Vicki Mooney (37) is the founder of V Plus Models, a former plus-size model and co-author of ‘Curve-a-licious’. In 2005, at 28 stone, she had a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. She lives in Ballitore, Co Kildare, with her children Andy (13), Josh (11), and Mia (
live in the back-arse of nowhere, in Ballitore, Co. Kildare. I’ve been in the country for 14 years. I grew up in Jobstown, Tallaght, so this is a nice change. It’s me and the three children, along with the dog, two kittens and a goldfish. I’ve been separated for four years. It’s tough going on your own.
I roll out of bed at 6am, and then I feed everybody, starting with the kittens. I make breakfast for my daughter, Mia, but I usually wait until 7am before I call my two boys. I like to have that hour in the morning. I plonk my arse on the table and look out at the mountains with a cup of green tea. I have 15 minutes of quiet where I get my head together and visualise my day. I’m a firm believer in positive thinking.
When I go into the boys to wake them up, I drive them mad, because I sing ‘good morning’ to them. Once they’re up, the madness begins. Andy usually makes breakfast for himself and his younger brother, Josh. It can be full-on trying to get Josh ready for school because he is autistic and he’s also dyspraxic, which means that there are crossed wires between his body and his brain. Recently, he wrote a beautiful poem about it, explaining why he is sometimes clumsy and can’t say his words properly. He finds laces and zips difficult, so we use a lot of Velcro. After I’ve packed their lunches, then I will eat breakfast. I have my own homemade granola with a few spoons of Greek yoghurt.
I don’t eat a big breakfast. In fact, all my meals are small portions. My stomach isn’t able to take big feeds. This is because, in August 2005, I had what is known as a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. This is where they staple your stomach so that it becomes the size of an eggcup.
I did it because I was 28 years old and 28 stone. I had reached a stage where I was so deep in a hole that I could not see any way out. I had quite a difficult childhood, and I ate to console myself. It’s all in the head. Even now, I wake up in the morning and I crave chocolate. I was morbidly obese, but if somebody said something to me about it, I’d burst into tears.
I was married with two young children, and my husband was great because he loved me the way I was. But every time I’d look in the mirror, I was disgusted with myself. I found it very hard to get naked. I had tried Weight Watchers and therapy, but nothing worked for me. I was suicidal. Eventually I went to my doctor and told him that I couldn’t carry on. He referred me to the weight-management clinic in St Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown. It was a lifeline.
The operation is very serious because one-in-500 people don’t make it. When you’re morbidly obese, you might not wake up from the anaesthetic. You’re risking your life in the hope of a new life. When I woke up in intensive care, I was so grateful. I thought, ‘this is the first day of the rest of my life’.
I got my life back. I went dancing and I became a more active mother. I lost 14 stone within a year. This is because if you eat something small, like a tub of yoghurt, you feel full, and if you have rubbish — things with sugar or fizzy drinks — you either throw up, or you suffer with sweats and shakes. Now I eat a lot of vegetables, and I thrive on healthy food.
Everything changed after the operation. I began to find myself and I decided that I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mother anymore. I studied psychology. I think I became quite selfish. I wasn’t the same person, and one of the consequences was that my marriage broke down. It was heartbreaking.
I came second in a plus-size modelling competition, and then I was asked to do some modelling. I loved it. I felt so sexy, and for the first time ever I was able to wear high heels. I was a size 16, and the largest plus-size model in Ireland. I went on to write a book with my best friend. It was a style guide for curvier ladies called Curve-a-licious. Just because you’re a plus-size, it doesn’t mean you can’t look good. It is full of tips like where to get bracelets for thick wrists, and how false tan always makes you look slimmer.
Now I don’t model anymore. In June 2014, I set up a plus-size model agency called V Plus Models. I have 22 models from size 14 to size 22, but it can be very difficult to get work because there aren’t a lot of fashion shows for plus-size girls.
Recently, we posed naked for a campaign called Stop Body Shaming. It was very liberating. Some people say that I’m promoting obesity, but I’m not. Everyone is on a journey of a sort, and while you are the size that you are, it’s OK to look good. Most days, after I drop the kids to school, I spend my time trying to get work for the girls. I also work as a stylist for plus-size models on TV3, but that can be challenging. Once a girl is above a size 16, the body shape can vary. Some girls are curvier around the bum, and others are apple-shaped.
I pick up the kids from school, and then we get started on the homework. We have dinner together. Then Mia is in bed at 8pm, and the boys by 9.30pm. When they are all asleep, I catch up on work emails and social media. In the evenings, the house is so quiet. I’m single now, and I’m quite lonely. You’re talking to people all day, but it’s normal to want a cuddle and to get into bed with someone and wake up with them the next morning.
I find it hard being on my own. I suppose those are the times that I suffer and say, ‘I’ll have a bar of chocolate or a glass of wine, to console myself ’. This is how I put on two-and-a-half stone. I kick myself every day about this. I need to lose it, and I will. I find it hard to go to bed at night. I read quite a bit, and I love Jane Austen.
When I go to sleep, I dream about moving to San Francisco when the kids are a bit older. It’s my favourite city. Years ago, I didn’t want to get on a plane because my ass wasn’t going to fit on a seat, but now I want to travel and see so much. I’ve got my life back. In conversation with Ciara Dwyer