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 (

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - WAKING HOURS -

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


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