the doc­tors said. They put Justin on the ma­chine but he was just too heavy for them to move him into the proper po­si­tion.

“With­out a scan re­port it’ll be dif­fi­cult to con­firm your con­di­tion,’’ they said. They gave him an­tibi­otics and, for­tu­nately, Justin got bet­ter.

But it was trau­matic for him and scary for me. He was de­pressed for days and started think­ing about his own mor­tal­ity.

“Do you think I’ll die?” he asked me one day. “What if my kid­ney con­di­tion re­curs or what if it be­comes some­thing worse?”

“Don’t worry. You are fine now. Noth­ing will hap­pen to you,’’ I con­soled him, hop­ing I was right. A few days later, in early Fe­bru­ary 2012, he sat me down and said, “Lauren, I’m go­ing to make some changes to my life­style. I’d love for us to do it to­gether but, if not, I com­pletely un­der­stand.”

I knew what he was say­ing – we both needed to go on a diet.

A few years ear­lier I had been di­ag­nosed with gall­stones and had to have my gall­blad­der re­moved. “It’s your poor diet,” a hos­pi­tal res­i­dent had told me. I should have done some­thing about it then, but now af­ter Justin’s health scare I knew it was time for me to make some life­style changes.

Eat­ing to hide the pain

As a child I’d al­ways been a bit big­ger than the other kids. But I didn’t start to gain a lot of weight un­til my fresh­man year of high school when I was 13. Over just a few months I gained around 12kg.

Part of it was ad­just­ing to high school. I felt I had no friends as many of my mid­dle-school friends had moved away. I didn’t re­alise it at the time, but when­ever I was un­happy, sad, an­gry or de­pressed, I used to turn to food for com­fort be­cause it was al­ways there.

When I was 14 I also started dat­ing a guy who was emo­tion­ally abu­sive. One mo­ment he’d say he loved me, the next that I wasn’t good enough for him. He’d make digs about my weight, which sent me rush­ing to the choco­late stand. I put on around 60kg.

By the time I left high school I weighed 124kg and was a size 22-24 [UK size 26-28]. He would tell me I’d be pretty if I lost weight, drain­ing my con­fi­dence.

When I was 17, I de­cided I’d had enough. I fi­nally broke up with my boyfriend, but I was left with a bad habit of binge eat­ing. When I met Justin two years later, through MyS­pace, I liked him in­stantly. He was a year older, and weighed around 130kg. He had an amaz­ing sense of hu­mour and was so in­tel­li­gent. He made me laugh and seemed to gen­uinely en­joy be­ing around me. We also found com­fort in each other be­cause we were both over­weight and knew what it was like to be treated dif­fer­ently and to have to look for clothes in plus-size stores.

We mar­ried two years later in May 2008 and we were so happy – but a lot of our time was spent eat­ing. We went to restau­rants, fast-food places, or or­dered take­aways. Our waist­lines bal­looned and ev­ery year our clothes would get tighter. When we ate at home we had huge por­tions. Two of us would eat a meal for four and still be hun­gry. We also drank sev­eral so­das a day and hardly did any ex­er­cise apart from walk­ing our dog. I would be re­ally tired and achy just from walk­ing through the gro­cery store.

There were times when we sat down and de­cided that we had to lose weight so we could en­joy life bet­ter – go for long walks, play sport, shop for clothes in reg­u­lar sizes... But we’d soon fall off the diet wagon.

But now, af­ter Justin’s health scare, we re­alised we couldn’t af­ford to take any more chances. “We must get healthy,’’ Justin said, and I nod­ded.

We went to our lo­cal hos­pi­tal and met a physi­cian’s as­sis­tant for guid­ance. He weighed us – and Justin was shocked. He never got on the scales and had thought he was about 220kg – but he was nearly 270kg. I was now 154kg.

Our diet was sim­ple. We were told to cut out high-calo­rie and pro­cessed foods and fill up on veg­eta­bles, fruit, nuts, meat and low-fat cheeses and eat un­der 2,350 calo­ries a day. In

Since los­ing all the weight we feel like new­ly­weds. It’s al­most like we are see­ing new peo­ple

that first month I lost around 9kg and Justin lost around 11kg. We were amazed be­cause we never starved our­selves and weren’t hun­gry be­cause we filled up on fruit and veg­gies.

We’d have a choco­late pro­tein shake made with a ba­nana and unsweet­ened al­mond milk. For lunch we’d have skin­less chicken with car­rots, a whole zuc­chini or some sautéed spinach and broc­coli. For din­ner we’d usu­ally have some­thing sim­i­lar but lighter, smaller por­tions and we’d try to eat be­fore 7pm if pos­si­ble. Snacks – which used to be junk food like cook­ies and choco­late – were Greek yo­gurt, low-fat cheese sticks and al­monds.

Justin was the mo­ti­va­tor

As we be­gan to lose weight, we re­alised that there were so many things we could now do that we couldn’t be­fore.

I could bend and paint my toe­nails with­out strug­gling to breathe or bust a blood ves­sel try­ing to reach them. I could cross my legs and even do a few push-ups.

Dur­ing the first month we didn’t work out. But in the sec­ond month we started walk­ing be­tween five and 15 min­utes ev­ery day. We slowly in­creased our walk­ing and then we joined a small gym where we started do­ing weightlift­ing and us­ing the tread­mill. I hated it at first. It was hard, but Justin en­cour­aged me and af­ter a while it be­came eas­ier. It helped that we went to­gether and that the weight fell off us each month. Soon I had to start buy­ing smaller clothes, and af­ter another six weeks they’d be too big and I’d have to buy a dress size smaller. It wasn’t long be­fore Justin hugged me – and could put his arms around my waist. That had never hap­pened be­fore.

A year af­ter start­ing our diet I went into the store and slipped into a size 10 dress [UK size 14] and a tiny pair of shorts. I just couldn’t be­lieve it. I took a ton of pic­tures in the dress­ing room with my phone be­cause I was as­tounded that they fit­ted and I could zip up the shorts. I wanted to skip out with the old dress shout­ing out to ev­ery­one in the store that I could wear a 10.

Another mile­stone was when we could go on a roller-coaster ride last sum­mer. Justin told me that when he was 14 he had to get off a ride at the Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios be­cause he was too big. He was mor­ti­fied, as ev­ery­one saw. I’d been forced off a ride at other places be­fore so I knew how im­por­tant it was for our con­fi­dence.

This time Justin and I went on ev­ery sin­gle one of the rides and he fit­ted in the seat with plenty of room to spare. “That’s bril­liant,” he kept say­ing with a huge grin.

Af­ter that we weighed our­selves – we’d been on a diet for 18 months and found we had lost a com­bined to­tal of more than 237kg.

Now we go to the gym about five to six days a week. Some days we swim, hike or go for a run. I hated ex­er­cise be­fore but now I love it.

Since los­ing all the weight we feel like new­ly­weds again. It’s al­most like we’re see­ing new peo­ple. I’ve al­ways loved Justin and thought he was hand­some but I think that even more so now. The weight loss has strength­ened our re­la­tion­ship and we have a new out­look on life. We’re much more ad­ven­tur­ous and want to go out and do more.

The fam­ily re­ac­tions have been over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive. They were all re­ally happy for us. “You look fan­tas­tic,” they told us, and we feel it too.

My dad used to be re­ally over­weight and Justin and I los­ing weight in­spired him to get healthy as well. He has lost about 36kg too.

Justin and I prove that the key to los­ing weight is stay­ing pos­i­tive and never giv­ing up. We all have bad days when we eat two cup­cakes, but if you tell your­self you can do it, then you will. We’ve shed a lot of weight while we have learnt to love our­selves a whole lot more.

Lauren, 26, lives with hus­band Justin, 27, in Jef­fer­son City, Ten­nessee, US.

BE­FORE Justin: 268kg Lauren: 154kg A health scare spurred Lauren and Justin on to

lose weight

AF­TER Justin: 111kg Lauren: 74kg

The cou­ple met online and bonded over their com­mon prob­lem

Weight didn’t stop the pair so­cial­is­ing, but oc­ca­sions of­ten re­volved around food

Justin and Lauren now spend time to­gether at the gym and ex­er­cis­ing

Em­bar­rass­ing mo­ments at theme parks are a thing of the past

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