A 22-year-old woman who overate so much in her teens that her parents put locks on the fridge has lost 14st and dropped from a 27st 2lb size 28 to a 13st 4lb size 12 after having an irreversible gastric sleeve operation when she was just 20.
After struggling with her soaring weight since her teens, the turning point finally came for 5ft 9in retail worker Stephanie Smith after a trip to the Surrey amusement site Thorpe Park when her expanding waistline prevented her from going on half the rides.
Stephanie, of Ashford, Kent, said: “At one point there were two people trying to push the safety bar down over me and it wouldn’t go. That’s when I decided enough was enough.”
With a body mass index (BMI) used to gauge a healthy weight of 56, compared to the NHS healthy range of 18.5 to 24.9, Stephanie was dangerously obese.
Now half the woman she was before the £9,000 gastric surgery 18 months ago, she said: “Food completely took over my life.
“I had absolutely no shame when it came to eating. No diets worked.”
She continued: “People think gastric surgery is cheating but it was anything but. Something drastic had to happen.”
Steph puts her weight gain down to family issues and a bereavement that she endured at the age of 12.
Before then, she said she was average-sized and not “a big child.” However, using food as a coping mechanism, Steph says she began overeating huge quantities.
She said: “I’d go to the bakery near school and have one cake. Then a couple of days later I’d be eating two cakes. Then a whole pack of biscuits.
“I remember going in there and buying a whole Swiss roll and eating that. I had no limits.
“Food was on my mind all day every day. I thought about what I’d have for lunch, what Mum would cook for dinner, what I’d sneak in between meals. It was constant and my life revolved around food.”
She added: “I told myself I had to eat until I was really full. In reality, that meant eating until I felt sick.”
After leaving school and landing a job in a supermarket, Steph would start her days with a well-intentioned breakfast of toast, scrambled eggs and avocado.
But she said: “Then it all went downhill. Within half an hour I’d have a huge bar of Dairy Milk.”
She continued: “Then I’d be searching the cupboards for anything I could get my hands on. Packets of crisps, cake. Lunchtime would come and I’d have two sandwiches then I’d be in the freezer looking for more.”
“I remember one day eating frozen pudding straight from the freezer. I’d eat Mum’s healthy dinner then just go to my room and eat and eat.
“It got so bad that when I was 15 or 16 my parents put a lock on the fridge and the kitchen cupboards.”
But even that did not stop Steph’s appetite.
She began using contraception in her mid-teens and found her appetite increased when using the contraceptive implant.
Gaining a huge amount of weight throughout her teens, she soon found herself struggling physically.
She said: “Though I didn’t have any medical problems, it was almost as if doctors were confused as to why I didn’t have high blood pressure or any of those things.
“I would go in the shower on a hot day, come out and be sweaty by the time I had dried myself. Then I’d have to get back in.
“Simple things people take for granted were really difficult. Things like getting breathless going up the stairs or bending down to tie my shoes.”
But it was the trip to Thorpe Park in summer 2020 that was her turning point.
She said: “Something had to change.”
Steph’s family suggested to her that, as she had tried diets and always regained the weight, she consider bariatric surgery.
Although she was initially hesitant about the idea, she now says it was “the best decision of my life.”
Steph’s operation, performed at Kent’s Benenden Hospital in December 2020, was a complete success.
Going in to the procedure at her highest weight of 27st 2lb, she found she lost around a stone a month.
Now a slim 13st 4lb, Steph is a size 12/14 and has a far healthier BMI of 27.
She said: “Now a single ready meal can last me two or three days. I still can’t get my head around it.
“I’ll have one piece of toast for breakfast and not finish it. All my meals are small and on side plates.”
The impact of her drastically reduced portions and the 25,000 steps Steph walks each night picking orders for a major supermarket have been drastic.
She said: “I have more energy, my confidence has improved and I put on clothes and feel great. I feel like everything has changed.”
She is now also using Hana, a leading mini pill brand available without prescription, that does not increase her appetite.
She said: “Though I don’t have a partner currently, I have found that men are much more interested than they were.
“In a way, it’s really sad. I’m the same now as I was then. I haven’t changed and am just as deserving of love.”