When Donna Carter lost 9st 8lb after undergoing gastric surgery, nobody was more impressed than her big brother.
So much so that 24-stone Jason Smith decided to follow in his sister's footsteps to go under the knife to help him shed the pounds too.
Now the pair have lost a staggering 11st 2lb between them and say it is the best decision they ever made.
Mum-of-two Carter, 45, had been a “chubby child” her weight sky-rocketed after glandular fever at 21 which she says ruined her metabolism.
A 24st 4lb size 24 at her heaviest, 5ft 10in Carter’s body mass index was nearly double the top of the NHS’s 18.5 to 24.9 recommended range, making her obese.
Carter, of Horley, Surrey, admits she matched her production manager husband Mark Carter’s portion sizes, despite the fact he “could eat anything".
"Surgery became my only option, so I had a gastric bypass in August 2020," she says. "Jason and I were both big. I tried to encourage him to do healthier things with me over the years. We got a personal trainer together for a bit but that didn’t last long. And I just couldn’t keep the weight off.
“At first, Jason was supportive but wasn’t keen on the whole idea of surgery, so I was shocked when he said he was going for it too.”
Running her Surrey business Perfect Ten Nail Studio as well as parenting her children Spencer, 14, and Ruby, 12, with her husband Mark, 49, means she is never idle.
But she says glandular fever impacted her health and metabolism for many years after she caught it.
A size 16, weighing 14st 10lb and with a BMI of 29.5 since surgery, she said: “I’d push myself through the working week then collapse at weekends.
“I didn’t have the energy to do anything. But all the while I was just getting bigger. My eating habits didn’t change, but after getting ill I just couldn’t lose any weight no matter what I did.
“I’d go on some dramatic diet, lose 10lb and put 11lb back on. My friends would tell me I didn’t deserve to be so big as I didn’t eat as much as they did.”
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Despite going to the gym regularly, Carter’s weight reached its peak in 2019 and she began to investigate bariatric, or weight loss, surgery.
With the support of her family, she decided to use Simon Monkhouse, a bariatric surgeon based at the Spire Gatwick Park private hospital.
After delays due to the pandemic, she had a £12,000 gastric bypass operation there in August 2020.
Surgical staples are used during the procedure to create a small pouch at the top of the stomach, which is then connected to the small intestine, bypassing the stomach and meaning less food can be consumed.
Carter said: “When I first told Jason, my only sibling, about it he said, ‘I’d never do that. That’s too invasive, too restrictive.’
“Then, having seen how easy it’s all been for me, he suddenly pricked his ears up to the idea of having it himself.”
Without doing any exercise, she lost 8st in a year, while she is now 9st 8lb lighter.
Following the procedure, she can only eat much smaller portions – opting for a kids’ meal or a starter if she eats out.
Her diet previously consisted of toast with butter for breakfast, a sandwich, cereal bar and crisps for lunch, large portions of homemade dinners and snacks such as tea and biscuits or bread throughout the evening.
Since the operation, she focuses on protein and has protein porridge for breakfast, tuna salad for lunch and meals such as a small portion of chilli with no rice for dinner.
Having extolled the virtues of the surgery and transformed before the eyes of her loved ones, Carter said she was still surprised when Smith told her he, too, would be having an identical op with Dr Monkhouse earlier this year.
But she was in a great position to answer any questions and calm any of his fears, saying: “I was glad I could offer support and advice about what he could expect. I knew he wouldn’t regret it. It’s the start of a whole new life.”
Smith, who is 6ft, was a size XXXL-XXXXL and reached over 24 st at his heaviest. After a pre-operative diet, he reached 21st 7lb and had a BMI of 42.1 prior to surgery on 8 March.
He has already lost 22lb since the operation and now weighs 19st 13lb.
He said: “I think men look at weight issues in a very different way from women. I know that in my case I hadn’t even considered anything like gastric surgery.
“But, hitting 50, doing shift work and having a lack of exercise, I found myself at twice my ideal weight.
“Now I’m four weeks post-surgery and am training every other day. My relationship with food has vastly improved, I don’t ache, I can put a pair of socks on without holding my breath, my balance is better.
“This is the best decision I ever made. I just wish I’d done it sooner!”
While the siblings are both happy with the results of their surgery, there are risks to it.
According to the NHS website, complications can include malnutrition, blood clots, wound infection, a blocked or leaking gut, gallstones, and as with any complex surgery there is a small risk of dying.
It also warns that patients will have to change their lifestyles after gastric surgery eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and attending follow-up appointments.